The End of the Home Computer: Why PC Sales Are Collapsing

Worldwide PC sales saw a record drop this quarter, as consumers turn to tablets for their entertainment needs.

Now this is what an industry looks like when it goes into free-fall.

Market research firm IDC reported yesterday that worldwide personal computers had their sharpest drop ever for a single quarter, plummeting nearly 14 percent compared to the first three months of 2012. Among the big players, only one company, Lenovo, shipped as many units as last year. The carnage was worst for HP, which saw its PC sales tumble 23 percent, and ACER, which suffered a 31.3 drop. But as AllThingsD notes, not even Apple escaped unscathed. Its Mac sales slowed 7.5 percent in North America, its top market. 

For the past couple years, the tech press has been talking about the end of the PC era. But that hasn't quite described the situation. Rather, during the onset of the smartphone and tablet boom, PC sales stayed mostly flat. But now, we've seen a full four quarters of year-on-year declines that seem to be accelerating.

Is this the beginning of the end for PCs? Are we entering a time where standalone monitors, vertical towers, and even super slim laptops will be forever cosigned to some dusty corner of the Smithsonian? Well, not quite yet. As Business Insider has argued, what we're actually seeing is the "death of the home PC." Consumers like their tablets for entertainment, but they still much prefer their computers for work. So while the market might be in free-fall, don't expect it to crash all the way into the ground. 

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Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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