Sunday, January 29, 2012

PC: the decline is accelerating

There was a time not so long ago when the holiday season alone was able to revive PC sales. But the personal computer is becoming increasingly rare in the hood of Santa Claus. Result, PC sales have stagnated in the fourth quarter. Exactly, they were down 0.17%. The PC head in the bucket since the second quarter and this trend seems heavy. A year finally sign the decline of this unit has taken a hit since the democratization of old tablets and smartphones.

Obviously, there are many reasons to explain the poor form that affects the personal computer especially in countries where the penetration rate is very high. The economic downturn and a shortage of disk drives may have penalized PC sales, but this does not explain the fact that 2011 is in many cases the worst year for the industry since 2001.

For manufacturers who have engaged in price war several years ago and have consequently eroded their margins, the contraction of demand makes it virtually impossible an equation that was already not simple.

Manufacturers are obliged to review their strategy abruptly. Acer is the case, once one of the stars of the Industry, who thanked the CEO, Gianfranco Lanci, in March because of strategic disagreements (there Lenovo has recently rebounded). At the time, the Taiwanese company explained that the success of the iPad was a flash in the pan.

In turn, the number one monial confessed out loud thinking about getting rid of its PC division. After several weeks of reflection, especially because a buyer at a price attractive enough, HP has decided to turn back.
Behind the war of the PC, also hides a semantic battle. For the late Steve Jobs, the PC is a "truck". The cars of today are the tablets and smartphones. What Apple calls "post-pc". Should we really make the distinction between these two markets? This is the question that many observers. And output this year of Windows 8, which appears as a single operating system for personal computers and tablets should reopen the debate.

Because the market reality is quite different, if we analyze the market as a whole. This industry has been the emergence of mobile devices an earthquake. After 10 years of unchallenged rule, the Wintel platform now accounts for less than 50% of sales of personal computers in the broadest sense of the term, according to a study of Asymco. A situation all the more paradoxical as Microsoft and Intel were quick to advanced pawns in their mobile devices. But so far they have never been able to exploit the tremendous enthusiasm of the public for these small devices. Intel has only to present a more suitable processor and Microsoft's OS reset mobile. And missed this shift may explain the unfortunate current PC manufacturers, too used to relying on the couple Intel (or AMD) / Microsoft. We saw it again last year with HP, which quickly gave up with webOS. Rather than adopt a strategy in the long run, HP very quickly stopped the charge. After months of delay, California has come to its operating system open source, and builds on Windows 8 to revive the market shelves. HP has promised to produce in the future on webOS tablets, but is very vague on his schedule.

The arguments put forward to explain the slowdown in PC sales are quickly their limits when analyzing the smartphone market or the shelves. These devices cost for most of them as expensive as the low-end PC. But for these devices, there is no mention of crisis ... In France, GFK reports that he sold in 2011 more tablets than phones!

The real drama for PC manufacturers is likely to have been unable to turn the corner of the mobile Internet. If you look at the sales rank of smartphones, none of the top 5 player in this market, which begins to crystallize, is a computer manufacturer to the base. There is of course an exception to this: Apple. All other (Samsung, Nokia, HTC and RIM) are from the telephone mobile. And the same thing is happening again with the tablets. Apart from Apple, a company apparently in the best position today to take advantage of the explosion in this market is Samsung, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Asus. But much can still change positions; the market is far from mature. And it is probably now the largest source of hope for those involved in the Wintel ecosystem.

If Apple opened the door, except maybe Amazon, no one has succeeded for the time to reproduce the formula for the iPad. Google penalty for time to adapt its system to the slate. Eric Schmidt promised an Android tablet is a very good level for the coming months. Windows 8, Microsoft and its partners have therefore a role to play provided they do not waste your time.

"Two revolutions later," and as surprising as it may seem logical, Apple has become the number one player in the global market. And most likely annoying for its competitors is that its success in smartphones and tablets has enabled it to double its sales of Mac since the release of the first iPhone. The "halo" effect born with the iPod is undeniable while surprising. Finally, Apple has never made so little effort in recent years to promote its computers. In addition, most of its products to its catalog of computers begin to date. Yet the success is there. Even the doors of the company that have long remained closed to open more popular Apple plus. One from success to success, success is not definitive. The market for mobile phones is extremely volatile. The big winners yesterday (RIM, Motorola) are now in trouble.

Apple is never as strong as when the pace of innovation is high. Within a few generations, smartphones have evolved considerably. In such configuration, the Apple model is particularly efficient. The mastery of the software and hardware gives it great freedom and responsiveness. So far, this is what has failed in its competitors from the PC world.

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