The Future of the PC: Can the Technology be Saved?


technologyThe PC industry is struggling, and no one has any illusions about it. Last year, the market took yet another hit. Demand for technology like PCs and traditional laptops continue to slide, as consumers continue to turn to lighter, cheaper mobile devices as much as possible.

It used to be that you needed a PC to so much as check an email. With options like Microsoft’s Surface, and Apple’s iPad Pro, you don’t even need a PC to run relatively powerful productivity software. There are still some things that the PC does best, but it’s hardly the top of the pile anymore. And with plenty of people moving to solely mobile means of computing, or opting for less expensive ways to get online, it’s clear that the industry is in serious trouble.

It’s getting difficult for smaller and even mid-sized PC companies to survive. Toshiba wants out of the game entirely, and is trying to spin off the PC elements of its company to the survivors. If things continue in this vein, there are really only going to be a few companies with the resources to remain profitable. HP, Dell, and Lenovo will probably make it—but if we’re reduced to three major PC companies, innovation may slow to a crawl.

PC vendors are hopeful that 2015’s introduction of a new Windows OS technology may help the faltering platform, but that hope has been tempered by the fact that it doesn’t seem to have had any positive effects yet. It’s expected that businesses and large companies will probably upgrade to accommodate the new OS, but the consumer market seems supremely uninterested. Consumers also aren’t willing to pay a lot of a PC, unless they have a very specific niche need for it. Margins are suffering as consumers appear more willing to spend on their cellphones than their desktops.

One thing that may help is pushing hard for more innovation. After all, the initial appeal of the PC has always been power—the power to do what smaller technologies cannot. So, if tablets and even smartphones are catching up when it comes to standard software, something new has to be introduced. Some PC makers are toying with the idea of developing consumer 3D cameras, improving speech navigation, and even virtual or augmented reality support.

If they can pull these things off, it may be enough to save the PC. One of the problems is the lack of innovation in that industry. While hardware designs have undoubtedly improved drastically in the last ten years, we haven’t really seen any truly revolutionary changes in capability over that time frame. It’s going to take more than more storage, more appealing displays, and improved battery life to save the PC now. Even integrating touchscreens feels old-hat after the mobile revolution.

PCs need to be able to offer something only they can accomplish, and that means putting their superior processing power and memory to work in a way that tablets just won’t be able to touch.

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