The end of the PC era is 18 months away

Paul Raven @ 08-12-2010

So claims this piece at ComputerWorld, anyhow, parroting the findings of a market research firm about the unit-numbers of smartphones and tablet devices to be shipped when compared with sales of “traditional” personal computers [via SlashDot]:

It may be seen as a historic shift, but it is one that tells more about the development of a new market, mobile and tablet computing, than the decline of an older one, the PC. Shipments of personal computers will continue to increase even as they are surpassed by other devices.

IDC said worldwide shipments this year of app-enabled devices, which include smartphones and media tablets such as the iPad, will reach 284 million. In 2011, makers will ship 377 million of these devices, and in 2012, the number will reach 462 million shipments, exceeding PC shipments. One shipment equals one device.

I think an end to the dominance of the PC is pretty inevitable, and indeed has been happening for some time – I don’t know many people whose home computer isn’t a laptop, for instance, which seems indicative of a desire for computing-as-convenient-commodity rather than computer-as-installation, than computer-as-machine.

But will they vanish completely from the consumer marketplace? I’m not so sure… I use a desktop tower by choice, because I like to be able to build, maintain and upgrade my hardware myself, but that marks me as a relic of sorts, and an inheritor of my father’s engineer-esque attitudes to computers*. But as devices get cheaper, more powerful and more disposable, that impetus may fade awy.

Whether or not disposability is a path we should be pleased to follow is another question entirely, of course…

[ * My first PC was his handed-down 8086, which he insisted I help him assemble and test; with hindsight, that’s one of those incredibly pivotal moments in a life. ]


Sins of A Solar Empire game developer talks piracy

Tomas Martin @ 12-03-2008

Sins of a Solar Empire has an impressive scaling of graphics to suit your machine

Sins of A Solar Empire by small independent game company Stardock (and their developers Ironclad) is the biggest selling pc game of 2008 so far, despite a tiny budget and much less coverage by the gaming press.  Stardock owner Brad Wardell posted an excellent analysis of why their games are having success. (last year’s Galactic Civilisations II was another underground hit.)

He talks a lot about the bad policies taken by much of the PC game industry. For example, why bother targeting the Chinese market when piracy is so rife many people won’t purchase your game? His main point, and it’s a very good one, is that very few people upgrade their computer often so targeting the graphics of your game to only work for the ‘hardcore’ pc gamers is limiting your market. Rather than trying to break the latest processor if you just make a game that’s fun and works on most computers people will play it.

Sins is a fun game that combines the 4X ideas of ‘eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate’ of games like Civilisation with Real Time Strategy elements of space games like Homeworld. I’ve enjoyed myself whenever I’ve played it but what’s even more impressive is the attitude of the people behind it – updates are frequent, there’s no DRM, the developers comment frequently on the game’s forum and they listen to requests from players about bugs and new features. In an industry full of high budget Hollywood games, it’s comforting to see that small companies can be a big success if they just concentrate on pleasing their audience.