Explaining the PC Market Decline

Market watchers and analysts seem baffled by the fact that the PC market is collapsing.  

Sales have dropped, but is that really surprising?  Take a look around your own office.  Does your computer seem too slow to get your job done?  I’ll bet it doesn’t.

I’m usually on the cutting edge of technology, but in my own life, my main desktop computer is 3 years old (a 2010 Mac Pro), and even if there were a new one released tomorrow, I don’t think I’d have a compelling reason to upgrade. 

I’m a software developer, usually an occupation that needs cutting edge “workstation class” hardware.  Back when I worked at Corel, we’d get new PCs every 2 years, and that upgrade would have a significant impact on my productivity.  Build times would drop from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.  

But these days, I can do a clean and rebuild (which I don’t do often) in about 15 seconds, and a typical build-and-run cycle takes just a couple of seconds.  This computer is fast enough for now, and for the foreseeable future.  

For me, the “my code’s compiling” excuse from this xkcd comic is obsolete.  And I’m a software developer!  Imagine the millions of people who use their computers for things like email, word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

The main reason people upgrade their computer is because it slowed down.  The slowdown of a typical Windows PC is mostly related to disk latency.  Sit in front of a slow PC and listen to the hard disk – it’s seeking like mad, because the files it needs are scattered all over the place.

Bigger disks go a long way towards eliminating that.  Files don’t get fragmented when you’re working on your few hundred megabytes of documents on a 2 terabyte disk.  And SSDs take latency mostly out of the equation.  

Even my gaming PC from 2 years ago runs Bioshock Infinite at high enough graphics settings that I wouldn’t consider spending money to make it better.  

The days of needing a new computer every 2 or 3 years are over, and the PC market had better get used to it.