Why did the PC Peak?

We're seeing hyper growth and diversity in computing markets. We've never before witnessed such a wide variety of commercially successful computing platforms.

PCs aren't going away. They're just losing relevance and marketshare. They won't disappear completely. White collar professionals - designers, programmers, analysts, anyone that relies heavily on the Office Suite - won't abandon their PCs anytime soon. 10 years ago, PCs accounted for 95% of computing devices sold. Today, they comprise about 30% of all new computing sales. In 10 years, PCs will be just a small fraction of total computing device sales.

Although PC sales have been shrinking as a percentage of total computing since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, they've continued to grow in absolute terms. But as IDC reported, Q1 2013 saw the worst contraction in the history of the PC market. The PC peaked. 2013 marks the end of the PC era, and the beginning of the post-PC era, characterized by relatively seamless computing across form factors, software platforms, and devices.

There's 1 fundamental reason for a decline in PC demand, derived from Clayton Christensen's theory of disruption: good enough. Good enough manifests in a few different ways.

Firstly, tablets are good enough for most people most of the time. The tablet market's hyperbolic growth speaks to the fact that most consumers prefer touchscreen computing to the keyboard and mouse. Computing markets are still growing quite rapidly: although PCs are on the decline, tablet growth more than compensates. People are computing more than ever before, but they prefer tablets to traditional PCs.

Secondly, PC lifespans are increasing. Although we've seen rapid innovation and iteration in mobile computing over the past few years, desktop computing really hasn't changed in 10 years. As the PC form factor, hardware, and software matured in the early to mid 2000s, PC upgrade cycles slowed. And Windows 7, as the first version of Windows to require fewer computing resources than its predecessor, exacerbated this trend. So has cloud computing. Computing has to be done somewhere; as more of it's done in the cloud, less of it's being done locally. With an increasing amount of computing being done in the cloud, people just don't need to upgrade their devices as frequently as before.

The PC market peaked. We're witnessing the beginning of the decline of the PC. PCs won't go away, but they will be less relevant and prevalent than ever before.