Column: Post-PC Era Won't Stifle PCs

Maximum PC Staff

"Post-PC era" objections

Supposedly, the wild popularity of smartphones, tablets, e-readers, smart TVs, and hand-held videogames has brought us the “ post-PC era .” To hear some folks talk, PCs are not only in decline, but are almost as doomed as dinosaurs. For proof, they point to slipping PC sales and to troubled PC vendors like Hewlett-Packard .

Steve Job talks about the "post-PC era"

Maximum PC’s editors have objected to this verdict, and so do I. Furthermore, I disagree with the pessimists who fear that weaker demand for PCs will stifle the development of new PC processors and platform innovations. If you are a PC enthusiast—and you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t—happy days are still ahead.

True, 10 years ago, I predicted that desktop PCs were destined to become tomorrow’s mainframes. By that I meant PCs would no longer be the most popular computing platform and would be regarded largely as business machines for tasks requiring more processing power than smaller devices can deliver. I didn’t say PCs would become extinct. After all, mainframes are still very important, although we often call them by different names (“enterprise servers,” “cloud computers,” “data-center systems,” “supercomputers,” etc).

Are we living in a "post PC era?" (photo credit:

It’s also true that PC sales aren’t climbing as they once did. But people are still buying more than 300 million PCs a year, and several developing countries still represent a healthy growth market. Frankly, sales would be better if Microsoft hadn’t buried Windows 8 under a baffling user interface. As for HP , its troubles run much deeper than lackluster PC sales.

The fact is that economics still favor big investments in PC processors. In 2012, people bought 750 million smartphones and tablets, but those processors accounted for only $6.2 billion in sales. Half as many PC processors reaped $31 billion. So although mobile devices are sexy, PC chips earn the big bucks.

Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior editor for Byte magazine and is now an analyst for Microprocessor Report.

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