It’s Time to Re-Invent the PC – But How?

May 18, 2011
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The PC faces stiff competition from things like smartphones, tablets, smart TV's and more. As a consumer you are faced with a plethora of products competing for your dollars. PCs have become less interesting, yet we all need them. What kind of innovations do we need to see with PC's in order to capture our attention again?

Depending on which PC forecasts you follow, you would find out that PC shipments are off anywhere between 8-15%. HP's recent earnings call highlighted the fact that PC sales were in decline by announcing their own PC sales declining 5%.

The makers of personal computers need to face the reality that right now PC"s are boring.

So what can be done about it?

A lot can be done, actually, its just a matter of who is going to step up and push the envelope. Intel and AMD both have internal efforts to help re-invigorate the PC market but ultimately it's the hardware makers who need to design and create hardware that can capture consumers attention and generate excitement around PCs again.

The most obvious way to re-invent the PC is to push the envelope in experimenting with the form factor. Notebooks have been clamshell devices for too long and it's time to start creating PCs that challenge the conventional design and thinking about what personal computers really are.

I'd like to see more PC manufacturers experiment with hybrid PC concepts like the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, or the Acer Iconia Tab W500 Windows 7 convertible PC. Both of those devices have a screen that docks with a keyboard to create a clamshell PC but the screen can then "un-dock" and now becomes a slate or tablet PC.

I'd also like to see PCs experiment more with slider form-factors, where the device looks like a slate or tablet from the outset but then the keyboard slides out from the bottom so the device can then be used like a traditional PC. Many mobile phones feature a slider keyboard and I'd love to see more experimentation with this on PCs. Samsung has one example on the horizon, the Sliding PC 7 Series.

Another are dual-screen notebooks like the Acer Iconia Touchbook, which features two 14" screens where the bottom screen, where the keyboard would go, is a full touchscreen utilizing 10-finger multi-touch.

The dual-screen touch based notebooks are very interesting concepts and I hope we see the OEMs try more designs based on this form factor.

You may say "this has all been done or experimented with and failed in the market." To which I say true; however, when many of those products failed the PC market was still maturing, where it is now mature in developed countries. The second point I would add is that they failed for a range of reasons not all attributed to the form factor.

We have an opportunity to re-invigorate the PC market, better battery life and performance will only get us so far. We need to create designs that capture people's attention and imagination again.


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