The Morning Download: Death Knell for the PC Era

The Wall Street Journal

Michael Hickins, Editor


Good morning. That sound you heard Wednesday was the death rattle of the PC era. The inexorable decline of the desktop computer has accelerated sharply; depending on whether you believe IDC or Gartner Inc., world-wide shipments fell by either 14% or 11% during the first three months of 2013.

Just as with the fall of Rome, the reasons are manifold. Gartner tells the Journal that the decline has been fueled by greater consumer interest in touch devices. IDC, on the other hand, blames Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 8 operating system — and its new user interface, seen as frustrating and confusing to many customers. Business customers are echoing the latter sentiment; Tracey Rothenberger, formerly the CIO at Ricoh Americas Corp., and now its COO, says the benefits of switching to the new OS aren’t worth the effort of training employees to use it. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. But I think there’s minimal value in the incremental changes that are there,” he told CIO Journal. At digital marketing agency iCrossing Inc., it’s much the same. “I don’t think anybody can articulate what the value proposition on [Windows 8] is,” said its CIO, Dave Corchado. According to Mr. Corchado, the decline in PC sales is a reflection of increased employee demand for Apple Inc.’s Mac computers. “About four years ago, we were 10% Mac. Now it’s about fifty-fifty,” he said.

Microsoft, which developed Windows 8 to modernize its operating system for touch-based mobile devices, is said to be developing a new 7-inch tablet to compete with Apple’s iPad Mini and Google Inc.’s Nexus tablets, the WSJ reports. Fantastic, good luck with that — but CIOs don’t seem to be biting on Surface tablets either, and a smaller size isn’t likely to make much difference to them. Mr. Rothenberger of Ricoh owns a Surface Pro, which he says he enjoys. But he also says there aren’t enough native apps. Noting the hype that accompanied the introduction of the new OS, Mr. Rothenberger says, “I don’t know that it’s a game-changer at all.”


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