Declining PC Sales? Blame Lack of Innovation
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PC sales are down. According to iSuppli and Gartner Research, PC shipments were down for the first-half of 2009. Even worse, they're expected to decline for the rest of the year. And although some are worried about the results, still more people are shocked.
"An annual decline in unit shipments is highly unusual in the PC market," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms for iSuppli, in a statement. "Even in weak years, PC unit shipments typically rise by single-digit percentages. The last decline -- in 2001 -- was a 5.1 decrease in unit shipments due to the extraordinary impact of the dotcom bust, which caused inflated IT spending levels from the previous years to collapse."
But this year, there are many reasons why the industry is experiencing such a drop. Some are pointing to declining desktop shipments. Others are looking at the enterprise, saying most companies simply aren't willing to invest in new hardware as the prolonged recession continues to impact business. But perhaps PC sales are declining for another reason: there's little innovation in the PC industry.
There's no debating that the economy is bad and that's having an impact on PC sales. It's also not helping that Windows Vista isn't exactly the most coveted operating system on the market. At the same time, Windows 7 is still a few months out, which means most folks are waiting until a computer is released with Microsoft's latest OS is installed before they buy a new PC. It's a "perfect storm" of sorts. And it's a problem.
But most of those problems could be mitigated with more innovation in the industry. Do me a favor: Go to the Web sites of the major PC vendors -- Dell, HP, and Acer -- and tell me what you see. Chances are, you'll find computers that are priced closely, have the same basic specs, and have almost the same design. It's a joke.
The PC industry is being commoditized. Due to low margins, companies are using the same components, bundling the same software, and shipping that package in a case that's hardly different from competing products in an attempt to cut costs, while charging enough to turn a small profit on each sale.
But all that is to the detriment of the industry.
Nowhere else in the tech industry is innovation such an afterthought. HDTV manufacturers are constantly trying to find ways to reduce the footprint of their televisions or increase picture quality. The iPhone, Palm Pre, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices are all fighting for your affection by adding more features. Digital cameras are constantly being improved and new ideas are changing the market. Even simple things like mobile apps are being released with neat ideas that add some real value to your life.
In the meantime, PCs are left sitting on store shelves, boring, and without direction. Dell, HP, and the rest aren't innovating -- they're allowing gradual shifts in the market to dictate business decisions, rather than setting the pace for the competition.
When it comes time to look at current PCs, where are the cool, Apple-esque designs? Did they forget about exciting new components from companies like Intel and nVidia? And what about Android? Might that help to increase sales in the market?
Your guess is as good as mine. But status quo certainly isn't working. And it's only making more companies suffer. It's time to innovate. It's time to come up with new ideas that consumers care about. It's time to turn things around.
Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.