No doubt by now you’ve heard or read that HP is planning to leave the PC market. It has been widely reported hundreds of times over and in hundreds of different publications. I’m not here to report on that; the facts are what they are and you can find them elsewhere.
What I do want to talk about is what this means. It’s a sign in a growing trend. Yes ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Post-PC-Era. I know that many people flinch when they hear that. The reason for that is simple: people refuse to accept that the iPad has so radically changed computing that PC sales are falling off.
Before you think that I’m joking, let me explain.
I do believe we are in the Post-PC Era, but it’s important to understand that this will be a transition. Not a clear demarcation point where on one side we were all using PCs and then on the other side we all use tablets. The Post-PC era is like the fall of Rome. Looking back now, we can peg where the fall of the Roman Empire occurred, but the people living in that time period had no idea things were changing. There were signs back then, but nobody thought Rome was falling.The same is true for PCs.
I first had the suspicion that the PC era was entering its final phase back when IBM sold off it’s laptop business to Lenovo. This was IBM re-inventing itself. It was getting out of an industry segment that was quickly becoming commoditized. A good post in the Harvard Business Review talks about this race to the bottom with regards to margins. In essence, selling PCs had become a low-margin-high-volume business. To me, this was the first sign of the Post-PC era to come. It was not however, the sole reason; there are three other key trends that lead us to this point.
The first is the growing strength of the cloud. I have a post coming out in the next few weeks that will talk in more detail about cloud computing, but suffice it to say, with the advent of stronger cloud-based offerings, the “how” we provision services to PC users has been steadily changing.
The second is the accelerated adoption of mobile devices amongst users. This has shown them that they can become far more productivity when able to work in an untethered fashion. As smartphones grew more and more robust, people began shifting tasks from their computers to other devices. Then people began shifting consumer oriented tasks from their PCs (and TVs) to mobile devices. With everyone on the move, the value proposition of the PC began to fall.
And finally, the third event was the introduction of the iPad. This completely shifted the mindset for users, leveraging on the mobile trend and the cloud computing trend and completely re-setting people’s expectation of how a computing device should behave. The rest, as they say, is history in the making.
Will this Post-PC era happen overnight? For businesses, I don’t think so. I think it’ll be a years before we see the death of the PC in business. In the consumer space, I think we are seeing that happen now. That is why the needed high-volume sales for companies like HP have been so impacted by the iPad. People are becoming more sophisticated users and consumers and the iPad has set the bar for them. The PC just doesn’t cut it. This consumer-driven change will trickle into the enterprise. Companies and IT departments should be ready for the transition, which, because it will happen gradually, will see many variant devices emerge over the years. That’s why I am always stressing that a robust, flexible backend infrastructure be put in place within the enterprise. This will allow you to adapt your technology strategy to take advantage of the transition through the Post-PC era.