Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Death Of Desktop Computers? Fugetaboutit!

CES 2015: Death of Laptop, Desktop PCs Isn't About to Happen

IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS: There is a renewed interest in laptops and desktop this year at the CES, and the manufacturers are ready for the attention.

An awful lot of smartphones continue to sell each year as old ones die and new ones become hot items -- all told, a shade more than 1 billion in 2013 worldwide, and an expected 1.3 billion in 2014. The same goes for tablets, which are expected to sell nearly 200 million units worldwide in 2015.

Despite those formidable sales numbers, there is still a strong market for laptop and desktop PCs, no matter what trends the market research people are producing. About 300 million portable PCs were sold in 2014, a tick up from the previous year, and prospects look good for sales increases to continue in 2015.

The facts are that smartphones and tablets simply cannot do what larger-form PCs can do, especially in a business setting. They certainly cannot perform as quickly or efficiently as laptops or desktop PCs for most of the work force. In fact, smaller form computers never will be able to do what larger ones can do. Period.

While smartphones and tablets drew most of the attention at the Consumer Electronics Show last year, things have cooled down a bit in 2015. Tablet sales, especially by the Apple and Google knockoffs, have dropped, and even iPads and Android tablets have seen sales level off or drop in the last 12 to 18 months.

Thus, there is a renewed interest in laptops and desktop this year at the CES, and the manufacturers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Samsung, and Toshiba -- to name just a few -- were ready for the attention.

"When your kid goes off to college, are you going to give him only a cell phone?" Dell Inc. founder and CEO Michael Dell asked recently during an interview in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Dell told eWEEK that the PC sales are on the rise for his company, which recently received an order for 10,000 laptops from one customer. Dell also said his PC business is posting a much larger margin ["multiple times the profit"] than the slim 1 percent profit margin its biggest competitor, China's Lenovo, shows in financial statements.

Dell said PCs will continue to play an increasingly important role for his company. PCs are important for everything from customer acquisition to having a complete enterprise offering, he said. Despite the declining sales worldwide over the past three years—due in large part to the growth in popularity of tablets—PCs are still a fundamental computing tool for much of the world's population.

That is even truer in developing markets, where hardware continues to be a high priority. Businesses in these countries still need networking and other technologies, "but they start with the basics," Dell said.

"If you give people the tools they need to make them more productive, you give them a PC," he said. "Maybe not just a PC; maybe a PC and a smartphone. But the PC is important."

In 2015, the number of PC shipments—which include traditional desktops and notebooks as well as premium ultramobile systems—will climb to almost 317 million units, up about 2.9 percent from this year and almost equaling the number of units shipped in 2013. Much of that will come in the commercial PC space, according to Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

"2014 will be known by a relative revival of the global PC market," Antwal said. "Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe. This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."

CES 2015 was crammed with innovative new laptop and desktop PCs from a variety of vendors. The vast majority of them are running Intel's new fifth-generation Core Broadwell processors, the first to leverage the company's latest 14nm process and architecture.

Toshiba, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Samsung, Asus and Lenovo are in an intense battle for market share by adding features, lowering weights and prices, and increasing battery life in a flotilla of new personal computers that can put mere 6-month-old laptops to shame.

New PCs at CES

Here is an overview by respected IT analyst Charles King on new PCs from three major PC vendors -- HP, Dell, and Lenovo -- being shown at CES 2015:

--HP is a longstanding CES attendee, and the company arrived this year with a host of new products and some excess baggage -- the fact that this will be the last CES HP attends as a unified company. On the PC side, HP's new Pavillion Mini Desktop and Stream Mini Desktop squeeze the performance of a conventional PC into a package that's approximately 6-inch x 6-inch x 2-inch in size, and weighs less than 1.5 pounds. What makes the Mini products run are fanless Intel CPUs that don't require mechanical cooling. Despite their diminutive size, HP's Minis can be upgraded/expanded and have numerous ports for attaching external devices.
HP - Envy Phoenix Desktop - Intel Core i7 - 16GB Memory - 1TB + 16GB Hybrid Hard Drive - Black | Retail: $1,199.99

The company calls its new HP ZBook 14 and 15u the industry's thinnest, lightest workstations, and is positioning them for mobile-minded engineers and designers. HP is pitching its new ultra HD monitors as "interactive virtual reality displays" that enable a variety of immersive experiences. The new Officejet 8040 AIO printer includes Neat software that allows the device to seamlessly integrate with mobile devices and also supports HP's Instant Ink discount ink replacement service.

--Dell hasn't had a high profile at recent CESs, but the company hit the show this year with an expanded portfolio of laptops and tablets that earned it seven CES Innovation awards -- the most in the company's history.

Dell - Precision Tower Workstation - 1 x Intel Xeon E5-1620 v3 3.50 GHz - Black | Retail: $1,859.99

Leading Dell's pack is the new Venue 8 7000 that at 6mm qualifies as the world's thinnest tablet (it also captured a coveted CES Best of Innovation award). Other award-winning Dell products include the redesigned XPS13 laptop, which packs a 13-inch display into an 11-inch laptop frame; the XPS15, which is now available with a 4k ultra HD display; the Alienware Area 51 gaming desktop; the Latitude Education 13-inch laptop and Mobile Cart; the Inspiron 15 7000 Series laptop; and two new monitors -- the curved Dell UltraSharp 34 and the Dell UltraSharp 27, a 5K ultra HD display. The company also introduced new Alienware 15 and 17 laptops and said it is adding Intel RealSense 3D Camera Front F200 to Inspiron 15 5000 Series laptops and Inspiron 23 all-in-one (AIO) desktops.

--Lenovo arrived at CES shortly after manufacturing its 100 millionth Thinkpad laptop and introduced a host of new products to that line. The pick of the litter is the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which the company calls the world's lightest 14-inch performance ultrabook. The ThinkVision 24 is an attractive new borderless display, and the company's new Thinkpad Stack offers an innovative approach to taking accessories like back-up batteries, storage and Bluetooth speakers on the road.

Lenovo - ThinkStation P500 Tower Workstation - 1 x Processors Supported - 1 x Intel Xeon E5-1630 v3 Quad-core (4 Core) 3.70 GHz - Multi | Retail: $2,098.69

Lenovo also highlighted new additions to its respected Yoga line, including the YOGA Tablet 2 featuring the compa-ny's AnyPen technology which allows owners to use a common pencil or pen for handwriting and navigation instead of a special stylus. There were also two new YOGA 3 models (11-inch and 14-inch) and three new YOGA Thinkpads (12-inch, 14-inch and 15-inch) that are designed to blend the best aspects and features of the company's signature laptop lines. — Chris Preimesberger | EWeek

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