The first data on PC sales for 2016 are out and they do not look any better than the ones of 2015. That year marked the first one in a while that didn't see a growth in sales, worldwide. Actually it saw a marked decline. That year, for the first time since 2008, sales fell below the 300 million thresholds.
In the first quarter of this year the first reports form Gartner and IDC show a further decline in the order of 10%. There is no economic crises to motivate this decline. The substitution of the PC by tablet and smart phones is happening although not in the way it was foreseen a few years ago when a few industry gurus talked about the demise of the PC.
For certain kinds of use the PC still reign. I tried the iPad Pro with the hope of replacing my Mac but after a few attempts I had to keep my Mac for some of the work I need to do everyday.
Smart phones and tablets have flanked the PC and in some cases have substituted it. People who are just interested in browsing the web or participating in social networks find a tablet (or a smart phone) a more convenient device.
So, the decrease in sales of PCs cannot be ascribed to a substitution going on. To me it is a sign of the fading out of the Moore's law and the lasting effects of its amazing longevity.
The processing power of PCs is now good enough to support most of the applications we are using, for many people all the applications they are using.
The slowing down of the Moore's law is no longer providing us with newer PCs that are really so much better than the one we have, and the need to have a better PC has also decreased. Hence the sluggish sales.
This is clearly a bad news for Dell, HP, Lenovo and the like (Apple has managed to increase by 1% its Mac sales but most of it is actually people moving from a PC to a Mac, which does not just explain the 1% increase but also the not decrease in sales which would have happened without this shift).
It is also, in perspective, a bad news for many market sector where the substitution rate has fuelled the market and the industrial production.
We are throwing away a cell phone every 18 months in Italy, 6 months in South Korea. This has created an industry that can leave on, keep investing, and generating revenues, even after the market has been basically saturated with one cell phone per person worldwide. It is doubtful that this substitution rate can continue in the next decade. Television sets have benefitted from the shift from normal to HD television and now from HD to 4k. Industry tried to push the substitution market with the 3D television but it failed. They will try, I think, to maintain the substitution rate in the next decade with 8k but I personally doubt it will work.
Cars manufacturers have the (presently distant) ghost of autonomous cars that once will have populated the marketplace will cause a sharp decrease in sales. Carlo Ratti, from MIT Senseable Cities, just mentioned in his keynote at the Partner event on April 12th, that based on studies he did with his group 20% of todays cars would be enough to satisfy transportation needs in a city like New York.
Get ready to a new economy...