What is Next for the Desktop PC?

For a few years now, doomsayers have been confidently forecasting the death of the traditional PC. In an era where more and more activities are able to be completed on mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets, they say there will simply be no need for businesses and individuals to invest in costly desktop computers that leave workers tied down to a single location.

But is this necessarily true? Certainly, sales of both desktop and laptop PCs have been declining for a while now, and this has come at the same time as shipments of more portable devices go through the roof. Microsoft, the biggest vendor of PC operating systems, responded to this with the introduction of its app-centric Windows 8, which stripped away many traditional desktop elements such as the start menu in favour of a mobile-like touch-first interface.

However, this was poorly-received by many users, with the company coming in for criticism for trying to impose mobile solutions on the desktop – and Microsoft has now at least partly backtracked. So does this indicate the PC isn’t quite ready to be eulogised just yet?

Desktop PC

Sales stabilising

Recent figures from Gartner suggest that while the PC market may never be able to reclaim its glory days, it’s far from finished. The research firm notes that after two years of steady decline, shipments of PCs are stabilizing, with the sector recording flat growth in the second quarter of 2014, with a 0.12 per cent year-on-year rise in sales.

And this is unlikely to be a one-off blip, as Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said: “Therefore, we expect to see slow, but consistent, PC growth. While the end of support for Windows XP drove some of the sales in developed markets, it is the underlying business replacement cycle that will stabilise the market.”

A converged environment

Even though the slump in the PC market looks to have been arrested and sales of premium tablets are slowing, it’s clear that mobile gadgets will still have a key role to play in the coming years. Gartner predicts that by next year, sales of tablets will overtake those of desktop and laptop PCs for the first time. Meanwhile, sales of mobile phones are set to hit 1.94 billion next year.

Therefore, it is inevitable that businesses will be facing up to a more diverse IT environment in the coming years, where desktop and laptop PCs are used alongside mobile technology like tablets and smartphones.

This will present great opportunities for businesses to enhance their agility by fostering a culture where employees can always access key applications and data regardless of where they are or what device they’re using.

However, in order to take full advantage of this, they will need to have the right technologies in place to support a converged, multiplatform environment. Central to this will be ensuring that applications and data are easy to use and accessible from multiple devices – and that these solutions are able to continue being effective for years to come to ensure both businesses and customers can benefit from the era of anytime, anywhere access.