Sony whistles past the PC graveyard

Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

It hasn't been good times for the PC in recent years. The numbers don't lie and they indicate we are moving to mobile devices in increasing numbers, at the expense of PCs -- and as the big dawgs notice there's not much money left to be made, they are dumping and running.

Just this morning came news that Sony sold its Vaio PC division

Throughout the 90s I was a Sony guy. I owned Sony TVs, stereo equipment, VCRs, and laptops, but that was before Apple, Samsung, and LG came along and Sony lost its mojo and its marketshare. Its abandonment of the PC business seems like little more than a sad coda to the song of a once-thiving company.

PC sales have been dropping for some time, and 2013 was just flat out a lousy year with IDC reporting fourth quarter sales down 5.6 percent from last year and Gartner reporting even worse numbers, down 6.9 percent. Gartner says the PC has been gasping for 7 consecutive quarters. That means sales have been dropping for almost two years now and Sony had seen enough. No mas.

Sure, Lenovo still has a strong PC business. But even Lenovo is planning for a mobile future -- its mobile phone shipments have been increasing fast, and last week the company bought Motorola's phone business from Google. Apple's Mac business is doing fine as well, but the company makes much more money selling iPhones.

Chromebooks are starting to notch up sales too. At a price of $300 or less, the device becomes almost disposable. It's like the netbook of the present day, and Sony isn't going to go down that road, with its crushing margins, again.

But the increasing prominence of Chromebooks points to yet another trend. It's not just mobile devices and tablets squeezing the PC. It's an increasing bias toward simplicity at the cost of features -- many people are realizing they can get away with a far less powerful machine that does less, whether it's a tablet or a Chromebook. If it gets the job done, why pay more for features you don't need?

All you Office and Photoshop users can save your breath. Plenty of people still need the power of a full PC -- but more and more people are concluding they don't. The PC era is drawing to a close. Sony saw the writing on the wall and got out.

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