It was a small rise, of just 0.6% year on year, but still marks a turnaround in what has been a long-term decline.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones over the past five years was responsible for the sharp drop-off in sales of conventional laptops and desktops. So, with that in mind, what is it that’s finally caused these sales to pick up? Here, we consider some possible reasons.
A Technology Plateau?
For a great many years, technology moved at such a pace that processing power increased significantly every year. Without going into the precise technicalities, this is the basis of Moore’s Law, a phenomenon identified as far back as 1965, which sees the number of components per chip doubling every year or so.
This prediction of a constant and considerable rise in processing power, made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, held true until around 2015 / 2016 when physical electronic limitations began to make such advances unfeasible. But several years before this, most people had already started to notice that their older computers remained capable of doing everything they needed.
The simple fact is that any computer made since around 2010 can still do most things people want to do now – browse the web, create documents, store photos, and stream music and movies. The need for constant upgrades ebbed away, and sales, up until recently, reflected that reality.
So why are sales beginning to pick up again?
One possibility is that tablet PCs such as the iPad, widely touted to be a realistic replacement for a laptop, haven’t quite bridged the gap they needed to. With every new iteration of the iPad, people wondered whether Apple might bring a full desktop-level operating system to the device, but in 2015, Tim Cook put paid to those rumors. Now the iPad Pro range is in its second generation, it’s clear that it’s never going to be a true computer replacement. One reason for the pickup in PC sales could be that people have finally accepted this reality, and decided to replace their computers instead.
Gaming and Gambling
It’s also worth considering the fact that there are now new activities people realize they’re going to need a modern computer for. Online gaming is more popular than ever, and sales of virtual reality hardware are growing year-on-year, with booming sales expected in the coming years. VR needs a powerful desktop or laptop, so anyone wanting to dip a toe into this pasttime needs to invest in the hardware.
Having an online flutter is also something that easiest and most enjoyable on a “proper” computer. Figures from the UK’s Gambling Commission show that online gambling is now the largest gambling sector in the nation. More players means more computers! The fact that people now have far more choice in these activities, such as playing live roulette or investing in the Powerball tickets sold online by the likes of Lottoland, means there are now more reasons to have an up-to-date computer. This is especially true now it’s become clear that tablet devices are never going to be a true replacement.
While it’s impossible to know exactly why PC sales are on the up, or if the trend will continue, it seems likely that people have finally realized that their tablets simply aren’t fully fledged computers, and have bitten the bullet and replaced their aging machines. This is great news for the likes of HP, who at the time of writing are selling more PCs than any other company.