The personal computer (PC) market remains strong and healthy, in spite of massive growth in the tablet PC and smartphone sectors, with consumers continuing to use the bigger screens and greater computing power of PCs to consume user-generated content like video and 3D content.
That’s the view of Intel South Africa’s Country Manager, Videsha Proothveerajh, who says that while PC sales are slowing in mature markets, sales remain strong – and in emerging markets like South Africa, continue to be the technology purchase of choice for most consumers.
“You have to see PC sales figures in a context where people have more technology spending choices to make than ever before. The fact is, consumers want more from their PCs than ever before: better graphics, better sound, easier integration with the rest of their lives,” says Mrs Proothveerajh.
“The PC is still a bestseller, especially as the technology is becoming more affordable every year.”
A recent survey by the Consumer Electronic Association in the United States found that the traditional PC, along with smartphones, remains a ‘must have’ and tops the technology wishlist of adults across the US. Interestingly, the study said people tend to see tablets and netbooks merely as ‘nice to haves’.
Technology analysts also see ongoing growth in the PC market, says Mrs Proothveerajh. Forrester predicts that by 2015, 2.25 billion PCs will be in use across the world, more than double the 1 billion PCs in use in 2008. Emerging markets are set to contribute 800 million new PCs in this time.
Gartner forecast a 10.5% increase in PC shipments in 2011 (rising to 387.8m units) and a 13.6% growth in 2012 (to 440.6m units). While this is down on a previous forecast, the signs are still very much of a healthy growth market on the global stage.
IDC saw global PC shipments declining 3.2% year on year during the first three months of 2011 – but the overall African PC market grew 1%, with the East African region alone recording a massive 76% growth in PC shipments.
IDC South Africa research analyst Hannes Fourie says the sale of notebooks in South Africa has been particularly strong in the home and small business segments. Government initiatives also led to increased PC sales as the country prepared to host last year’s Soccer World Cup, and the momentum has continued into 2011.
The deciding factor for future sales will be what consumers want their devices to do for them, says Mrs Proothveerajh. “Do you primarily want to create content, or consume it? If you’re creating content like large spreadsheets or long management reports, or editing movies and photo galleries, I don’t think there’s anything better suited to this kind of ‘heavy lifting’ than the PC. The PC will remain the trusted work horse for decades to come. ”
And while there’s been a boom in the volumes of content consumed on mobile devices, with the use of video sharing sites doubling from 2006 to 2010, there’s no doubt that a PC still provides a better-quality downloading and viewing experience. There have been major leaps in processing power on the PC in the past couple of years, with developments like Intel’s second generation processing technology literally opening new horizons for PC users.
“Instead of talking about the death of the PC, I think a more useful and relevant conversation would be around how all of the advancements in technology we are seeing right now are going to benefit consumers through new hybrid computing devices, which will give users the best of both worlds,” says Mrs Proothveerajh.
“The PC isn’t dead. It’s just changing shape, keeping up with audiences like the tech-savvy youth and getting better all the time.”
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond