Last week the globe’s largest PC manufacturer, Hewlett-Packard (HP), shocked the world. Weeks after its launch, HP canned its new tablet, gave up on mobiles and sold its PC division. Another nail in the PC’s coffin?
It was only last week that Sarah Kidner asked if the PC was dead here on Which? Conversation.
Her conclusion (rightly so) was no. And you seem to agree – so far 89% of you have said that you use a desktop PC or laptop as your main computing device.
This much is to be expected – outside the tech elite and affluent gadget fans, tablets are little more than a popular phenomenon, not a mainstream option.
But how do you square this correct conclusion with HP’s decision to not only ditch its tablet in its infancy, but extricate itself from the PC business as well? Why would the biggest PC manufacturer in the world, a leader in the industry for decades, decide to just give up and do something else instead?
PCs and laptops are good enough already
OK, so most people still want and need a PC, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a lucrative business to be in.
PCs, and particularly laptops, have evolved to a point that, for most people, they do everything they need them to. Unless something breaks, people will hang on to what they’ve got and will spend as little as they can to replace it. Hardly a great recipe for companies to make money.
With webOS, the acclaimed mobile operating system HP purchased with Palm only last year, HP was as close to an Apple competitor as there was likely to be. But in giving up on its TouchPad tablet barely a month into its life, HP has limped off the field of battle with nary a shot fired.
Apple, which unlike other PC manufacturers commands large margins on its products, remains in a league of one and will likely continue to do so.
There will be less choice in future
HP’s consumer PC business will survive in one form or another, whether as an independent company or as part of another, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that others won’t.
If the largest PC business in the world is deemed surplus to requirements, how will others fare? It won’t happen overnight, but HP’s decision will surely get other executives thinking about their priorities.
Only Samsung has got close to giving Apple a challenge in the tablet market, and the current legal wrangling between the two even has that under threat. Android may be conquering all comers in the mobile market, but tablets are proving a tougher nut to crack – 2012 will be pivotal in deciding how things pan out.
We all need PCs and will continue to do so for a long time to come, but the industry is short of new ideas for PCs. This is why the ‘post-PC’ era, as coined by Steve Jobs, has garnered so much comment. It’s alienating for the majority of consumers to whom tablets are an expensive frivolity, but the hype will only become more intense.