Strange Happenings in the PC Market

Welcome to 2012, faithful Mainframe Blog readers. The year 2011 is history, and now the results are starting to trickle in. Late last year IBM made some predictions about the next five years. I'd like to spend a little more time analyzing prediction #4 and its relevance to mainframe computing. There are two additional pieces of information available to me after writing that post. One is Gartner's report on 4th quarter PC sales, and the other is some careful observation of my family, particularly my sister, during the Christmas holiday.

First let's consider Gartner's report: PC unit sales fell 1.4% globally in the fourth quarter, and U.S. sales dropped 5.9%. HP's PC sales fell 16.2%. Note that these figures do not include Apple's iPad. If you also take out sales of Apple's Macintosh desktops and laptops, total U.S. PC sales (of Windows PCs) fell by 8.6%. (Apple's Mac sales grew 20.7%.)

Those are startling figures, but they are in perfect agreement with IBM's prediction. If the PC were the only way (or at least the "best" way) to access our increasingly digital world, we would expect the so-called "digital divide" to persist for a generation or more. Instead what's happening is that smartphones and tablets are rapidly becoming the most prominent access devices, while the importance of (and sales of) the PC are diminishing.

And I also observed my sister. She has an iPad and an iPhone. I'm not sure if she has a PC, and I don't think she cares whether she does. And for most of the Christmas holiday period and no doubt beyond she was glued to that iPad. She had everything she needed and more to support both the business and fun aspects of her life. And clearly she found the iPad nearly effortless to operate and worry-free. It's hard to break an iPad, in either software or hardware terms. She, and millions of other people like her, across all countries and social strata, are finding non-PC mobile devices much more suited to their lifestyles and needs. And this change is occurring very quickly.

Thinking as an architect, I was also struck by how much she was able to do in such a short time. The intensity of her iPad use was quite impressive and not, it seemed, a temporary phenomenon. As I mentioned previously, the infrastructure required to support the information delivery and transactional requirements of all these cloud-managed mobile devices is going to be astonishing. And it'll be mainframes of one stripe or another that'll do most of the heavy lifting.

I'm very bullish on the future of the mainframe as we begin this new year and enter the post-PC world. Be sure to keep stopping by in the coming weeks and months as we continue to explore the growing world of mainframe computing.

Happy New Year!

by Timothy Sipples January 13, 2012 in Systems Technology, Web Technology
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