Since the advent of smartphones, tablets, and other developing digital devices, the death of the desktop (and even the laptop) has been forecast by many IT pundits. Smartphones and tablets collectively are now outselling desktops, so I can understand the prediction. Matt Vella summarizes the current outlook (“Will Sexier PCs Sell?” Fortune, 4/29/13, p. 42):
“PC makers are desperate to rekindle their business. Worldwide shipments of laptops and desktops declined 3.7% last year, to 350 million units, and are likely to sink further in 2013, according to researcher IDC. A sluggish economy, pinched IT budgets, and, of course, the proliferation of do-it-all mobile gadgets are largely to blame.”
This is nothing new. As technology changes, so too will products and services demands. Businesses must appropriately adapt their business models if they want to remain solvent.
This presents an opportunity for hardware and software manufacturers to perform some fresh assessments on consumer and business needs. How are their products and services being used? What are end users criticizing or complimenting? What are end users’ ideas about opportunities for new products or services?
The smart companies will capitalize on this splendid and timely opportunity. Already many are responding with new products. For example, Lenova’s IdeaPad has a bendable screen, making it usable in four positions. Dell’s new XPS 12 laptop transforms into a tablet via a 180-degree flappable screen.
It seems to me the greatest declines in laptops and desktops are among consumers rather than businesses. Nevertheless, as the nature of work continues to change, and as traditional desktops and laptops die, businesses will gravitate toward the newer device designs. At every step in that process, device manufacturers will need to pay very close attention to costs, efficiencies, IT systems integration, ergonomics, and how the units are to be used. The challenge will be to remain a choice hardware supplier, while simultaneously producing to meet the demands of multiple and changing market segments—no easy task in anyone’s book.