Post PC My Ass

Dan Scharff

Post PC my butt.

I've been meaning to write about this for some time, but a few weeks ago Robert W. Baird analysts published the results of a survey that said tablets are not cannibalizing the PC as quickly as most pundits have said they would. In fact, 83 percent of those surveyed said they would still buy a PC. Of the 17 percent who said they could live without a PC, 11 percent said they didn't see that happening today and that "maybe" they could live without a PC in the future.

So, in reality, of the 1,114 people surveyed by Baird, 6 percent said they could live without a PC today. (To be fair, that 17 percent also said they had no plans to buy a new PC, so I imagine the 11 percent would continue to use their desktop or notebook.) I don't know about you, but that's a pretty dismal number, and that's not even considering that the PC is mutating (like it always has) to meet the challenge. I think Intel's push for the Ultrabooks within a very short amount of time could very well give the tablet a challenge.

I spoke with Baird analyst Jayson Noland who said they were surprised that so few were ready to trade in their PC for a tablet today. He also said that a surprising amount of young people had absolutely no interest in a tablet. Why? He suspects lack of disposable income to be the primary reason. Also of interest, older folks tend to think they can get along without a PC.

Diving into the 11 percent who think the PC might be replaced in the future by a tablet, the features they want to see are: more storage, more accessories (really?), more performance, oh, and Windows. This, of course, brings up the other thorny question: is the tablet a PC?

My frustration is not with the traditional definition of a consumer PC: keyboard/mouse/x86/Windows, it's how the mass media and analysts throw around the term. On one hand, you have analysts who will report that Apple is leading the world in mobile PC sales and then casually note that it's because the iPad is selling so well. Wha-, what? Is the iPad a PC or not? If it's a PC, then, well, PC sales are through the roof, man. If so, how can we be in a post-PC world? Well, no, pundits say. PC sales are not through the roof (400 million x86 chips will be sold this year alone), tablets have replaced them, as we live in a Post-PC world now. But the iPad gets counted as a PC sale for Apple?

The saddest aspect of the survey is how it got played. There were certainly some writeups that were fair . But the vast majority of reports seemed to miss the point—83 percent (and more) are still planning on buying PCs—instead concentrating on the fact that the iPad was still kicking all other tablets in the teeth . To be fair to the NYT writer, he did at least mention that the cannibalization was going very slowly.

But which is actually news? That the iPad is selling gangbusters over BlackBerry, WebOS, and Android Tablets (duh!), or that the vast majority of consumers still need a PC on their desk and maybe all this post-PC talk is really a load of crap?

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