Last week the analyst and advisory services firm Gartner released a new set of market estimates and predictions about the market for 'personal' computing devices - traditional PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The Gartner predictions are summarized in the chart below:
The main takeaway, at least for some analysts, from these market estimates? The PC market is dying.
Their argument being as PC shipments begin to decline, while smartphone and tablet sales continue to rise, then the simultaneous impact of software and application developers focusing their efforts on the growing market segments, combined with individual (and possibly business), lengthening the typical useful life cycle of the PC (essentially making do with an old PC or laptop while making sure you have the latest Samsung Galaxy or iPad), will combine to further erode the PC as the primary personal computing platform.
I think both these arguments make perfect sense, particularly when thinking about how people are engaging with technology for their personal needs. The skeptic would say that for work, for 'real' work that usually, (but not always), involves content creation or heavy, data-intensive tasks, that the PC is not going anywhere - not for a long while anyway. That is a pretty compelling, and I think still somewhat valid, defense for the PC. Tablets and smartphones and even 'dumb' Chromebook-type devices are simply not yet up to the heavy tasks that workplaces demand. We may be moving to the Post-PC era, but we, at least in the workplace, are not there yet.
But not being there should not be an excuse for organizations or software providers to think that one day and probably sooner that we all will be ready for, the PC will no longer be the primary or dominant device via employees engage with enterprise technology, creat content, and engage with each other. If you don't yet buy-in, check out this excerpt from a recent interview with Aaron Levie founder of Box, a consumer-to-enterprise cloud storage and collaboration company that continues to make major waves in more and more large, global organizations.
"I think like everybody else we recognize the opportunity that mobile has created. This idea that there's going to be, I don't know what the latest figure is, over a billion smart devices, smart phones, probably two billion. But mobile devices are outselling PCs three to one, two to one, and at a rate that is really unstoppable at this point. We think that fundamentally changes how businesses are going to work. Not just the fact that now I have another device that I can access information from, but more importantly, this becomes a primary computing device for a whole new set of job functions.
We see that as kind of our PC moment. If you think about the transition from the mainframe to the PC, how that created new leadership opportunities for Microsoft and Intel and others, we see the same kind of transition from PC to post-PC as creating those kind of leadership gaps and opportunities. We happen to be a company that was born right at the center of this shift. On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere. We were rapidly orienting and organizing our company around that effort. You're going to see a lot of stuff from our platform, from our hiring, from where we're building out our teams that is completely oriented around the mobile enterprise, the post-PC enterprise, and we really want Box to be the hub for content and for information in this new post-PC enterprise."
The money line from that long quote from Levie is this: On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere.
Levie and Box were and are thinking about this market shift from a vendor's perspective - they make and market solutions for content management and collaboration. But the sentiment - preparing for a workplace where everyone demands access to their information, (used in a really broad sense), from any device and at any time - well that is not just a vendor problem, it's your problem too.
Take the Gartner data, take the comments from a guy like Levie for what they're worth, but if you really need to know what's going on in your organization just ask some people, or better yet, just observe them when they are not chained to a PC. Chances are they are still trying to work on whatever devices they have or that you've provided. The question really is are you doing enough to think about and focus the way that Levie describes - are you actively thinking about how to provide access to the information your employees need, when, where, and how they want it?
The post-mainframe era was a b$%^& if you were on the wrong side of the divide. The Post-PC era figures to be the same.