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Business - Written by on Sunday, November 4, 2007 12:22 - 3 Comments

Denis Hancock
PC’s losing importance in Japan

If you’re wondering what the future of technology usage will be in North America, one of the best places to look is Japan – for reasons that I have never understood, it just seems that people in Japan tend to regularly be a couple of years ahead on the technology curve – it’s like they get to live in the future or something! And if you look at Japan today, according to this Associated Press article, what you’ll see is the PC market collapsing before your very eyes.

The story has stats to back this claim up – desktop sales fell 4.8% in Q2, and laptops fell 3.1%, and (importantly) overall PC shipments in Japan have fallen for five consecutive quarters, the first ever drawn-out decline in PC sales in a key market, according to IDC. Seems like kind of a big deal, no? One of the most important products of the last few decades hitting an inflection point in a geographic market that tends to lead most others?

Well, it is and it isn’t. When I think about the PC back in the “early” days, I remember a few basic office applications, maybe a tax program, a couple of crappy video games, and… not much else. Then this Internet thing came along, and for the most part people’s first contact with the Internet was via the PC. Perhaps more to the point, for the last decade or so, the PC has remained the dominant means by which people access the Internet, and most of the benefits that come from Internet access have contributed to the PC’s value and led to constant upgrades.

This is changing now – and again, nowhere is it more obvious than in Japan, where more than 50% of people access the Internet via their mobile phones. At the same time mobile devices become ever more important for communication, video game consoles like the XBox and Playstation are evolving and leveraging Internet access to offer a whole new range of entertainment options, digital cameras can bypass PCs all together when it comes to viewing photos, iPod’s will soon do everything except cook your dinner, etc.

In other words, PCs are now just one of many (for lack of a better term) “electronic appliances” that leverage and benefit from Internet access today. Based on a very unscientific poll I took this morning, many people I know now only use their home PC for occassional emails, a few office applications, doing their taxes, reading the news, getting digital music, and checking facebook. If anything, they want to do less things on the PC if companies would figure out a way to let them (think: better way to acquire and manage music). In turn, it’s pretty hard to come up with a good reason for getting an upgraded PC – even though many of these people are not hesitating to update their mobile phone, gaming/ entertainment system, iPod, etc.

So what could PC makers do to make people want to stay on the constantly upgrading train? I don’t know, but I hope the answer is nothing. At some point certain technologies just reach maturity, and I’d personally like to embrace that, stop wasting money on PC upgrades, and commit myself to wasting it on upgrades in other technologies that will make my life easier and/or more entertaining – while my trusty PC sits evolves into the central control centre without me ever having to go get another new one. Wishful thinking, I’m sure…


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Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire! » The Buzz Bin
Nov 6, 2007 6:08

[...] Wikinomics blog is always full of interesting information, but this piece on Japan’s fading interest in PC’s caught my eye. It used to be that a PC was the only way to access the internet, but now with mobile [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » The flute player, the traffic controller, the ballroom dancer…
Mar 3, 2008 6:40

[...] player, the traffic controller, the ballroom dancer… As we’ve written about in the past, Japan has a tendency to be a bit ahead of the curve in technology – particularly in relation to [...]

Mar 3, 2008 17:58

I think it’s possible in the next decade there will be fewer PC’s with the exception of office users. There is a growing and very young generation of mobile technology users who will mostly use their mobile phones to stay connected to friends on facebook, messenger, etc. and use their gaming consoles such as xbox 360 for their entertainment.

Why sit down in front of a PC to stay connected when you can do that on the go with a cell phone or when your gaming?

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