Re­boot­ing the PC

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - By Nidhi Singa

PC man­u­fac­tur­ers are try­ing to re­vive the PC mar­ket. The all new MacBook Pro and Sur­face Stu­dio are proof.

As PC ship­ments plum­met, man­u­fac­tur­ers are in­tro­duc­ing up­grades, new form fac­tors, and en­hanc­ing the user ex­pe­ri­ence to lure con­sumers.

While the tech fra­ter­nity has been spec­u­lat­ing the end of the PC era, two big an­nounce­ments, in a span of 24 hours, from Mi­crosoft and Ap­ple cre­ated some much-needed frenzy in the PC mar­ket. On Oc­to­ber 26, Mi­crosoft stunned naysay­ers by un­veil­ing its all-in-one touch­screen desk­top PC, the Sur­face Stu­dio, and the up­dated ver­sion of the Sur­face Book. The next day, Ap­ple an­nounced the new and im­proved ver­sion of the MacBook Pro se­ries with the Retina-qual­ity, multi-touch dis­play called the Touch Bar, of­fer­ing a better in­ter­face. Dell, too, is work­ing on a cre­ative-ori­ented PC called the Smart Desk.

Tum­bling SaleS

PC ship­ments have been con­stantly de­clin­ing – world­wide PC ship­ments to­talled 101 mil­lion units in Q1 2016, as to­tal vol­umes dipped by 13 per cent year on year, to their low­est point since Q2 2011. These num­bers re­ported by Canalys in­clude desk­tops, note­books, two-in-ones and tablets.

Sev­eral rea­sons have led to this slump in sales. Tasks such as check­ing emails, brows­ing the web, play­ing games and en­ter­tain­ment (multimedia con­tent), for which users were de­pen­dent on big screens such as lap­tops and desk­tops, are now eas­ily car­ried out on smart­phones, given their big screen sizes. With un­in­ter­rupted in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity and good hard­ware qual­ity, work­ing on a hand-held smart­phone is con­ve­nient and ef­fi­cient. And with a range of smart­phones avail­able with var­ied spec­i­fi­ca­tions, there’s one for ev­ery bud­get and usage. This does not make a com­pelling case for buy­ing new lap­tops or desk­tops, and up­grad­ing old ones. Add to that the hike in prices of PCs, ow­ing to the weak­en­ing of the lo­cal cur­rency across re­gions against the US dol­lar, and it be­comes a dis­pens­able gad­get in the emerg­ing mar­kets.

Ac­cord­ing to Gart­ner’s 2016 per­sonal tech­nol­ogy sur­vey, a ma­jor­ity of con­sumers own and use at least three dif­fer­ent types of de­vices in ma­ture mar­kets. Mikako Kita­gawa, Prin­ci­pal An­a­lyst at Gart­ner, says, “Among these de­vices, the PC is not a high-pri­or­ity de­vice for the ma­jor­ity of con­sumers. So they do not feel the need to up­grade their PCs as of­ten as they used to. Some may never de­cide to up­grade to a PC again.”

The Re­dux

The likes of Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, Dell, Len­ovo and HP are not let­ting the grim mar­ket sce­nario dampen their spir­its. They are launch­ing high-end, high-func­tion­al­ity PCs to at­tract pro­fes­sion­als and busi­nesses. In a bid to re­vive the mar­ket, the fo­cus now is on three key pa­ram­e­ters – in­put method, soft­ware up­grades and in­te­gra­tion across screens. Here’s what you can ex­pect:

In­put method: The pri­mary in­put method for lap­tops and desk­tops has al­ways been the key­board. Hy­brids or two-in­one con­vert­ibles have come up with touch dis­plays in the past, but how of­ten one uses the touch in­ter­face over key­board is any­body’s guess. Ap­ple’s new MacBook Pro has ad­dressed this is­sue in­ter­est­ingly. Con­tin­u­ing with a non-touch dis­play, the com­pany has added the Touch Bar in­stead of the func­tion keys. The Touch Bar places con­trols right at the user’s fin­ger­tips and adapts when us­ing the sys­tem or apps like Mail, Finder, Cal­en­dar, Num­bers, GarageBand and Fi­nal Cut Pro X, as well as third-party apps. For ex­am­ple, the Touch Bar can show Tabs and Favourites in Sa­fari, en­able easy ac­cess to emoji in Mes­sages and pro­vide a sim­ple way to edit images. Mi­crosoft is threat­en­ing Mac’s dom­i­nance with its first at­tempt at an all-in-one PC, the Sur­face Stu­dio. As it sup­ports touch in­put, it can be turned into a can­vas by tilt­ing it to a 20-de­gree an­gle, let­ting you paint, edit, and de­sign. What’s even more in­ter­est­ing is the Sur­face Dial ac­ces­sory – a big cir­cu­lar dial that can be placed any­where on the screen of the Stu­dio in var­i­ous apps to dis­play UI op­tions that are oth­er­wise hid­den. From ad­just­ing vol­ume in Groove Mu­sic to scrolling through news ar­ti­cles with­out touch­ing the key­board or mouse, ev­ery­day tasks can be made sim­ple and fun with the Sur­face Dial. But to lever­age these new in­put meth­ods, a strong app ecosys­tem is im­per­a­tive.

soft­ware: Man­u­fac­tur­ers are now look­ing at reg­u­lar up­dates in­stead of an­nounc­ing up­grades ev­ery two years – Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 10 will be the last num­bered ver­sion of Win­dows, and from here on one can ex­pect con­stant up­dates. Mi­crosoft has al­ready an­nounced the Win­dows 10

Will These An­nounce­ments Help PCs Get Their Mojo Back?

Creator’s Up­date that will fo­cus on ar­eas such as pro­duc­tiv­ity, gam­ing and also 3D, as the soft­ware will be ca­pa­ble of quickly scan­ning, mod­i­fy­ing and print­ing ob­jects with 3D print­ers. Ap­ple al­ready has an an­nual up­date cy­cle for its macOS in place. The lat­est, macOS Sierra, gets on board Siri – de­signed for desk­top (Mac) – and is a step to­wards an evolved, in­te­grated user ex­pe­ri­ence to work more seam­lessly be­tween de­vices. “Hard­ware is get­ting more stan­dard­ised and the in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments in hard­ware are go­ing to be less fre­quent. It is the soft­ware that will be a big dif­fer­en­tia­tor. The strat­egy now is to keep up­grad­ing rather than mak­ing big re­leases. A lot of in­cre­men­tal in­no­va­tions hap­pen through fre­quent up­dates. You get quick reactions and can put some­thing else out,” says Akhilesh Tuteja, Partner and Head, Tech­nol­ogy, KPMG in In­dia.

In­te­gra­tIon across screens though apps: To make PCs rel­e­vant again for ev­ery­day use, man­u­fac­tur­ers are work­ing to­wards seam­lessly in­te­grat­ing them with smart­phones. If the sys­tem is fully in­te­grated, the user ex­pe­ri­ence can be com­pletely re­vamped – you can start some­thing on the mo­bile and fin­ish the work on the PC. For in­stance, you click a pic­ture on your phone and it in­stantly trans­fers to your lap­top for edit­ing, for fur­ther use in a pre­sen­ta­tion. The Uni­ver­sal Clip­board fea­ture on the new macOS Sierra and iOS 10 makes it eas­ier to trans­fer links, text, pho­tos, and more, be­tween de­vices. When you copy a link on a de­vice, it gets up­loaded to iCloud and is avail­able on all other de­vices you are signed in to with your Ap­ple ID. Ap­ple’s strat­egy has been to stick to one ecosys­tem, so ev­ery­thing works smoothly. But not for Win­dows, not yet, whose phone ecosys­tem is weak and has to de­pend on in­di­vid­ual OEMs (orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers). But they are all work­ing to­wards an in­te­grated ecosys­tem. Soft­ware and apps will play a key role, ir­re­spec­tive of the OS and the de­vice you are work­ing on. The up­date cy­cle for a phone app is just a month or two; for a PC app, it is close to two years. And that’s why ven­dors are mo­ti­vat­ing app de­vel­op­ers to not only cre­ate apps for all the plat­forms, but also come up with reg­u­lar up­dates for PC apps.

Be­sides, Gart­ner pre­dicts that ship­ments of premium, ul­tra­mo­bile PCs are ex­pected to grow 11 per cent this year. In 2019, Gart­ner fore­casts that this seg­ment – which in­cludes Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pro, Len­ovo Yoga 3 Pro and Ap­ple’s MacBook Air – will com­mand the largest share of the PC mar­ket in rev­enue terms, at $57.6 bil­lion. The re­port says that in­no­va­tive two-in-one prod­ucts will en­tice users to not only re­place their PC, but also con­sider up­grad­ing to a de­vice with more func­tion­al­ity and flex­i­bil­ity.

In­ter­est­ing times ahead for PCs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.