Steve Ballmer Is Right: The PC Market Is Getting Bigger

At The Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs compared the PC to a farm truck, saying that when America was an agrarian economy: “All cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. Now trucks are one in 25 to 30 vehicles sold.” Whether you think PCs will shrink or grow in importance seems to depend partly on semantics. During the same conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer countered: “I think people are going to be using PCs in greater and greater numbers for years to come. . . . The PC as we know it will continue to morph form factor. The real question is, what are you going to push.” 

Jobs may not view the iPad as a PC, but we do.

Our view is that the consumer PC market in the US is indeed getting bigger: Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors will increase by 52%. In fact, desktops are the only type of PC whose numbers will be fewer in 2015 than they are today — and even desktops will benefit from innovation in gaming and 3D. We detail our findings in a new report, The US Consumer PC Market In 2015. Clients can read the full report on our Web site, but here are a few key takeaways:

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Good Forecasts Deliver More Than Just Numbers

“What market research is about is adding value to the business.” This line got me a job once. It’s a perspective easily lost in the myriad complications of conducting market research but a value researchers must hold dear. The context in which I obtained that job was customer satisfaction research. I was asked how I might handle the presentation of survey results in a sensitive situation where the audience would be hostile about the results. My response was that companies don’t survey clients because they want a page full of numbers. Companies survey clients because they want to learn how to serve them better — with the end result being increased sales. My presentation wouldn’t be about customer satisfaction scores; it would be about increasing sales.

 This is also a central theme for ForecastView. We have to remember, at the end of the day, that research and researchers are investments that companies make with shareholder money and that the end goal is a positive return on those investments. This applies to forecasts, as well. But this isn’t always easy because forecasts don’t always show steeply upward-sloping curves for all of the products our clients make.

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