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PC sales sank in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to increased competition from smartphones and tablet devices, Gartner said in a report released Monday. Shipments totaled some 90.3 million units -- a 4.9 percent decline from the fourth quarter a year earlier, the firm found. In the U.S. market, PC shipments fell 2.1 percent from the year prior to 17.5 million units. The decline was attributable largely to consumers purchasing tablets and smartphones rather than replacing older computers, Gartner said.
As a PC builder and somebody who has been in the trenches since Win 3.x never have I seen the press get things so WRONG WRONG WRONG but never let it be said old Hairy wasn't willing to fix a mistake so here is what is REALLY happening.
Once upon a time there was a contest called "the MHz wars" where 2 companies jumped past each other in speed. This they did VERY fast, in one four year period old Hairy went from a 300MHz to a 2200MHz, things were going THAT fast. This allowed the OEMs, chip makers, and a certain company named MSFT to get big and fat, because taking advantage of a faster clockspeed? Trivial to do when it comes to programs. What happened is a PC you bought less than 2 years ago would already be struggling to run the latest software and because things were changing so rapidly there was no point in even attempting to upgrade the machine you had. This meant that every 2-3 years pretty much everybody using PCs were chunking their machines every 3 years or so, creating lots of opportunity to make money for those mentioned above.
Then a funny thing happened, one of the two companies went to "win the war" with a new chip called Netburst and found that once they got up to around 4GHz things were getting so hot the systems would end up needing exotic cooling just to keep from melting, and the power usage was going through the roof. the other company also saw this and they both decided that the MHz wars were over. So what to replace it with? Ah, instead of selling them faster chips we'll sell them MORE chips by putting multiple cores on the same die!
But this caused a side effect they hadn't forseen, for writing software that takes advantages of a higher clockspeed was trivially easy but to take advantage of multiple core and threads? Very VERY hard. This took away one of the reasons people had to throw out their PCs every few years, the other being that they would end up bogged down running too much stuff at once and need a faster chip, but with multicores the machines just didn't bog down like they used to.
Which brings us to where we are today, just look at the specs of what I was selling on the LOW end FIVE years ago...A Phenom I X4 with 4 GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. Now how many average folks gonna be able to come up with more work than that quad can handle? Not many. Even on the gamer front the gamers quickly found their chips were so overpowered that even the heaviest games couldn't keep up, for over a decade i built a new PC every year and a half like clockwork, now? My PC is going on 4 years old, why? What game out there can use more power than my 6 core CPU with 8GB of RAM can provide? Next month I'll swap out my 4 year old GPU for a newer model and will be able to continue playing every game at 60+ FPS.
So there you have it, the PC is NOT dying, its simply become such a fire breathing monster that folks don't need to replace it until it dies. Even on the laptop front I see folks with 4+ year old laptops, what mobile job can the average user come up with that will max out a Core Duo 1 or Turion X2? None.
We will see the SAME THING happen to ARM in less than 2 years, there are already $50 dual core tablets being built in China as we speak and just like X86 ARM is running into a wall only for ARM its power/heat per IPC, which is why Nvidia is up to 5 cores now, just to try to get the performance of even a 6 year old Intel chip. Just as PCs have gotten so nobody replaces until they die so too will ARM tablets become so overpowered that folks will just use them until they die. Granted that will be a little faster with something as flimsy as your average tablet but it certainly won't be like the sales of today.