Forecast share of US personal

computer sales

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I’m often asked what kind of personal computer (pc) I would recommend.  I always start my reply with: what do you want to use your new computer for?  Usually everybody’s needs are a little bit different, so focusing on those differences can help people decide what they want. The chart above, courtesy of Forrester Research, shows the projected shares for the consumer PC market in the US through to 2015.  It is a good basis from which to discuss where personal computing is going.  My first observation is what the chart doesn’t show.  It doesn’t show how much or how fast the overall consumer personal computer market is growing in a down economy.  Over the next five years Forrester is forecasting that the overall market size will have increased 52%. Several factors are driving this growth.  Firstly, more people are becoming computer literate and in the developed world a personal computer is becoming a necessity not a luxury device.  Secondly, overall prices at the lower end of the market have fallen to a point that the entry price is now much lower e.g. Netbooks, than they were.  Thirdly, the computing power in all these products has increased substantially.  The new Intel i7, just coming onto the market, has four processors built into it and contains 731 million transistors.  That is nearly double the 463 million transistors in the earlier processor the i7 chip is replacing, all for a similar amount of money.  Fourthly, computers generally are becoming more reliable and therefore are starting to be able to meet consumer’ needs.  By that I mean just switch it on and it works reliably without any hassle.  This is an often overlooked factor that is driving the personal computer growth.  This situation has been brought about on the hardware side by increasingly integrating separate components to reduce the number of components and thus increase reliability.  This is one reason that I generally advise people to buy a Notebook computer, even if portability is not required.  Portable computers are more reliable than desktop computers.  Yes, they do cost more for similar performance, but what you are buying is more surface integration of components and hence better reliability.  Of course, if you bang the computer about when you travel, or drag the computer in wheeled bag where it gets vibrated a lot, then reliability will become an issue.  But if you gave the same treatment to a desktop then it would fail more quickly.  Reliability has also been improved on the software side.  Microsoft has gradually realised that computers are consumer devices and have been adapting the operating system to be more reliable.  Windows 7 is a lot more reliable and fault tolerant than any of its predecessors so far.  You generally don’t have to mess about so much today but this situation has been a long time coming and could still be improved.  A fifth reason is that the cost of computer storage has been continually falling just as dramatically as the improvement in computing power.  Without cheaper storage personal computers would be too expensive to become consumer devices. There is a sixth reason behind what is happening in the personal computer market, something that underpins the whole market.  Microprocessors (the major part of a computer) are by their very nature mass market devices.  For a company like Intel nearly all of the cost of production is in the creation of the first chip, subsequent copies cost very little.  Having produced that first chip the maximum amount of profit is obtained by getting that chip into as many devices as possible over as long a time period as possible.  As the new chip is introduced the price of the previous chips being replaced gets lowered.  That is why so much computing power is going into other devices like the mobile phone.  More processing power is going into more products in a continuous process as each chip is cheap to produce when production has been ramped up. As the chart shows, consumers bought more Notebooks than desktops in 2009.  Now Netbooks are cutting into the Notebook’s share of the market.  Now Tablets are taking sales away from Netbooks.  The success of the iPad is transforming the market.  The figures in the chart are projections from existing sales data not a prediction of what will happen.  Extrapolating sales from the initial launch of the iPad and projecting forward is a guess at best.  Certainly we are about to see a glut of iPad imitators, many at lower cost than Apple’s product. What is my favourite form factor at the moment for a next purchase?  A Toshiba R700 would fit my needs, but why on earth is this shipping with a 32 bit operating system instead of a 64bit one?  Nothing is perfect. July 2010
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2010

Forecast share of US

personal computer sales

I’m often asked what kind of personal computer (pc) I would recommend.  I always start my reply with: what do you want to use your new computer for?  Usually everybody’s needs are a little bit different, so focusing on those differences can help people decide what they want. The chart above, courtesy of Forrester Research, shows the projected shares for the consumer PC market in the US through to 2015.  It is a good basis from which to discuss where personal computing is going.  My first observation is what the chart doesn’t show.  It doesn’t show how much or how fast the overall consumer personal computer market is growing in a down economy.  Over the next five years Forrester is forecasting that the overall market size will have increased 52%. Several factors are driving this growth.  Firstly, more people are becoming computer literate and in the developed world a personal computer is becoming a necessity not a luxury device.  Secondly, overall prices at the lower end of the market have fallen to a point that the entry price is now much lower e.g. Netbooks, than they were.  Thirdly, the computing power in all these products has increased substantially.  The new Intel i7, just coming onto the market, has four processors built into it and contains 731 million transistors.  That is nearly double the 463 million transistors in the earlier processor the i7 chip is replacing, all for a similar amount of money.  Fourthly, computers generally are becoming more reliable and therefore are starting to be able to meet consumer’ needs.  By that I mean just switch it on and it works reliably without any hassle.  This is an often overlooked factor that is driving the personal computer growth.  This situation has been brought about on the hardware side by increasingly integrating separate components to reduce the number of components and thus increase reliability.  This is one reason that I generally advise people to buy a Notebook computer, even if portability is not required.  Portable computers are more reliable than desktop computers.  Yes, they do cost more for similar performance, but what you are buying is more surface integration of components and hence better reliability.  Of course, if you bang the computer about when you travel, or drag the computer in wheeled bag where it gets vibrated a lot, then reliability will become an issue.  But if you gave the same treatment to a desktop then it would fail more quickly.  Reliability has also been improved on the software side.  Microsoft has gradually realised that computers are consumer devices and have been adapting the operating system to be more reliable.  Windows 7 is a lot more reliable and fault tolerant than any of its predecessors so far.  You generally don’t have to mess about so much today but this situation has been a long time coming and could still be improved.  A fifth reason is that the cost of computer storage has been continually falling just as dramatically as the improvement in computing power.  Without cheaper storage personal computers would be too expensive to become consumer devices. There is a sixth reason behind what is happening in the personal computer market, something that underpins the whole market.  Microprocessors (the major part of a computer) are by their very nature mass market devices.  For a company like Intel nearly all of the cost of production is in the creation of the first chip, subsequent copies cost very little.  Having produced that first chip the maximum amount of profit is obtained by getting that chip into as many devices as possible over as long a time period as possible.  As the new chip is introduced the price of the previous chips being replaced gets lowered.  That is why so much computing power is going into other devices like the mobile phone.  More processing power is going into more products in a continuous process as each chip is cheap to produce when production has been ramped up. As the chart shows, consumers bought more Notebooks than desktops in 2009.  Now Netbooks are cutting into the Notebook’s share of the market.  Now Tablets are taking sales away from Netbooks.  The success of the iPad is transforming the market.  The figures in the chart are projections from existing sales data not a prediction of what will happen.  Extrapolating sales from the initial launch of the iPad and projecting forward is a guess at best.  Certainly we are about to see a glut of iPad imitators, many at lower cost than Apple’s product. What is my favourite form factor at the moment for a next purchase?  A Toshiba R700 would fit my needs, but why on earth is this shipping with a 32 bit operating system instead of a 64bit one?  Nothing is perfect. July 2010
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