The prognosticators at Gartner have again taken out their box cutters and sliced off the top of their worldwide PC shipment forecasts – and this time they're slashing both this year and the next. The company's models now project that the world will consume 364 million PCs in 2011 – a 3.8 per cent increase over 2010's shipments …
All very true...
Aside from punters holding onto their computers longer due to financial constraints, there's other factors at play here too.
Even computers 5 years old+ are entirely capable of running the latest version of windows (lets face it, that's what most average punters use). Lets not forget the legions of XP users still out there, quite happy with their old computers.
There's nothing exciting about the PC market, we may have gone from dull beige boxes to snazzy chrome, sweeping lines and multiple colours - but that fad has played itself out, as has the netbook, the last poster child of the consumer PC.
Punters want tablets and most of them want iPad's - that's where the new coolness is. They've got their aforementioned snazzy chrome, sweeping lined colourful desktops, laptops & netbooks - no need to buy a new one.
But tablets? The marketing shine is glowing strong.
New PC not much better than old PC
The useful performance of CPUs on everyday tasks has basically plateaued in the last 3 years. If it wasn't for the fact that Windows still gets arthritic with time & users think their hardware has become slower, hardly any new PCs would be purchased (OK there is also the need to get rid of Vista and XP machines due to OS obsolescence... but that's not the fault of the hardware).
I complete agree with you, but it's not only that.
Windows 7 runs on any computer that can run Vista. This must be the first time an OS from Microsoft does not require more powerful hardware than its predecessor. Windows 8 will be similar in terms of requirements apparently, that makes 3 OSs in a row that can run on the same metal. That is big news in the IT world, until now if you wanted the lates OS or the latest Office you had to upgrade your computer, now you don't.
Hell, even Rage, id Software's latest game, will run on standard settings on a 3 to 4 year old PC.
Vista vs W7 requirements
"Windows 7 runs on any computer that can run Vista. This must be the first time an OS from Microsoft does not require more powerful hardware than its predecessor."
That's not true. Vista runs even on a Pentium3 PC with 512MB (well, 'run' is probably not the right word, lets say it works), Windows 7 doesn't. BTDT.
Things have changed
Lets correct that then. If you bought a PC with Vista (which certainly wasn't a Pentium 3), it can run 7.
For what the average home computer is used for, there's not much improvement in a new box. I've also noticed a trend. Power users such as us are more frequently taking the guts out of our old boxes and building a usable rig for Mom and other friends/family, rather that throwing it in the attic or getting rid of it. While I'd often piled up parts for servicing, I'm building complete systems out of pieces and parts much more often, as the components aren't obsolete as fast. Perfect example is a DVD burner. Remember in the days of CD burners how often the speed increased 2x, 4x, 16x etc.? 5+ year old burners are still fine if you don't mind the cables.
Re: Things have changed
I agree--I have recycled lots of PCs after rebuilding them. And I used to try to put Linux on them, too, but people will actually complain if you put Linux on a PC and give it to them for free--even if all they are doing is using a browser and typing a document occasionally.
Well I had an old Dell 3 gig Hyper threading cpu (socket 478) with a gig of ddr 400 ram and a ATI 9800 AIW pro 128 meg video card give me a windows 7 rating of 3.2, and ran smoother than XP which just seemed to hesitate and it's I now have a dual core cpu Laptop running 7 and it's way smoother than XP The best thing they built into Win 7 was the ability to handle multi core chips. ANd I to have a shed full of 'old' computers mainly P4's and Athalon 's and X2's so may have to buy a coupla dozen beers, and have a sort out and see what sort of a frankenstien I can build.
What about those who build their own PC?
I'd be curious if an increase of motherboard sales would put a dent in the PC sales.
I'd lve a new PC and laptop
My Pc is 8yr old, laptop is 4yr old and both really need replaced. But until the Government, the energy companies, and oil companies stop sucking on my wallet like a starving vampire they'll just have to do.
Are they failing? Unstable? A re-install can really boost a PC's performance. About the only thing an 8-year old PC will not do is run current games, it should still be able to cope with web, office etc.
Of course, if it was a really low-budget, low-powered system 8 years ago then you may well struggle. In which case, try installing a less demanding OS. One of the "Puppy Linux" distros is often a good choice.
It's that Windows advert where a 4-year old PC is "too old". Horse-hockey. Makes me want to punch my 12 year-old TV and write an angry email on my 7 year-old laptop.
I appreciate what you're saying but physically much of the hardware is starting to go. USB ports are starting to fail, spares are only available on ebay, laptop hinges are cracked, I'm on my 3rd laptop PSU, battery long gone etc.
After a while you're papering over the cracks and it's really time to move on if I could.
If it's hardware failure, then you are pretty much boned. I only asked as some many people chuck out perfectly good PCs that simply need a tidy-up.
"About the only thing an 8-year old PC will not do is run current games, it should still be able to cope with web, office etc."
Yes, if the software is similarly old, and then only if your requirements are very basic.
Really, using a PC longer is great, but 8 years (where hot&slow Pentium4 was the standard) is more than stretching it. The difference to a modern low end PC is like day and night.
It's the ability to rebild
That sets us 'oldies' apart from the disposal generation All my 10 year old tv's have a computer (P4) hooked up to them all networked with terabyte drives all over works great. And I cant afford to buy new stuff. But i did put it out that I was interested in any broken Laptops from friends and out of all I have collected, I now have 3 working ones. so there are ways around getting newer tech. and if you need to find out how to take it to bits and you are fine with handling fragile and breakable equiptment then it's fun, and you also learn something.
Doom! PC prices have crashed, will crash again. Doom!
I've seen similar stories over the past year or so, but no-one appears to have told the retailers. Low-powered "cheap" machines are still way, way over-priced. I don't see it some much of a price drop as a price correction; consumers are wising up and not willing to pay over-inflated prices for kit.
The low power machines are both cheaper than ever and low power. I just bought, for a gift (I would not use such a slow machine), a brand new 15" laptop with 2 GB RAM and 320 GB hard drive for the low price of $280 CAD, which means 177 pounds for you across the big lake.
This notebook is using though a crap CPU more suited for netbooks, and AMD C-50 or something, I would rather have a Celeron inside.
Yup - where's the need to upgrade?
I don't play high-resolution role-playing games or shot 'em ups. I don't do HD video editing or 3D modelling. On my 4-year old Mac Pro I have enough RAM to run quite a few programs at the same time, and I can run the latest versions of InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator quit happily. Yes, it would be nice if it were a bit faster, but it's not an issue. Why should I upgrade?
The same apples to my iPhone 4 - I see no compelling reason to buy the iPhone 5 (let's see if Tim Cook can project enough of an RDF field to open my wallet). I could be tempted by a high-resolution screen iPad, but only if I can sell my old one for enough to make the final cost relatively trivial.
But the new MacBook Air... oh, that is very tempting... :)
Me too (!) - no need to upgrade
it's not just CPUs, either.
I bought a computer 3 years ago. I do a lot of gaming, so I bought a lovely ATI 4870X2; a pretty powerful GPU at the time. When it failed recently, I actually bought an nVidia 460 and I'm pretty sure from benchmarks that the latter is less powerful. There was a time when a mid-range graphics card of today would trounce a top-range card of three years ago. Not today.
Back to the economics of the typewriter.
Typewriters used to sit on desks for generations. Even when they fell apart, they were skilfully put back together again by engineers.
Then came several decades of blatant corporate waste, powered by the cosy relationship between Microsoft and the hardware companies.
I'm not knocking all the advances: complex stuff became possible that had been impossible, huge spreadsheet analysis could be done in minutes instead of overnight. Even the first time we saw a DIR listing rush up the screen too fast to see any of the words seemed awesome.
But so many of the demands for upgrades were just for status; just to have the latest thing someone had read about. I'm all for the economics of those typewriter days. The PC hardware companies? Well, I guess they just have to check out how the old office equipment makers ever made a living. For a start, I guess they probably didn't obsess over this quarter's growth figures.
Then there's also the fact that the performance/watt trend of the last 5 years or so has once again resulted in PCs and laptops that actually last more than 3 years. (you know, like back in the good old 486 days)
During the Pentium 4 and Athlon XP era the power usage of the processor alone made sure that your motherboard (capacitors or memory controller) or your PSU would be dead in 2 to 4 years. Nowadays you can easily expect 5 to 8 years from both. Of course high-end GPUs still tend to die comparatively quickly, but the gamer market is too small to really affect the unit shipment figures (profit margins are a different story, of course).
Woot today had an Android dual screen tablet/reader system for under $100. Before you all scream " it was rubbish", I would point out that they sold the product. The tablet market is just starting. It is capable of massive growth. In 1970 there were about 22M TVs in the UK, today, I would guess at about 100M. If you count tablets as PCs then I would think approaching the same volume numbers as smartphones in about 3 years, we will see who wins in the market place. I believe Apple are terrified when they look at their future profitability, hence the desperate lawsuits.
The granddaughter(21) has a new Ipad and an Android phone. She thinks that the Android market is far superior to the Apple app offering. Her comments are that " the Apple apps are useless" for what she wants. When the Chinese tablet people get going, the Apple overpriced market will IMO shrink rapidly, particularly outside the US. The US now seems to be trapped in worthless patent lawsuits which will prevent all innovation for US products. Bearing in mind that the US now probably represents less than 15% of the world market, it's only a matter of time before some major manufacturers build only for the rest of the world. How do I know? Experience as a sales marketing guy, deciding the company policy for a low margin product.
This means in effect that all US customers will be taxed on the uncompetitively priced products they buy, which will be second rate in terms of innovation , whereas the rest of the world is not!
See if I'm right!
Hmmm, for now it seems that the German consumers are suffering, not the USAians.
For the record, I'm Canadian.
Does your 21 year old grand-daughter only run malware for some reason? Seriously I can't think of any other category of software which wouldn't have superior or equal products available from the Apple Store than the Android market.
It is even more unbalanced for tablet apps, where there are still only tiny numbers of apps optimized for honeycomb and larger screens.
Still pretending the Asus Transformer doesn't exist, I see. No matter. It's almost time for the Transformer 2, with 5x the horesepower and even better battery life. Better if that is a grand surprise.
The tablet is a PC. And apparently PCs are doing quite well. It's just that they are made to seem not by pundits whose sacred cow is Windows PCs. These folk can't call the iPad a PC, lest they give away that Apple has a full fourth of PC sales now, and the Lion's share of the profits - just as in mobile.
Isn't everyone forgetting one basic point - tablets can't do what PCs can. OK maybe I should add 'yet' but if I want full functionality, connectivity, upgradability(?) and capability I still need a PC. Tablets (and I have one) are useful for some things - mainly portability - but I don't see PCs becoming extinct until everything is on the cloud and all you need is a device with a decent browser on it. Or maybe there will be an app for that?
Horses for courses
Looking at my mother's laptop usage - email, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, occasional trivial word processing - I see nothing she couldn't do better on an iPad or similar. Really, all it lacks right now to replace the old laptop of mine she uses would be ... over-the-air updating - the feature coming with IOS 5 next month. My grandfather actually has a PC running Vista - but never got the hang of logging in, let alone surfing the web. Staying here over Christmas, though, I actually had him reading the Telegraph straight away through the iPad app (it was free in those days).
Paris Hilton isn't exactly firing up gcc to compile stuff ... of course I, and probably most Reg readers, still need a 'real computer', but how many end users really do? For a lot of home use, a pricey Windows machine with all the updates, anti-virus software, rebooting, moving parts (hard drive, fans) is more of a liability than an asset.