- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2013

New sales figures show slow the decline of the personal computer is accelerating, with consumers abandoning the desktop units in droves in favor of more portable devices.

New figures from the International Data Corp. show 1 million fewer PC shipments than tablets in the third quarter of this year.

Shipments for major PC vendors have declined for six quarters, and the first quarter of 2013 saw the steepest overall quarterly drop (13.9 percent) since IDC started tracking the PC market in 1994.

Meanwhile, tablet sales are soaring.

“Tablets give you a nice interface for all the things you want to do but couldn’t really do with a PC,” said Jennifer Golbeck, director of the human-computer interaction lab at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The changing of the guard is the latest in a dizzying acceleration of tools, toys and technology over the past quarter century, covering everything from typewriters to Microsoft Windows, cassettes to MP3s, and VHS to Blu-ray.

Still, analysts say don’t look for a world without PCs just yet.

“While I think this trend will continue, there are still going to be many people who will need to use PCs,” said Tim Finin, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

PCs remain a staple of the global business environment and continue to offer a certain level of depth that exceeds the scope of a tablet.

“[Personal computers] are a platform optimized to do more computing and heavy work,” says Jill Klein, executive resident in the Department of Information Technology at American University.

Ms. Golbeck agrees. “Because of PCs’ productivity compared to tablets, I think we’ll have them around for a while longer.”

Many analysts believe the correlation between tablets and PCs is not a one-on-one battle for sole existence.

“It’s not direct cannibalization, but rather usage cannibalization,” said Tom Mainelli, research director at IDC.

Studies show that in many cases, individuals buy a tablet device in addition to their personal computer and use the tablet more frequently than the PC. Because of this decrease in usage, many PCs last longer and thus, individuals are not as prone to upgrade to a new one.

Mr. Mainelli also suggests that tablets and PCs might soon form a sort of union. “I think that over time, distinction between PCs and tablets are going to continue to blur,” he said.

Mr. Finin cautioned that predictions are always an iffy proposition.

“Me and my colleagues years ago saw the World Wide Web in its early stages and thought, ‘Ah, that’s nothing.’”

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