Michael Dell’s story is legendary. He started selling PC parts in his college dorm, catapulted that into a game-changing PC manufacturing business, and in 1992, at age 27, became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
He owes his fortune and fame to the PC. It’s still a huge part of Dell’s business today.
But, as we know, thanks to the influx of mobile devices — a market Dell mostly missed — the PC industry has been on the decline for years.
Every time it looks like the PC market has hit rock bottom, it shrinks some more. In October, Gartner reported worldwide shipments had dipped nearly 8 per cent over the year-ago quarter. IDC said the decline was actually worse, shrinking 10%.
Dell must be getting tired of being asked about the death of the market that made him, because when Irish Examiner’s Sophie Curtis recently asked him about it, he retorted with this answer:
“The post-PC era has been great for the PC. When the post-PC era started there were about 180 million PCs being sold a year and now it’s up to over 300 million. So I like the post-PC era,” he said.
It’s a funny quip and a great come-back.
It’s also arguably untrue.
It was 2004 when about 189 million PCs were sold. The iPhone didn’t exist and PC sales were still growing like crazy, nearly doubling to over 350 million units by 2010. No one was talking about the post-PC era in 2004.
The iPad was announced in 2010 and that’s when people were talking. In 2011, PC sales had stalled and started to fall in the years since.
Back in 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he thought the post-PC market had begun. Speaking at the D8 conference with tech journalist Walt Mossberg,
Jobs warned that “this transformation is going to make some people uneasy. People from the PC world, like you and me.”
Maybe Dell is uneasy. He says he’s optimistic that another big PC boom is coming.
“It’s a business with an installed base of 1.8 billion PCs, 600 million of them are more than four years old. And, as we create new beautiful, thin, powerful PCs that are better than the thing you bought five years ago, people will replace the old ones,” Dell told Curtis.
In the meantime, Dell is betting his company on an area of tech not so beholden to the PC, but that has come about because of all the many non-PC devices: big data.
Dell believes that big data is the next trillion dollar industry, and is borrowing billions of dollars to try and buy EMC so that he can get his company in the middle of the action.