The PC industry’s hemorrhaging continued on Tuesday, as Acer announced that it lost nearly half a billion dollars in the last three months—an utter disaster that prompted the company to boot CEO J.T. Wang out the door, along with 7 percent of Acer’s staff.
Financial statements and personnel shuffling is usually enough to induce a boredom-induced coma, but Acer’s troubles drive home just how much turmoil the PC industry is in with the en masse shift to “good enough” computing.
Since the iPad’s launch in 2010, PC sales have tanked; Dell has gone private in order to reshuffle its business away from the eyeballs of investors; HP considered ditching its PC business entirely, at a time when its PC business was the largest in the land; Lenovo, the new largest PC maker in the land, sells more mobile devices than proper computers; AMD has shifted focus to crafting custom processors for large businesses; Windows 8, the device-spanning would-be savior in a many-screened world, landed with a thud (Don’t even get me started on Windows RT); and users view PCs as little more than microwaves.
Even the cornerstones of the old Wintel hegemony are wavering. Both Intel and Microsoft have replaced their long-tenured CEOs, as each company shifts their respective tunes to sweet songs about mobile-friendly futures.
The times indeed appear dark for traditional PC companies.
Signs of hope
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel.
For one thing, while shipments have plummeted from their high-water mark of just a few years back, the industry is still on pace to sell more than 300 million units this year—far more than tablets. Sure, sales for the two form factors will converge down the line, and the bleeding is still far from over, but the PC’s rate of decline is already showing signs of slowing.
“The PC industry may be slowing, but it’s certainly not dead,” Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told PCWorld earlier this year.
Moreover, the tides of change have resulted in a much-needed shake-up for the computer industry.
Cheap, good enough devices have never been more abundant. (Some) high-end laptops are finally focusing on the overall user experience, rather than just speeds and feeds. We’re also witnessing a wave of nigh-unprecedented experimentation, as PC makers turn to Android and ChromeOS and laptop-tablet hybrids and itty-bitty desktops and ginormous tablet thingies in a bid to stop the pain.
Heck, the state of computing has never been brighter if you consider tablets to be just another PC form factor—which I do.
Yes, folks, the times are a-changing, and the very nature of computing is a-changing along with them. Not everyone will make it through the transition; the PC industry of yesterday will not be the PC industry of tomorrow. But isn’t that always the case?