Even with declining sales and the rise of mobile devices, personal computers will be at the core of business computing for years to come.
On many occasions I have frequently heard comments that the personal computer is dead and we're now in the post-PC era. The Gartner Group reported worldwide PC shipments in the third quarter of 2012 totaled 87.5 million units, a decline of 8.3 percent compared with the third quarter of 2011.
Still, for most of us, personal computers still serve as the core of the computing experience. This is especially true for small businesses, and this will be the case for many years to come.
The Mobile Advantage
While PC sales declines are partly due to the global recession, mobile device sales are rapidly growing. Smartphones and tablets have expanded the definition of a personal computer, performing functions that used to be the sole province of a conventional PC and other devices. Who needs a radio when you can stream Pandora music channels over the Internet on your smartphone or tablet? Who needs a point-and-shoot camera when a smartphone camera will suffice? There are hundreds of applications for smartphones and tablets that replace other tasks we used to do on our computers.
What makes using smartphones and tablets more attractive in business is how much easier it is today to share information among them through the cloud. Apple uses iCloud, Android devices use Google services and Windows uses Windows Live to share information among their devices (Apple, Android and Windows 8/Windows Phone).
The "personal" in personal computing is expanding across different platforms, tied together by the Internet cloud. We're using multiple devices in different situations. For example, I like to use the device that is most convenient, flexible and cost effective. That may be my smartphone while on the road, my laptop while in my office or at a client site and a tablet or e-reader while on a flight.
Not Going Away
Sales may be declining, but millions of computers are still sold. My business clients keep computers until they fail. They use their industry applications and little else. Most of the cloud activity I see is with hosting services for email, websites and support. Touch interfaces are weak substitutes for keyboards and mice when productivity tasks matter. They are great for entertainment and marketing and sales applications, such as demonstrations and showing marketing literature and information. They are great for reading and viewing of manuals and guides. But PCs are still more effective for using database applications and analytics, such as spreadsheets.
My small business customers are buying new servers and computers to replace failing equipment they have held onto through the Great Recession. The equipment is smaller, cheaper, more powerful and easier to manage. I dont see them handing out smartphones and tablets to their staffs. But I do see staff members asking to integrate their phones with corporate email, and they want remote access to their office computers and server resources.
About the author
David Streit is an IT consultant and an entrepreneur, as principal of Stephill Associates, LLC. in Manalapan, New Jersey. Stephill provides IT infrastructure and technology advisory services for small business clients in New Jersey and New York City. Streit has worked with PCs and technology for more than 25 years. He and his wife, Claudia, have two daughters, Hillary and Stephanie.
Stephill Associates website.