5 Things That Can Help The PC Business Rebound4:30 PM EST Mon. May. 20, 2013
It's no secret that the PC industry is hurting -- market research firms IDC and Gartner reported steep declines in PC shipments for the first quarter, and the forecast for the rest of the year is looking gloomy. But all is not lost for the PC; here are a few bright spots for the industry that could help desktop and notebook computers make a comeback.
Let's face it: The traditional tower desktop PC isn't very pretty. So it's understandable that major PC manufacturers are pushing sleeker all-in-one (AIO) desktops. Not only do AIO systems have a small profile, but many new Windows 8 models are also shipping with touchscreen support. And customers are taking note -- Intel and Lenovo, for example, say the AIO desktop category is now the fastest-growing desktop segment in their respective businesses. Gartner recently forecast that AIO desktops will surpass overall desktops within the next five years as AIO systems and smart TVs become more alike. And Intel is promoting new AIO components to its system builder partners in an effort to prop up the custom PC channel.
Commanding your PC by waving your hands or pointing your finger may seem like a silly novelty, but that's probably what some people thought about touchscreen phones several years ago. We've already seen Samsung introduce new technology that allows users to engage their Galaxy S4 smartphones with simple gestures. Now companies like Intel and HP, which recently partnered with 3-D motion control vendor Leap Motion, are investing in motion control technology in the hopes that both consumers as well as commercial clients will flock to the new technology for application-specific tasks, which could help PCs further distinguish themselves from their tablet counterparts.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Many PC manufacturers such as Acer, HP and Lenovo are melding tablets with their notebook PC form factors to create hybrids and piggyback on the success of tablets. Whether they're convertible notebooks (like Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga) or have detachable tablet displays (like Microsoft's Surface Pro), hybrids appear to be gaining steam in the market, both for Windows 8 and Android systems; HP recently announced two new hybrid models (pictured) -- one for Windows 8 and one for Android – coming later this summer.
It's tough to compete with the lower price points of tablets, even if the mobile devices have lower performance and less functionality than a PC. So it should come as no surprise to see Intel readying new $599 Ultrabook models for the holiday season. Ultrabooks were initially introduced with price points of around $1,000. While the PC market already has plenty of lower-cost models, from Chromebooks (pictured) to netbooks, PC companies are looking to get more competitive with higher value models like Ultrabooks and high-performance ultra-thin laptops.
It seems like every piece of computing technology these days is moving toward a lower power consumption end point to reduce energy costs (servers) and extend battery life (mobile devices). But lower power consumption can often lead to lower performance, so it's refreshing to see PC component makers gearing up for faster CPUs and GPUs, including Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, codenamed "Haswell," and AMD's latest mobile graphics card, the Radeon HD 8970M, which the company says is the world's fastest notebook GPU. This is good news, especially in today's world of video-intensive applications, from Netflix and streaming movies to video calling and teleconferencing. If component makers can keep pushing the performance limits, then PCs will continue to have an edge over tablets and smartphones.