Are the End Days Nearing for PCs (and Macs)?


The venerable computer isn’t going to disappear anytime soon but its glory days as a computing workhorse are fading with the rise of more nimble smartphones and tablets. The future is tilting toward mobile devices, something underscored by new data from JiWire.

The Wi-Fi provider told us new Mac users on its U.S. network over the holidays were down 28.1 percent while new connections from PCs were down 12 percent. JiWire, which operates 315,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots including 35,000 in the U.S., said new users on the iPad (s aapl) increased by 33.8 percent after Christmas while new Android (s goog) users were up 47.9 percent. While this is just one set of data points, it shows that the shift away from traditional computers is real and it’s affecting both Macs and PCs. The reality is people’s dependence on computers is waning as they find more utility and portability in smartphones and tablets.

This, if you’ve been following along, confirms a lot of what we’ve been writing about. People are increasingly embracing ever more powerful mobile devices, a trend that is shaking up the computer world. Gartner recently revised its PC forecast downward in light of rising tablet sales and predicted that 10 percent of PC sales would be displaced by tablets. And as mobile networks ramp up to 4G and Wi-Fi usage grows, it’s only fueling the interest in mobile devices. This is a major shift that is forcing all the big players to adjust.

The impact of this new mobile reality is on display everywhere including CES, the annual gadget fest that has largely become a showcase for tablets and smartphones. Microsoft (s msft) is getting back into the smartphone game with Windows Phone 7 and showed at CES how its next Windows OS will work on ARM-designed (s armh) chips, the favored processor of mobile devices. Intel (s intc) is working hard to get its chips to run on tablets and smartphones though it’s still an uphill battle displacing ARM-designed chips. Meanwhile, HP (s hpq), which bought Palm last year, is preparing a splashy event next month to show off a line of webOS tablets and smartphones.

These are all necessary steps, prompted in large part by Apple, which helped kick off this trend with the launch of the iPhone and more recently the iPad–both of which made mobile computing more user-friendly. Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself predicted that overall PC usage would decline when he compared computers to trucks and suggested that lightweight devices like the iPad would do most of the tasks people needed. Now, the companies that are learning to embrace this new reality, are the ones best positioned for the future. At some point, it means PC manufacturers are learning to accept that the switch to mobile devices may come at the cost of traditional computer sales. But as the market moves toward mobile, manufacturers can let someone else lure their PC customers away with a tablet or smartphone or they can build one themselves.

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Post and thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user Rego Korosi



Good article for debate Mr Kim. Last year iPass came out with a report that illustrates that (at least) for mobile workers 93 percent carry two devices and 50 percent carry three or more devices. (And in the interest of fair disclosure -I work for iPass.)

However, if we all think about it – how many people rely on one device? There’s no panacea as yet. In my opinion people will still have their laptop but rely on other devices depending on their needs. It will be a trinity (or more) of devices and the PC will not be replaced but complemented by other devices.
Your colleague Mr Tofel wrote an insightful piece in relation to this too.


So far mobile devices are not capable of filling the pc gamer niche. the hardware simply isn’t good enough.


Exactly. This article stating mobile devices are killing desktops is quite ridiculous. Maybe in 10 or so years it would be something to think about.


I play video games on a desktop because it’s easier. I can run almost any game that exists on a nice big screen right in front of me. With the best controls for any game: A keyboard and a mouse. This article just appeals to people who just “HURR DERP FACEBOOK OMG COME READ MY TWITTER GUIZE” all day and stuff. I can’t play TF2, Mass Effect, Minecraft, or Crysis on an android phone or a tablet.


Sounds like Apple is cannibalising its sales of $1200-$2500 Macbook laptops with sales of $500 Ipads. And with a flood of cheap and good tablets on the way, this is a lot less defensible business than selling expensive Macbook pros to a select few diehards.

How long is this story gonna end? I dont think it will be good for Apple.


Right. The tablet revolution, or is it the manufacturers revolution, is like the 3D revolution? It’s like everyone is running out for 3D computers, TV’s and camcorders? It was on the top of everyones Xmas wish list? Not.

The reality is, these guys are self sucking on this one because the lowest price wins. Since it’s a slab of glass, there is no variety. No edge, no differential aside from OS. Would you pay $500 for a tablet when you can get the Wal Mart brand tablet for $300 which does and has all the same features? It’s comical.

It’s call the big ass scramble. It’s insane. Where is the space on store shelves for all these clones?


Okay, I’ll bite.

Put aside for a second JiWire’s inherent conflict of interest here – they bill themselves as a ad network primarily targeted toward mobile devices, and thus, are expected to want more mobile users so that they can sell more ads – JiWire’s basic statement says that during travel times, they saw greater mobile use. All that really means is that people are choosing to travel with a smaller mobile device rather than a full-fledged computer. I add that this is on vacation – I don’t see any evidence to indicate that they’re at all interested in traveling with the same on business travel. This is expected – when is the last time you’ve seen someone lugging an iMac around at the airport? In essence, it’s validating exactly what the model of content has always been: large heavy content-creation machines at home, lighter content consumption machines on-the-go. The only difference now is that where earlier to consume content you needed a fairly beefy machine – like a laptop – many people are going to be satisfied with consuming media on a smaller, portable device, which is as powerful as the larger machine of five years ago.

If I were drawing conclusions from this report, it would be: (a) “second machine” laptops are facing the end; (b) the desktop market might actually rebound as people realise that if their big heavy duty content creation rig can stay at home – no need to compromise between the desire to have a hugely powerful, large-screened “first machine”, and the portability of the “second machine”.

My $0.02. :)

iphone repair orlando

I agree to that. Old PCs should be replace with new gadgets like an iPad which is more portable and comfortable to use. Most of it’s very trendy!


I’m a huge fan of iOS.. Can do almost everything you can on a Mac or PC and it’s much more portable and easier to use. And cheaper.. Now what’s not to like about that! :) can’t wait to get iPad 2!


wow so little mention of android, it is android + iOS which is drowning microsoft and not apple alone.


More people do not want to be tied down to their desk, the more mobile they can make computers the better it will be.


..wondering how mr work got his bitten fruit tab developed on a..pad…… computers are not meant to be replaced by some consumer tablets. these are just weak (currently) devices which can reproduce content in a light way..

Chris K

YEp iPad is just more nimble than a pc. It’s just easier to get to the basics.

That’s the really what these new devices are about.

And for Apple that direction is coming back around to the Mac. They released the new MBA with instant-on and 30 day standby. And now there’s the App STore on the Mac.

This in turn is only going to make Macs more attractive for these same tasks that people are buying the iPad for.

Zack Lee Wright

Agree 110 percent. The new Apple Mac Store is already a roaring success. Over ONE MILLION downloads in 24 HOURS. Everything Steve touches turns to gold. If I was King of the World (errr I mean Steve) I would be flooding the market with iPad 2 in 5″, 7″, 10″, 12″ and 15″ models and let the consumer sort it out. Also this variety would create a hedge against any possible Android tablet success form factor. Do this Mr. Jobs and you will rule the world ! (well the tech world anyway).


Can you please not start veering into such overused memes like “Is X dead?” (said breathlessly….) and “Will N kill M?” It’s sloppy, bad tech analysis and the industry needs to get away from it.

to the point of the article, a mobile hotspot provider tells us that people are increasingly using mobile devices when mobile. Yeah… Of course they are. But how many of those people also have a laptop or desktop to do work on? Almost all of them I’d bet. It’s not that mobile devices are replacing computers, it’s that they’re supplementing them. People are using computers with keyboards and monitors to do work that needs those capabilities, but when they go out they’re taking devices that are much more suited to what they do when mobile. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Heck, I’m typing this on my Macbook… but unless I’m going somewhere to work, I usually just grab my phone or rooted Nook Color because those do what I need when out for some coffee.


The JiWire stat does not mean that people are moving away from windows and mac machines, but more likely that when they travel, they are content using a mobile device, because the mobile device (phone or ipad) is a lot more convenient than even a netbook or macbook air. Anyone who can afford both a tablet and a desktop or notebook will buy both, because when you sit at a desk, you will appreciate the bigger display (or two) and easier-to-use keyboard. I don’t care if I can get a quad-core 11″ tablet with 26 hours of battery life, I’m not giving up my desktops with dual displays (unless the tablet has a holographic display with completely accurate virtual keyboard and voice recognition).

The rise of tablets and smartphones does not mean the death of desktops or even laptops, but rather that working and being connected while away from home or work will be easier.


Maybe, but I think it’s still years, even decades away from that happening.

and lol @ #1 Apple/Steve Jobs fanboy “Cupertino Guy”. Apple fanboys are some of the most deluded of the bunch.


Please don’t generalize to ALL Apple aficionados.

Some of use both / either, but we prefer our Mac over the PC.

Andrei Timoshenko

Would be interesting to see statistics broken down by frequency and use time. My guess would be that “full” computing devices are used much rarer but for much longer unbroken stretches of time.


Andrei: “Would be interesting to see statistics broken down by frequency and use time.”

Agreed PLUS

What would likely be the 2nd phase of such research would be to understand advertising views, online shopping, etc behaviour on mobile platforms versus traditional PC/MAC platforms.

Like other commenters, I can’t imagine not having my PC for work (excel, word, coding, etc). However, I imagine there is a disparity between online shopping & advertising views between a “work” machine and a “consumer” machine.

Might we see more customization of advertising depending upon the mobility of the platform? Should be fun

Jeff Yablon

Ryan, it’s a great question . . . sort of . . . but as the commentators ahead of me have pointed out, it’s really not a question at all.

Fact is, when we stopped using floppy disks, thereby eliminating the important part of the Mac vs. PC issue (compatibility), your platform of choice became about exactly that . . . choice.

The only reason to switch from a “real” computer to a tablet is if it feels right, and for media consumption it sure does. The only reason to stay with a computer that is harder to carry and has a “more difficult” operating system is if it gets things done better than a tablet does.

Apples. Oranges. No real question in the great question.

The only “End of Days” we’re experiencing is that “having a computer [sic] ” no longer requires . . . a computer.

Jeff Yablon
President & CEO
Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and SEO Consulting/Search Engine Optimization Services


Perfect response. Totally the point of this paradigm shift…

When will we start defining computing by what you communicate to or get done, not by the hardware.

Interesting how folks like Cisco, Apple and Nokia saw and marketed to this before it would be heard more resoundingly in tech media circles; guess you can say that we are last on the list in terms of realizing this.

Ryan Kim

Thanks Jeff. I think the headline got away from us. But the idea you’re talking about is right. We’re getting more choice. And increasingly people are choosing smaller and lighter devices. There’s always going to be a need for computers. But their uses will be more narrowly defined over time for things like work and more intensive tasks. Thanks for the input.


Tech writers referring to computers as if tablets are a in a separate class are my # 1 pet peeve. Numero Uno.
Any device, any device, that performs computation to do it’s task is a computer. It’s computer. Tablets are pc and macs are pc’s too. PC stands for Personal Computer. It means it’s a computer that is not a server but something personal. Like an IPAD or a smartphone. ALL PC.

Too many people who are supposed to be educated are stuck in this trench where they insist PC’s or computer have to be desktops and must have Windows inside. They are driving me crazy. I feel that I need to take an ad in the New York Times to define what a PC actually means so I can stop seeing ridiculous headlines about the end of PCs. PC’s are NEVER going away. Ever. Desktops might but not PCs.


I love the iPad for some things but it’s no replacement for a laptop or PC. I can’t imaging trying to edit a formula in excel/numbers or editing my photos in CS5.

That said, it’s the perfect beast for just about everything else!

Cupertino Guy

No doubt Steve is the undisputed LEADER of the entire tech industry these days. Look how ALL the tech companies have followed in his footsteps with MP3 players, smart phones, tablets, app stores, notebooks, etc. Yeah Apple didn’t invent them but they sure show everybody how to make them correctly with entire supporting ecosystem. Steve has turned his company into the largest tech company in the world, actually Apple is now the second largest company in the entire world (ExxonMobil is #1). And he sleeps with $55 billion in cash under his pillow every night and wakes up with no debts and a rapidly growing empire. It is good to be Steve (aka The Smartest Guy in the Room) these days for sure.
With iPad 2 soon out of the gate and iPhone 5 killer smartphone looking to increase their lead over the copycat Android phones their can be no doubt the PC will be needed less and less while Apple devices rule the day. People that still embrace things like Windows and Flash are a dying breed and definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed if you knows what i mean.


This article will get wider circulation if you omit “for PCs (and Mac)s” from the title.


Ever try to edit photos while using a pad with only a touchscreen? Even with a graphics tablet, it is not the best choice for getting the job done.


Give me a device like the Motorola Atrix with a full blown OS (Windows 8 ;) and why would I need a traditional desktop or laptop? Just dock it and I’m good. I no longer have to worry about synchronizing multiple computers. . . everything is with me all the time. . . perfect!

Also, I don’t think this “revolution” is due to Apple at all. Others have been trying this for some time but the problem was the CPU power of the mobile chips, they just didn’t have enough grunt to get the job done. Now they do and the natural evolution is taking place. . . personally I can’t wait to see what Windows 8 looks like for these devices.


“Also, I don’t think this “revolution” is due to Apple at all.”

This revolution is due to refractive eye surgery.


If you are using a computer not for work then mostly you are consuming information not producing information, therefore you don’t need a full-blown PC to do that anymore.

With an IPad you get a great mobile device that meets 90%-95% of the needs of the normal computer user at home. Plus I can sit on the couch much more comfortably with it.

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