A coalition of Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, and Microsoft are trying to figure out how to reverse the downward trend of PC sales, and what they came up with was a marketing campaign called “PC Does What?”
The problem is it’s not 1995 anymore, and it’s going to take more than a marketing campaign to change that.
The fundamental problem with selling PCs is that everyone who wants one has one–or a house full of them. So you have to figure out how to get people to replace their old one in order to sell new ones. And for a time that was easy, because people would buy a PC, and by the time they’d learned how to use it, it was outmoded, so they’d buy another one.
But the industry matured over time. If you bought a PC after 2009, chances are it still works fine unless the hard drive died in it or it got infected with malware and you don’t know someone who can clean it up. It’s hard to think of another time in recent history when you could buy a PC, keep it five years, and be as content with it as you are with, say, a household appliance. But that’s what PCs have become. I’ve replaced all of my major appliances but I’d have to look up when I did it. It’s been years, and none of them are screaming for replacement.
I’m sure all of those companies are asking what about Apple. The problem with comparing themselves to Apple is that they aren’t even in the same business anymore. Apple sells computers, but they make their money selling content. They’re still able to make money on hardware by positioning themselves at the highest end of the market, but that hardware is mostly a gateway to selling content. Controlling it tightly allows them to turn the combination of hardware and content into a lifestyle.
Today’s PC certainly has the ability to be much nicer than an old one–memory is cheap, CPUs are wicked fast, and SSDs are wicked fast. But that’s a temporary fix, because a PC bought today is likely to last the better part of a decade.
And that’s why I don’t think the “PC Does What?” campaign is going to be anything more than a temporary fix, and whether it succeeds even as that is an open question.