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Is the personal computer (PC) is on its way to becoming extinct? Even though it will take a few more decades and improved technology for mobile computing to make PCs redundant, the decline has definitely begun, as recent surveys show.

Memory chips are feeding more tablets than PCs

Market research analysts at IHS recently revealed that the share of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM or more commonly known as RAM) chips used by PCs has fallen below 50% for the first time since the 1980s. It is still at a sturdy 49% in Q2 of this year, but the drop is being hailed as significant by tech bloggers and journalists.

Source: Flickr cam_rich245

Meanwhile, the tablet share of DRAM chips has grown at 2.7% in the same quarter, and tablet shipments are expected to rise from 24% in Q3 to 55% in Q4. It also helps that the number of DRAM bits being used in new generation tablets such as the New iPad has almost doubled.

This isn’t the first death knell being sounded for PCs in the West. Back in July, analysts Gartner noted a 5.7% decline in the number of PCs shipped across the United States during last year’s second quarter.

However, the same survey shows that PC shipments in the Asia Pacific and Japan markets actually grew by 2% each, a number being attributed to a slowing economy and cautious spending by consumers.

Why PCs are not yet redundant

But is there more to it? Our soft spot for PCs could also have something to do with the conservative user experience they provide. After three decades of a keyboard/mouse-centered interface, we reckon it will take several years for users to get accustomed to touch-centric devices, especially in a country like India that is still on the lower end of the technology curve. Touch keyboards, as they exist today, are useless for writing and editing long pieces of text, and engineers and designers still need traditional PCs to make things happen. And dainty smart phones may be pretty cool to look at but not so much to use if you have fat thumbs.


Source: Flickr Al Abut

Besides individual preference, it is also a question of cultural attitudes – for the average middle-class Indian, a computer is not bought for individual use, but as a purchase for the entire family. Thinking in terms of investment, an anchored and durable desktop computer will always take precedence over a mobile device that is more prone to damage and theft.
Therefore, a dramatic shift in preference from PCs or laptops to tablets is a far stretch of the imagination, at least in the Indian subcontinent and with prevailing tablet prices. However, as the developed world moves further into the tablet space, PCs and laptops will become more affordable for families and small institutions, giving a huge boost to movements in computer literacy in small towns and villages across the world.

There’s room for everyone

Back in the West, Microsoft’s new Windows 8 OS may just be the novelty factor required to inspire a temporary resurgence in PC sales, although it’s unlikely to have a lasting effect, not until the current tablet fever dies down.

Meanwhile, the ‘Post-PC era’ debate continues to find strong supporters on both sides. The desktop PC, as we know it today, may be on a decline, but we expect personal computing to take on a new avatar in the coming years and continue to stand apart in terms of usability and need, from tablets and other mobile computing devices.