With sales of mobile devices surging and more people storing data in the cloud, the future of the personal computer is looking very cloudy.
Over the last decade, desktop computer sales in the U.S. have dropped by almost 50%. While notebook and laptop sales increased four-fold during that time, the rise of tablet computers has outpaced both mobile and desktop PCs, USA TODAY notes.
The shift toward mobile computing has caught traditional PC-makers like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) flat-footed. As their PC sales dwindle, companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Samsung have become increasingly dominant players in the mobile computing market.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), sensing the trend away from traditional PCs and its Windows OS-cash cow, has moved to make itself more relevant in the emerging mobile computing era. Windows 8, unveiled last year, features touchscreen compatibility and can work across PC, tablet and smartphone platforms. The company has debuted its own line of tablets and partnered with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) on a Window smartphone.
However, Windows holds a fraction of the mobile market, compared to Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS. Analysts have also questioned the sales numbers for Windows 8. Worse, the iPad is increasingly making inroads into the business segment, once a stronghold of PCs and laptops. Microsoft’s Surface tablet shipped less than one million units last quarter. By contrast, Apple sold 22.9 million iPads in the same period.
Shares of Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Apple rose fractionally in midday trading on Thursday, while Dell slipped slightly.