The Business of Software

Personal computers are for content creators; mobile devices are for content consumers

It’s all in what you want to do.

By Jim Grey (About)

Wired wrote last month about the ongoing decline in PC sales. They weren’t the first to notice, but unlike others they made a strong statement: it’s the end for the PC.

It’s hyperbole. The PC’s market share is just shrinking to the audience that has always truly needed it: people who make things.

This seems so obvious to me. Isn’t it to everyone? Or am I missing the boat here?

Because it’s not like PC sales are on their last leg. Wired admits that more than 293 million PCs are expected to ship this year. Mobile devices are more than keeping pace, however. Wired also notes that 71 million iPhones shipped in the first quarter of 2015 alone.

I predict that the cheap PC era is about to end. A few years ago I bought an entry-level laptop for $300 and use it for checking email and Facebook when my son is using my main machine. I also use it to Chromecast YouTube to the big TV in my family room. An iPad or a Surface would work just as well and take up a lot less space. I kind of wish now I’d gone with the Surface.

It’s because mobile devices are simply brilliant for consuming content. I do most of my reading, get most of my news, and watch virtually every video I see on my mobile devices. I actually consume more of this stuff thanks to these devices than I ever did before I got them.

Fixing computers
Me, a long time ago, fixing some old computers. My iPhone is probably more powerful than these machines.

Before phones and tablets became viable Internet devices, the only way to consume Internet content was on a PC. We were pretty happy with that until we discovered, much to our collective delight, that an Internet device in our pocket let us pleasantly wile away the minutes we spend waiting — in doctors’ waiting rooms, before meetings begin, in the john.

Oh sure, on your phone you can type a quick message for the world to read on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, even WordPress. You can take a video and upload it to YouTube, or a photo and upload it to Instagram. There are even some apps that let you do some decent photo and video post-processing now.

But that’s all casual content creation. The PC still shines at serious content creation because you get a usable keyboard, a dedicated pointing device, a bigger monitor, and plenty of computing power.

Take this blog post as an example. At 554 words, there’s no way I’d tap this out on my iPhone. I’d hurl it across the room in frustration after five or six sentences. I might get this far on an iPad before feeling fatigued, but I wouldn’t want to write an epic post on one.

And as a hobbyist photographer, I want a bigger monitor when I process my photos. So does my youngest son when he edits the YouTube Poop videos he makes. And when both of us work with large files we’re glad for all the memory and CPU that my 16 GB, Intel i7 PC offers.

Adding accessory keyboards and pointing devices to mobile devices can help, but then those devices become more and more like PCs.

So no, the PC isn’t dying. It’s just found its place.

By Jim Grey

Writer. Photographer. Leader of geeks.

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