Why Moore’s Law is helping to kill the PC

“Most pundits blame stagnant PC sales on the likewise stagnant economy, or point toward the ascension of smartphones and tablets,” Brad Chacos writes for PCWorld. “Others argue (fairly persuasively) that the flattening of growth is attributable to the idiosyncrasies of PC sales in developing countries, where computers are a rarely replaced luxury item. A second wave, analysts say, has yet to come after an initial surge in sales in those nations.”

“Like most economic sectors, the PC market is influenced by myriad factors, and some truth lies in all three of those explanations,” Chacos writes. “After watching my mother-in-law happily troll Facebook and sling emails on her nearly ten-year-old Pentium 4 computer, however, an even more insidious possibility slipped into my head.”

Chacos writes, “Did CPU performance reach a “good enough” level for mainstream users some years back? Are older computers still potent enough to complete an average Joe’s everyday tasks, reducing the incentive to upgrade?”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Why waste your money on a truck when all you really need is a car?

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars… PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people. – Steve Jobs, June 1, 2010

Related article:
Steve Jobs was right, of course: Tablets are cars and PCs are trucks – January 9, 2013


  1. People only turn on the PC when they need to. The iPad and iPhone is used for most of the social and gaming stuff that the PC box was used for. So, if you don’t turn on the Windows PC more than once every few days (or keep it in a closet) they last a real long time. Soon, you don’t remember you have one or dread turning it on again.

    1. People turn on their PC less because the ‘content consuming’ part of a PC’s function is been replaced by tablet and smartphones. Say you want to watch YouTube or browse MDN, you won’t turn on your PC to do it, you open your iPad or iPhone, right? Like trucks, PC will downgrade to a ‘content creating only’ device. You’ll still use it for serious work though, but it’s no longer in the center of your digital life.

  2. For the majority, computers have been fast enough for many years. Most of the people I know surf and email. They don’t even need wp software beyond software like Bean. Apple has finally won over the world to the idea that, if a machine does what you require, then it is a worthwhile machine. Here’s to a world of cheap communication coming at us, as usual, from a direction we least expected.

  3. “Why waste your money on a truck when all you really need is a car?”

    Good question. Ask a contractor or anyone who does productive work why he drives the vehicle he does. I suspect you won’t find many of them praising the Corolla as an indispensable tool.

    … but, to be fair, mall lots filled with bloated SUVs in the USA is a clear sign of an extravagant society that has lost its bearings as to “wants” versus “needs”.

    1. “when all you really need is a car” that is the key phrase. If you need a truck then you need more than a car, it’s a rather simple concept.

      Sorry, but I’ve heard that comeback way to many times and I’m tired of the stupidity of it.

    2. “mall lots filled with bloated SUVs in the USA is a clear sign of an extravagant society that has lost its bearings as to wants versus needs.”

      So you actually agree with what the previous poster and MDN were saying: if a person only needs a car, they don’t need a truck. Which makes your comment . . . what?

    3. My point is this: we need BOTH cars and trucks.

      mrscrith, I am sick & tired of Jobs’ quote being used as a rationale why Apple should focus all its attention on iOS gadgets.

    4. Yes, but did your contractor 30 or 50 years ago, drive the monster trucks that they drive today?

      When I’m in my basement, I marvel at my old Mac SE, purchased in 1987. It did some very heavy lifting. At one point, I used it to beta test Photoshop 1.07. I used it to prepare a 500 page slide report for a Fortune 50 client, that took 6 consultants 6 months to put together, and cost the client over $1M in billings. Seriously, you use the tools you have, but you’d be amazed at what one accomplished with tools that seem underpowered today. Just imagine what a contractor had to use before pneumatics? I mean, swing a hammer! Now, it’s pow-pow-pow.

  4. The main push to upgrade a PC is the new OS that is designed not to work on the old hardware.

    Yes, I’m talking to you, Microsoft, and you too Apple.

  5. This has been the case in education for years, yet the districts I’ve worked in still cling to a “replace every three years” mentality. All they ask students to do is word process, create presentations, and research the net. Of course, the fact that they still use Windows instead of Macs means that they haven’t had any impetus to do more CPU-intensive things like make movies (in iMovie) or create their own songs (in GarageBand).

    1. If they are using PCs, they probably DO need to replace every three years because they have probably slowed to a crawl because of corrupted Windows system files, crapware, and viruses.

      1. Look, I love to hate on Windows as much as anyone but, I used to do tech support for our local school district. We used imaging software to refresh the software on all the PCs in the district at least once a year, if not more frequently. It’s probably more of a budgeting hold over from when computers became obsolete faster. They got used to needing to buy newer faster machines every three years, now it’s part of the budget and the process and they don’t want to change. Also, they probably see a high rate of failure of hardware after the 3 year mark. A Dell PC that is used in a school day in and day out for several years is much more prone to failure than someone’s email/facebook PC at home.

  6. I’ve spent a lot more money on iPads than computers over the last 3 years (4 iPads so far and no computers). My SO still clings to Windows, but it’s XP and not likely to change. I’m looking for her install discs to put it on a MacBook we already own that Apple is no longer supporting, since her old Compaq weighs a ton and needs a new battery. My 2009 MBP 13 is built like a tank, and with 8GB of RAM and a 1/2 TB HD it’s not going to be stressed by anything I’m likely to do in the near future. So I can see people not having any compelling reason to buy more PCs.

  7. “We’re a mobile device company.” What Steve seemed to ignore is the untapped and unlimited market for serious computers. This was his biggest miscalculation of all time and is one of the reasons Apple is in the trouble it is today. Cheap competing mobile devices have ruined this business for Apple so we are left with nothing to offer going forward. Now, Tim Cook looks around and wonders what he is suppose to do. That is why he won’t be around much longer. A new era, under a new leader, is on the horizon. I bet it includes serious computers!

    1. You really are dim, aren’t you? What ‘unlimited market for serious computers’? Show us where this market is, because many people much smarter than you can’t see it. One of the biggest markets, printing and reprographics, has pretty much died on its ass. I should know, because I worked in that field for years, as a finished artist, Mac operator and scanner operator, until I was made redundant, and I’ve seen the whole field shrink dramatically over the last decade. Even the studio at my current employer uses iMacs. Those are ‘serious’ computers as far as most people are concerned, but you’re too stupid to realise that, aren’t you?
      Now piss off.

      1. Hold your personal insults. Just because you personally witnessed a decaying industry, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge market for significantly more powerful machines for audio & video production, scientific calculations, and the new push into modern manufacturing with advanced “3D printing” and such. For Apple, or you, to overlook those hot and growing markets is shortsighted.

        ppeterson may overstate his points, but your personal attacks certainly don’t win you any respect. be civil or go home.

      2. You are a complete numbskull, Mr. Rorschach. Here’s the answer to your question – a question that I am amazed you would ask. The market for serious computers, as opposed to phone and pad gadgets and for something more than any MacBook Pro Retina or otherwise, or any iMac can deliver, is found among the world of corporate operations and perhaps an even larger world of government operations. These users require Mac Pro level machines – you know, the ones Apple no longer offers. Yeah, I know Tim has promised a new Mac Pro this year and we’ll see what that turns out to be AND if they can deliver them when they are announced. We’ll see. In the meantime, Mr. Rorschach, what do you think will turn things around. And PLEASE PLEASE don’t tell me about the astounding sales of the gadgets Apple made yesterday. That market has now been shifted to the cheap plastic versions offered by every tech company on the planet. it’s yesterday’s news and there is nothing there for Apple. Nothing.

        1. Just about every consumer grade computer produced today is more powerful than a Sun (or any other work manufacturer) Workstation produced in the 20th century.

          hmmm, come to think about it, how is Sun and all the other work station manufacturers doing today? Didn’t Oracle recently buy Sun for cents on the dollar? Where are the rest?

    2. I run a small design department at a major university, and for “serious computing” we just bought some of the new 27″ iMacs with hybrid drives. Trust me, that’s some serious hardware for people who work on their machines all day long.

      A decade ago, I worked in a larger marketing studio where all the designers had Mac towers on their desks (with about one-tenth the processing power, by the way). We never used the Tower to its full advantage: adding cards, swapping drives, etc. We plugged it in, got down to work, and five years later upgraded.

      Do you think Apple should be getting into high-end scientific computing? That doesn’t sound like a company whose primary effort since its founding has been on the consumer experience…

  8. Re: the MDN take: Cars came first. During the advent of the automobile, the most widely used farm vehicles were Model Ts that farmers converted to truck-like vehicles.

  9. I keep a an old beater truck around my place for the few days when I need it.

    I do the same with a PC (truck)

    The rest of the time I roll along happily in my BMW and use my mac for 99% of my needs.

  10. It seems to me there are three levels of users: low-level users who use email and the web, and not much else; tech-savvy users who create documents, watch movies, play games, make home movies and use a few apps; high end users who work with images, film, music or develop apps. Business PC users mostly fall into category 1 and a Pentium PC with a crappy display works well enough. Tech savvy gamers mostly run windows, the rest are increasingly moving to Mac. High end users run Mac or high end PCs. The last two categories have many reasons to upgrade: disk capacity and speed, display and graphics performance, memory and processor performance and operating system and application functionality. Basic users are migrating to iPad or iPhone/android, at home and, increasingly, at work. But the world economy is affecting everyone.

  11. Moore’s law is exactly the problem but for all the wrong reasons. We preach a lot of “lean” and lightweight OS’s. That works in direct contrast to Moore’s law on the desktop / laptop side of the house which the Windows group has pushed for the last decade. However where Moore’s law has gone is to the “cloud”. We now have high speed networks, large storage arrays and large servers that are doing all the crunching. The endpoints only need to be phones and tablets now vs heavy bulky desktops and laptops. When networks were slow we needed more crunching on the desktop to compensate. Remember Microsoft Encarta Quicken. These apps had network capability but required very little bandwidth. Now all the content is on the web and the crunching is done on the networks not the home. Moore’s law still applies as seen by the size of Apple’s datacenter for Itunes, Maps and Icloud, its just not on the desktops/laptops anymore.

  12. *whoops, wrong button*
    To Apple: I’m fine if you make, “cars”. Quite honestly, I love your, “cars”! Just, please, don’t stop making, “trucks”!!!

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