If the PC dies, Windows 8 will be its killer, says analyst

Monitors migration of entertainment activities from PCs to tablets, smartphones; bets on the PC's demise only if Windows 8 succeeds on tablets

In another illustration of the diminishing importance of the PC, a research firm today said that more than a third of surveyed consumers who once used personal computers to access content said they had switched to tablets and smartphones.

But unlike others who, noting the same trends, have said it signals the death of the PC, John Buffone of the NPD Group argued that PCs aren't going anywhere for the moment.

"There is a significant amount of functionality that is best conducted on computers," said Buffone in an interview. That work, often collectively dubbed "content creation," could remain the provenance of PCs for a long time to come.

"I'm not in the camp that thinks the PC is going by the wayside," said Buffone in describing NPD's research results. "There are just too many households that have computers." According to NPD's data, the average Internet-connected household has an average of 2.4 working personal computers, versus 1.4 tablets.

But there's a definite move toward shifting some tasks, most of them broadly categorized as "entertainment," from the PC to tablets and smartphones.

The top two activities that have most moved to mobile, said Buffone, are Internet browsing and using Facebook. Among tablet owners, 27% said they're using their PC(s) less frequently for going online in general, while 20% confirmed that they use their PCs less often for accessing Facebook.

Smartphone owners responded slightly differently, with 27% claiming that they use their PC less frequently for both Internet access and Facebook activities.

"I'm not surprised by the volume of this shift of behavior," said Buffone. "When it comes to consumer entertainment, we're seeing a migration at warp speed." He predicted that 2013 would see even more of the move toward mobile devices for those tasks.

But until Windows 8 makes headway, Buffone saw little chance that consumers would dump their PCs in dusty back rooms or closets.

"Windows 8 on tablets could change that," Buffone said, "but from the sales so far, it's not going to be rapid."

Microsoft has pitched Windows 8 -- the full-featured operating system, not the functionally-limited Windows RT -- as a dual threat on tablets and ultra-light, touch-enabled laptops, able to not only run hardware and support software traditionally found only in notebooks, but also agile enough to power tablets.

The most striking example of Microsoft's belief in Windows 8's ultimate abilities -- its faith that the OS can drive devices equally capable for delivering "content consumption" as content creation -- is its own Surface Pro tablet, which goes on sale tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 9.

While other analysts haven't placed their bets on Windows 8 to lead the change from PCs to more mobile tablets, they have predicted that hardware able to really handle both content creation and consumption are not far off.

In a separate interview this week, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, pegged 2014 as the year when such devices become reality. "In 2014 there will be broad adoption of new processor technologies from Intel and AMD, for that matter from ARM," said Moorhead of his prediction that chip makers will have silicon by then that not only sips power at tablet-appropriate rates but has the horsepower necessary for content creation. "This is going to happen. And that means there won't be a robust, premium 10-in. tablet-only market."

The success of Windows 8, by Buffone's take, will thus be critical not only for Microsoft's future, but for the 40-year-old-and-counting concept of the personal computer.

"I see Windows 8 as the only prominent solution [to merging content creation and consumption], but that will happen only if enough consumers buy those devices, and Microsoft is able to show them the value proposition," he said.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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5 Comments

Kneelie

1

I just bought another copy of Windows 7, and I have no intentions of ever switching to 8 and from what I know of Windows 9 I will not be using it either.

IT Observer

2

Has microsoft became blinded on it's arrogant stance by pushing individuals and business into buying Windows 8, the 3rd failure (Remember Windows Me was the first one, followed by Windows Vista and now this).
This pathetic move is damaging the PC industry as well, the deadline to upgrade to Windows 8 with the purchase of a new computer with Windows 7 was about to end on January 31st this year, now extended until February 28.
Not only Windows 8 is far complex to use than previous versions, it has been badly designed to look like a mobile phone with applications store, What happened to the traditional way to buy software with physical media (eg. DVD ROM)?
Touch screens is not the way of the future, a few companies may embrace this concept, the retail sector can benefit from it to process transactions in less time possible, ordinary people will not get the same results.
The PC industry flourished when a stable Operating System were marketed succesfully, as the myriad of components that makes the PC were sold to enthusiasts alike around the globe.
If this failure is continuing then R.I.P. to the PC and good bye!

pete

3

Gaming will always be stronger on the PC because of the enormous computing power you get with a PC and i for one will also be staying with windows 7,its a favorite alongside XP

Gavin Fielke

4

I was just waiting for a convertable with Thunderbolt which will hopefully hit the market late 2013 to mid 2014 but hearing about more agile processors makes me more excited.
I see a future where I have a tablet with an i5-i7 equivalent processor. It docks with a keyboard that has an optical drive and extra batteries or maybe even a mid power GPU. At home where I have my NAS storage, served through my FTTP connection and accessible over my wireless internet connection. When I get home I have my desk where I have a thunderbolt dock connecting my tablet with my high end GPU, 3 monitors, keyboard and mouse so I can play games.
All the while using the same tablet with all of my settings and local files I have been working on during the day unless they are kept exclusively on my personal cloud.
I got excited about taking my settings with me when I made my first portable software thumb drive but a tablet that does it all is the next level and a great part of the future of computing.

am

5

I’ve been using windows 8 for few months now until I love it. It’s the best OS MS has ever made.
It makes my old laptop feel like brand new. It is fast and breeze. Give it a chance people. Don’t lash at it because of some paid so called “Experts”. Windows 7 was good but not even close to being as good as Windows 8.

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