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Are people buying fewer computers?

By Jean-Claude Elias - Jan 23,2014 - Last updated at Jan 23,2014

Intel’s recently released figures may prompt you to think that people have been buying fewer computers. How is that possible?

Sales of computer processors by Intel in 2013 have been down from 2012. Does this mean that people are buying fewer computers now? Intel is the main manufacturer of computer processors, holding an impressive 16 per cent market share (2012 figures), sitting at the very top, well above Samsung, Texas Instruments, Toshiba and other chip manufacturers. Therefore Intel’s figures are always taken as a significant, reliable market indicator. Still, Intel posted a sizable seven billion dollar profit for last year, though this is somewhat down from the previous year the company said.

To better understand how the trend is shifting a little re-definition of the word computer may help. Typically when we say computer we tend to think desktop or laptop machines. However, at the higher end we find servers and at the lower end tablets, smartphones and a variety of portable, mobile devices we have become familiar with. At the end of day they all are computers.

When Intel say people have bought fewer computers in 2013 perhaps this can be translated as “fewer desktops and laptops”, and indeed all market indicators confirm such a trend. On the other hand, the trend is towards more computer sales when it comes to big size servers and to smaller devices like tablets and smartphones.

Large businesses have been acquiring more servers for even these muscular, powerful machines are now affordable. Dell for instance supplies small- and medium-size businesses with excellent servers costing between $2000 and $6000. Therefore companies and organisations are encouraged to buy servers and aren’t afraid of investing in them anymore. You don’t necessarily have to be a large corporation with a staff of 500+or to have a turnover in millions or billions of dollars to buy a server computer today.

In parallel, it is mainly the soaring sales of tablets and smartphones, those extremely mobile — and terribly attractive — computers that are negatively impacting on sales of desktops and laptops. And since tablets and smartphones often run on non-Intel chips, the conclusion is obvious! Overall, and taking into consideration all kinds of computers, people are not buying fewer computers overall, but more; definitely.

This being said, one has to acknowledge that there is at the same time a shift in consumers’ habits that has to be taken into consideration. Because computing is gradually but irremediably shifting from local to online, and from fixed to mobile, this will certainly continue in the coming years, almost any computer today would do the job you want to do online.

Besides, it is plain logic that mobility will eventually reduce or stabilise sales of fixed (i.e. non-mobile) equipment.

Twenty-first century usersseem more concerned about applications, online storage, privacy issues, data backup and security, and worry less about hardware per se. They seem to be saying “Just get me connected to the Web and I’ll take it from there, the rest does not really matter to me, as long as my connection is working, is fast, reliable and safe.”

Indeed, regardless of whether sales of machines are down or up, this depending on the physical size of hardware and the degree of mobility, the one single demand that is common to all users today is to have faster and more reliable connectivity. Intel certainly would not mind.

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