Is the PC Dead?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Kevin Tofel believes most people’s need for a PC is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Tofel attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and saw a variety of remote access solutions, or in other words devices that would allow you to tap remotely into PC-like functions from your mobile device, further alleviating the need for big, clumsy, and stationary PCs.  While he admits that there are some jobs or activities that will continue to rely on PCs, “the PC is losing relevance as we morph from a local/desktop user base to one of mobile/cloud.”

Tofel’s article cites a slew of sales data that basically show strong inverse relationships in recent years of increasing mobile sales to decreasing PC sales.  For example, a recent Gartner news release shows that 352.8 million PCs were sold worldwide in 2011.  Samsung alone sold 300 million handsets in 2011 and predicts that it will sell 372 million in 2012 with 150 million of them being of the smartphone variety.  While Tofel openly says that not all of those devices are or will be smartphones, they are all mobile devices and most of them can access the web.

Tofel also writes that he is about to take an ARM-powered (NASDAQ:ARMH) mobile device for a test run to see if it can meet all of his computing needs.  He says, “Note that I don’t draw CAD files, create stunning 3D movie files, build programs, or calculate equations that require heavy processing power. The fact is: Most people don’t do these tasks, either. For many, a traditional computer can be overkill in terms of price, power, and performance. If you need 3D graphics for gaming or some other processor-intensive tasks, there’s always the option of remotely accessing a PC at home or in the cloud: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) now offers 750 hours a month of free Windows Server (NASDAQ:MSFT) instances through its EC2 product line, for example.”

And while he acknowledges that yes, the economy may be somewhat to blame for lagging PC sales from top manufacturers such as Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), it’s not the main story but just a catalyst to their decline.  Most people don’t need all that a PC has to offer and squeezed wallets make it more likely that consumers will realize that and opt for a cheaper mobile device.  “The bad economy is actually helping create a perfect storm in favor of mobile devices. They’re a cheaper starting investment for consumers, they have connectivity to the growing number of cloud services, and they meet many needs that used to be fulfilled only by PCs,” Tofel writes.