We gappers dedicate most of our time examining market changes in relatively short, weekly bursts. A new desktop arrives up at Best Buy, I write about it on Monday afternoon, and by Tuesday morning its old news and I’m already back in retail. There aren’t many other market research firms that work at such a fast pace, and it allows us to deliver the most timely information to our clients.
While weekly reporting is gap’s bread and butter, our upcoming GapCon event has presented me with a unique opportunity to examine my category from a different perspective. The purpose of GapCon is to present trends in our market to our fellow gappers, as well as to clients, friends, and family. My first idea for GapCon was to present desktops for what they are – a mature product category, one that does not grow much anymore, but one that remains a huge revenue source for the tech industry. Mobile products, such as notebooks and tablets, are the hot growth categories today, and while their adoption is exploding, desktop vendors are finding ways to keep their products relevant. This means new form factors, like all-in-ones, and also the inclusion of more features that allow desktops to communicate and support mobile products, such as Bluetooth and web-based operating systems.
For the past week, I’ve been thinking that my presentation would be desktops versus mobile, mature category versus growth categories. However, there’s another important obstacle for those that sell desktop PCs, something that people refer to as ‘good enough computing’.
I first found the term ‘good enough computing’ in an article written about two years ago during the depths of the recession, but the phrase continues to be used today. This expression refers to the fact that PCs and their components are becoming so powerful, and so affordable, that when today’s customers upgrade they often choose the less expensive system with ‘good enough’ performance. Think about it, when was the last time the average consumer asked about upgrading to a desktop with a higher GHz count in its specs? I remember when I was a kid, and CPUs were measured in MHz, so the thought of having a single processor clocked at over 1GHz was boggling, and everyone wanted one. Now you can buy a desktop for under $500 that’ll have four CPU cores running at over 3 GHz each! Combine that CPU with a 1TB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, and you’ve got a PC that is ‘good enough’ for most consumers, and will last for quite a long time.
This ‘good enough’ issue for desktops is not independent of the threat posed by the growth of mobile devices, but goes hand in hand with it. While desktops are still the best for heavy workloads such as crunching lots of data or rendering graphics, content consumption like watching YouTube or playing low-end games is now primarily done on mobile products….because their components are ‘good enough’ to do it now.
So how do desktops compete and stay relevant in a mobile world? They are still the very best for demanding applications, and their expandability makes them a solid investment for both businesses and consumers, as owners can extend their PC’s lifespan by repairing or upgrading components. And now with the rise of new form factors like reclining all-in-ones, desktops are adapting to an expanding role as entertainment centers in homes, as well as moving into new roles like smart point-of-sale systems for small businesses.
While it’s inevitable that the desktop market will lose share to mobile devices, I can’t help but laugh at the bandwagon of nay sayers who write daily about the inevitable demise of desktop computing. Despite the pervasiveness of mobile products, desktops remain a crucial tool for businesses and individuals alike. This blog was written on a desktop, the majority of our work at gap intelligence is done on desktops, and my upcoming presentation for GapCon will be made…on a desktop!