By Jordan Robertson
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – The personal computer industry needs a jumpstart – and it’s counting on a rescue from emerging markets and a late-to-the-party push into tablet computers.
The U.S. and European PC markets have entered a dangerous new phase: Fewer people are buying new PCs because of economic anxiety, market saturation and the rise of seductive new gadgets such as Apple’s iPad.
More signs of strain are expected as PC makers and their component suppliers begin to disclose quarterly earnings.
Make no mistake: The PC is still the backbone of the digital world, powering e-commerce, social networking and more. It is a fixture in homes and businesses in industrialized countries. More than 1 million PCs are sold every day, and the industry is bigger than ever.
But worldwide sales have slowed in recent years. The U.S. and European markets have fared the worst, suffering lately from declines compared with the previous year. Market research firms IDC and Gartner Inc. said that PC shipments worldwide grew at just over 2 percent in the second quarter, short of both firms’ expectations.
One of the most urgent concerns is that the PC has become ubiquitous in many markets. That has presented the industry with a classic business problem: how to find new ways to sell an established product.
Although it’s true that computers need to be upgraded regularly, businesses are only starting to spend money again as the economy slowly recovers. Consumers are updating their machines less often, spending their money instead on the latest handheld gadgets.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has promoted the changes as a sign we’ve entered the “post-PC era.” Technologists have thrown around that term for a decade in what turned out to be premature predictions, but the characterization may be coming true now.
“This is a time of intense change,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst who has studied the evolution of consumer technology. “New competition for PC manufacturers makes it just really, really hard to make a profit.”1 2 3 next >>