Why the new iMac is a “Truck” and Chromebooks are “Cars”

 
 
More and more people are switching to mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – as their primary digital device and point of access to the Internet. This has left PC makers struggling to keep up. It seems that when everyone has a small computer that fits in their pocket, fewer people want to buy a (comparatively) “big” laptop or desktop machine. The final quarter of 2013 saw the biggest decline in PC shipments in history, and the 82.6 million PCs shipped in 2013 were a 7% decline from the previous year, prompting headlines like “PCs lumber towards the technological graveyard.”
 
But even though mobile devices are selling much faster and attracting much more media hype, PCs are showing surprising signs of life. A recent report from IDC and Gartner indicated that worldwide demand for PCs, as measured by global PC shipments during the third quarter of 2014, declined by 1.7 percent compared to the previous year – but when compared with a predicted decline of 4.1 percent, this is good news for PC makers. The U.S. actually saw a 4.3 percent increase in PC shipments compared to the previous year.
 
What’s behind this trend? People aren’t going to replace their smartphones with desktops anytime soon, but it appears that inexpensive notebooks equipped with online software are a big driver of this trend. It’s becoming so cheap to buy a laptop that many consumers, schools and small businesses are deciding to add to their arsenal of computing power.
 
But the big growth isn’t just coming from cheap laptops. As discussed in this story from Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times, there is an emerging trend where the PC market is diverging in two directions. Laptops are getting cheaper (Chromebooks and Windows machines now sell for $200) but powerful desktops like the new iMac with Retina display are getting more expensive ($2,500).
 
This fulfills a prediction made by Steve Jobs before he died that the PC market would be like the auto market – Steve Jobs said that if you look at the automotive market in America, there are cars and trucks. Cars are cheaper, low-maintenance products for everyday consumers to drive to work and shop for groceries and take their kids to school. Trucks are workhorses – powerful machines for people who need to do work.
 
In the same way, the cheap laptops like Chromebooks are meant to be “cars” – they’re easy, they’re low-maintenance, they don’t have a lot of horsepower but they also don’t need it, because most people just use them for browsing the web or using Facebook or doing online shopping. Meanwhile, Apple has pursued the high end of the PC market – and according to the New York Times, even though Apple has a much lower market share than the makers of cheaper “car” PCs (like Lenovo, HP, Dell and Acer), Apple is predicted to earn about half of the PC industry’s overall profits. That’s largely because Apple’s PCs are designed to be “trucks” – Apple MacBooks and its new Retina 5K iMac are much more expensive than “car” laptops (the Retina 5K iMac starts at $2,500) but Apple PC products are meant to be “trucks.” They are used by video editors, developers, graphic designers and other professionals who need to get work done online. Even though the basics of a good consumer laptop are increasingly affordable and within reach with a low-cost product, it's increasingly worth it to digital workers and tech professionals to have a really powerful machine to use, in addition to your mobile devices.
 
Cars and Trucks. Which one do you want to “drive” if you’ve got an important job to do?

 

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