The computer is back again. But for how long? | Biden News


In recent years, computer sales have gradually declined for the obvious reason that, with the advent of smartphones and tablets, the one-size-fits-all approach offered by the computer no longer seemed so relevant – especially to consumers.

That changed with the pandemic, as many people quickly realized that while tablets and smartphones are useful for watching videos or sending a few messages, they are much less useful for long hours of work or study.

Until we come up with something better, that old screen and keyboard combination is just better for creative tasks than a screen alone. As a result, the PC saw its biggest growth in a decade, with PC sales up 14% to 350 million this year.

Part of that was organizations buying notebooks to replace the desktop computers locked in offices they couldn’t access, and part of it was families buying devices to entertain and educate them during lockdown.

By 2023 vendors have sold an unexpected extra 130 million PCs above and beyond what they would have been expected to do a few years ago. And if it weren’t for the supply chain problems that plagued the entire tech industry, PC makers probably would have sold even more.

Microsoft’s Panos Panay recently called this a new ‘age of the computer’, noting: “A new hybrid infrastructure now exists – across work, school and life – enabling more flexibility in where and how people spend their time. And the computer is the hub .”

The computer is back in fashion, it seems. But how long will that last?

Microsoft, sure, seems to be arguing that the PC is back for good.

“Windows now powers more than 1.4 billion monthly active devices with aggregate time spent on Windows more than 10% above pre-pandemic levels. This quarter, Windows took share because through our customer research, we saw a nearly 50% increase in people who plan to use their PC for creativity, gaming or for work. We continue to see people across organizations, schools and homes recognize the benefits of a PC for every person,” said Panay.

What is certainly true is that the future technologies that some thought would be useful during the pandemic and lockdown – such as virtual reality and augmented reality – have had little or no impact.

The familiar form and functionality of the computer won out, even if it required the rapid development of decent collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft’s own Teams to help us all get work done.

However, there are now tens of millions more computers in homes than would otherwise be the case.

Certainly Panay remains optimistic: “Windows will continue to be the backbone for innovation, a destination for gaming, creativity and exploration, and a gateway to the Metaverse,” he argues.

But will all those new laptops and computers just start collecting dust again as and when we finally get back to normal? Perhaps, because the freedom to travel further frees us from our home offices and allows us to roam again. Maybe not, because remote work and remote education are still part of the new hybrid world.

Certainly the days of the computer as our only technological choice, or even our primary device, are long gone. But perhaps the unexpected return of the computer is a reminder that our use of technology can be more than just passive. It’s a reminder that we can use technology to create, not just as a means to absorb everything that’s delivered to us on those tiny screens.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in technology. Because we run a global website, this editorial publishes Monday at 8:00 am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00 pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the United States. It is written by a member of the ZDNet global editorial team, which consists of our editors-in-chief across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.



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