PC no longer king in Japan?

Could it be that we will have seen the birth, rise to dominance and decline into dotage of the personal computer all within little more than a generation. Signs of old age are out there.

From an Associated Press story this morning:

Japan's PC market is already shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics — and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.

Phones, gadgets and fancy TVs are quickly becoming our new electronic overlords.

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. The trend shows no signs of letting up: In the second quarter of 2007, desktops fell 4.8 percent and laptops 3.1 percent.

"Consumers aren't impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That's not as exciting as a bigger TV," (IDC analyst Masahiro) Katayama said. "And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn't bright."

Of course, with PCs becoming ever cheaper, it’s difficult to envision the day when they will go the way of the record player.

What seems inevitable is that the number of PC makers will continue to decline, as Michael Dell indicated a week ago while addressing Japanese reporters.

"I think the pace of consolidation will increase," he said. "I think that it favors the larger companies, particularly as the growth is skewed towards emerging countries. In the last two years Dell has acquired five companies, two related to the consumer business, one related to software and two related to services. These have all been relatively small companies but I would not be surprised if the nature and pace of acquisitions increases somewhat."

Dell’s feeling new heat from the likes of Acer, which recently passed Lenovo to become the world’s third-largest PC vendor after snapping up Gateway. HP remains on top.

Personally, I’m thinking predictions of the PC’s demise may be premature: It’s just that I can’t see me doing this job on a cell phone or game console.

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