Number cruncher charts rise of the personal computer...
...and its fall at the hands of smartphones, tablets
A map of the rise and rise of the personal computer over the past 30-odd years shows that the platform's popularity may have at long last peaked.
Blogger Horace Dediu has posted a fascinating graph charting the relative sales of key computing platforms over the past 36 years, from the early days of 8-bit micros to the present day.
The key conclusion: smartphones and tablets are well on their way to becoming the defining personal computing platforms - in terms of units shipped - for the early 21st Century.
Dediu's chart, culled from historical sales figures, shows the rapid rise of all new computers. Whether you're looking at the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Windows PC, the Macintosh, or Android smartphones, initial growth rates are staggering.
The 8-bit and, later, 16-bit micros like the Amiga and Atari ST saw shipments plunge almost as dramatically as they had risen when competing with the broad adoption of rival platforms, most notably the PC and the Mac.
The late 1980s and early 1990s cemented the preference for these two 'standards' over the variety of formats that had been on offer through the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
The question is, now that the likes of the iPad and smartphones based on Android and iOS are showing the same steep upward growth curve that past platforms did, will the still growing - so far - Mac and PC lines suddenly drop off in the way that those of the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and Apple II did?
It's worth noting that the combined shipments of Android and iOS smartphones during 2011 is higher than the number of PCs shipped in the same period - though not if you add Mac shipments to the latter.
It's hard to see the Android and iOS total - which will be higher still if you include lesser smartphone platforms - not exceed PC and Mac shipments during 2012.
Certainly, the Windows PC has, on the basis of current data, plateau'd. Can Windows 8, due out later this year, change that? It doesn't seem likely.
Still unsure about tablets? As Dediu notes, "we cannot consider the iPad as a 'niche'. The absolute volume of units sold after less than two years is enough to place it within an order of magnitude of all PCs sold".
The sad thing about Commodore
Is not that they managed to cock up, every company does (albeit some more than others) the tragic thing about Commodore is that everyone in the industry makes as hard as they can to ignore and forget them, they have been willingly vanished from the history of the IT industry.
No one gives credit Commodore for anything they accomplished, they are just ignored.
Commodore computers had something no other system manages to offer today, they will always wondered you with seemingly impossible feats given the hardware specifications.
With the C64 and later the Amiga at the time it seemed that the only limit was your imagination.
CBM machines had always lots and lots of clever tricks in the bag.
NOTE THE SCALE
That is all.
You assume all PC users NEED a PC. Many, many people ONLY use their PC for web-browsing & content consumption, email and Facebook.
@Content Consumption vs. Content Creation
And don't forget to add the Cloud Gaming (or whatever it's called this week) where the end user, quite rightly, doesn't give a damn about the configuration of their Computer - they just want to frag things in pretty 3D on the latest First Person Shooter. Other than the control issues, doing this kind of gaming on a tablet is ideal and BT or USB peripherals can negate many of these control problems.
Content Consumption vs. Content Creation
The full-blown PC (or Mac) desktop/laptop won't die completely, at least not in the medium term, because tablets and smartphones are by-and-large content **consumption** devices, but still aren't very good as content **creation** devices (relative to a full-blown desktop/laptop).
(Although, to be fair, there has been quite a bit of progress in this area lately. For example, tablets can now do relatively simple photo and video editing, and are making inroads into the DJ and live performance markets as audio mixing board system controllers.)
I do think, however, that you will start seeing the average "no-longer-in-school-so-I-don't-need-a-computer-for-term-papers" consumer shift away from full-blown desktops/laptops for home use, since for many people tablets, smartphones, and the new generation of "media portal" DVR boxes, Blu-Ray players and TVs can provide all of their home electronic media needs.