The Computer Industry Matures

Writing this piece on a 2011 Model desktop. Guess it is time to upgrade; but I am in a quandary. In the past five years, the technology industry has changed; but not so much in terms of innovation, but rather ossification.

In 2012, I bought my desktop PC in the store. At the time, even though very high-end models were on display. I chose a low-medium brand of desktop with an AMD quad-core processor, over the desktops with the higher rated Intel dual core (with threading). Discrete cores have advantages over threading. It has served me very well. Though I do photoediting -- which often requires a higher-end model -- my desktop has been up to the task.

When I recently went back to the stores to check out the available desktops -- this time I was planning to get a top notch power computer -- the racks of desktops were almost gone. One could not even locate a power model with a high end Core-i7 CPU (processor). Instead tablets, laptops, and smartphones were hogging the tables. Desktops were embarrassingly hid in the rear, as if no one bought them. Even then, nothing above a mid-range was displayed. I was told that if I wanted a professional-grade desktop, I would have to purchase one via the internet, build it myself, or order a high-end iMac -- the iMacs on display were the lower-end standard models. The computer industry has greatly changed.

Apparently, desktop sales have flattened out. Most people never utilized the full potential of their computers beyond basic web browsing, email, social apps, and document creation; and these processes being not that intensive, older model computers are more than able to handle them. So why bother to replace them?! People are keeping their desktop computers longer. With the market leveling off, technology outlets now prefer to sell tablets, phones, and laptops. Reflecting this trend, stores now only stock a limited selection of lower-end desktops.

Only power users, those that do high-end gaming or video creation, need the newer, better desktops. Gamers -- Macs are not great for gaming -- are being forced to purchase though the net, often from specialty brands like Origin PC, or build their own. Video creators and photographers -- Apple's specialty -- have to order from Apple directly.

Now, the same leveling process has started to flatten out the tablet and smartphone market. Most people are quite satisfied with their older tablets and phones. One would be amazed how many people are still using the 2011 iPad 2, as slow as it is.

Now, just over nine years since the introduction of the iPhone, it looks like the boom is over.

Data from analyst firm IDC released this week suggests that smartphone market growth will only be up 1.6% in 2016 versus 2015, with 1.46 billion phones sold. In 2015, it was up a solid 10.6% versus 2014. The boom is flattening out. -- Business Insider

And why should they upgrade? For most people, the older models were fast enough, and the picture qualities on the camera good enough. Why pay hundreds more? Smartphone users would prefer cheaper data plans to the new gimmicks. The market is saturated.

For the immediate future, tablet sales will continue their precipitous plunge.

In a surprise to no one, the tablet market will shrink for the rest of 2016, market researcher IDC forecasts. The predicted 11.5 percent year-over-year decline is a bit of a shocker, though. Worldwide, 183.4 million tablets will have shipped by the end of 2016.

What is a surprise is IDC's forecast that sales will hit positive territory in 2018. -- CNET

By 2018, the predicted turnaround may be due to the older models finally becoming unusable.

To force upgrades, the software giants -- especially Apple, less so Microsoft -- have a reputation for their newer (OS) operating systems making older computers obsolete, forcing a purchase of newer hardware. Lest one focus on Apple for "planned" obsolescence by software, one should remember that Microsoft has a record of inspiring outrage with spotty releases of new (OS) operating systems. Microsoft tries to make their new OS backwards compatible; what they haven't mastered is making it work smoothly.

Microsoft learned the hard way that the public would not upgrade when told to do so. Vista was a disaster. Happily, Windows 7 was great; but it was so good that it is still the most common OS being used seven years after its introduction. People hated Windows 8 so much that they would order newer computers with the previous (OS) operating system: Windows 7. Microsoft had to give away Windows 10 for free; and Windows 7 usage is still beating it. A few stalwarts are still using XP.

The rule of thumb is: People only change OS when they buy a new computer; and since new computer purchases are slowing down, older OS's are hanging on. If people are happy, they will not upgrade.

The industry has matured. People are now choosing technology for what they need, instead of the flashier gizmo. The technology industry is going the way of the automobile industry in the 1970s, as style and flash gave way to function.

Apple saw what was coming and developed the app market as a major revenue stream. A wise choice which insulates them from some of this leveling. Android has not fully caught up. Microsoft came late to the game, and has an abysmal market share.

So what is the future? Apple is trying to develop an Apple car. Google is working on a self-driving car. I suspect these will take time to catch on, especially since Google car has already taken casualties.

One of [Googles]’s autonomous vehicles, which was being tested near its headquarters in Mountain View, CA, struck a city bus on a public street... Fortune

That may be the new innovation. Apple is also pushing Apple TV; but is running into stiff competition. The smart watch is not really catching on as expected.

As for me, in my search for a new computer, I was hoping that Apple would release a reasonable Mac-mini. I like small form factors. But the 2014 model -- the last Mac mini model -- was a disappointment. RAM was soldered in, forcing one to buy all the RAM upfront at Apple's exaggerated pricing. The top end processor was downgraded from a quad- to a dual-core. Consequently, the older 2012 Mac minis, with the quad core, command a price comparable to the highest version of the newer 2014 model. Apple abuses its customer base with such antics.

But the small form factor entranced me, and if Apple does not come through...

Intel has introduced the Skull Canyon NUC [NUC6i7KYK], with a high-end Core-i7 and upgraded integrated graphics on the CPU. You add your own RAM and memory. Not cheap, but one ends up with a very small high-end computer under two pounds, about the size of one's hand. Far more powerful than the dual-core Mac mini. The Skull Canyon, even equipped with twice the RAM, and more storage, and with better ports, comes in hundreds of dollars cheaper than the Mac mini.

The thought of a power computer so small and light was attractive -- no more having to crawl behind the back of a computer to change wires -- even if its i7-6700HQ CPU (processor) has 20% less in performance than the usual champion, the Core-i7 6700K -- it was still more powerful than 95% of the computers out there, and probably more powerful than I would need. Comparable to the present fully loaded 21" iMac, with last year's Broadwell CPU, with it lower RAM limit soldered on, and less powerful integrated graphics. Even figuring in the cost of buying the 4K monitor, the Skull Canyon NUC comes in hundreds less than the 21" iMac. Was this small computer the future of the computer industry?

Then I went to the community forum at Intel. Apparently, even though the hardware is great, Intel released the Skull Canyon without proper driver support. The community has referred to themselves as beta testers, and some are quite upset. The Mac mini is less powerful, but it works.

So who was abusing their customers more: Intel or Apple?

The trend is to smaller, using far less power, with the newest trend being the use of laptops docked to monitors in place of desktops. Ironically, speed is a secondary issue.

The boom days are over. The computer industry will start to level off. It will still produce change, but less drastic and more incremental. Capitalism is marvelously thorough.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is neither Latin, nor Arab. He runs a website http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin 

Writing this piece on a 2011 Model desktop. Guess it is time to upgrade; but I am in a quandary. In the past five years, the technology industry has changed; but not so much in terms of innovation, but rather ossification.

In 2012, I bought my desktop PC in the store. At the time, even though very high-end models were on display. I chose a low-medium brand of desktop with an AMD quad-core processor, over the desktops with the higher rated Intel dual core (with threading). Discrete cores have advantages over threading. It has served me very well. Though I do photoediting -- which often requires a higher-end model -- my desktop has been up to the task.

When I recently went back to the stores to check out the available desktops -- this time I was planning to get a top notch power computer -- the racks of desktops were almost gone. One could not even locate a power model with a high end Core-i7 CPU (processor). Instead tablets, laptops, and smartphones were hogging the tables. Desktops were embarrassingly hid in the rear, as if no one bought them. Even then, nothing above a mid-range was displayed. I was told that if I wanted a professional-grade desktop, I would have to purchase one via the internet, build it myself, or order a high-end iMac -- the iMacs on display were the lower-end standard models. The computer industry has greatly changed.

Apparently, desktop sales have flattened out. Most people never utilized the full potential of their computers beyond basic web browsing, email, social apps, and document creation; and these processes being not that intensive, older model computers are more than able to handle them. So why bother to replace them?! People are keeping their desktop computers longer. With the market leveling off, technology outlets now prefer to sell tablets, phones, and laptops. Reflecting this trend, stores now only stock a limited selection of lower-end desktops.

Only power users, those that do high-end gaming or video creation, need the newer, better desktops. Gamers -- Macs are not great for gaming -- are being forced to purchase though the net, often from specialty brands like Origin PC, or build their own. Video creators and photographers -- Apple's specialty -- have to order from Apple directly.

Now, the same leveling process has started to flatten out the tablet and smartphone market. Most people are quite satisfied with their older tablets and phones. One would be amazed how many people are still using the 2011 iPad 2, as slow as it is.

Now, just over nine years since the introduction of the iPhone, it looks like the boom is over.

Data from analyst firm IDC released this week suggests that smartphone market growth will only be up 1.6% in 2016 versus 2015, with 1.46 billion phones sold. In 2015, it was up a solid 10.6% versus 2014. The boom is flattening out. -- Business Insider

And why should they upgrade? For most people, the older models were fast enough, and the picture qualities on the camera good enough. Why pay hundreds more? Smartphone users would prefer cheaper data plans to the new gimmicks. The market is saturated.

For the immediate future, tablet sales will continue their precipitous plunge.

In a surprise to no one, the tablet market will shrink for the rest of 2016, market researcher IDC forecasts. The predicted 11.5 percent year-over-year decline is a bit of a shocker, though. Worldwide, 183.4 million tablets will have shipped by the end of 2016.

What is a surprise is IDC's forecast that sales will hit positive territory in 2018. -- CNET

By 2018, the predicted turnaround may be due to the older models finally becoming unusable.

To force upgrades, the software giants -- especially Apple, less so Microsoft -- have a reputation for their newer (OS) operating systems making older computers obsolete, forcing a purchase of newer hardware. Lest one focus on Apple for "planned" obsolescence by software, one should remember that Microsoft has a record of inspiring outrage with spotty releases of new (OS) operating systems. Microsoft tries to make their new OS backwards compatible; what they haven't mastered is making it work smoothly.

Microsoft learned the hard way that the public would not upgrade when told to do so. Vista was a disaster. Happily, Windows 7 was great; but it was so good that it is still the most common OS being used seven years after its introduction. People hated Windows 8 so much that they would order newer computers with the previous (OS) operating system: Windows 7. Microsoft had to give away Windows 10 for free; and Windows 7 usage is still beating it. A few stalwarts are still using XP.

The rule of thumb is: People only change OS when they buy a new computer; and since new computer purchases are slowing down, older OS's are hanging on. If people are happy, they will not upgrade.

The industry has matured. People are now choosing technology for what they need, instead of the flashier gizmo. The technology industry is going the way of the automobile industry in the 1970s, as style and flash gave way to function.

Apple saw what was coming and developed the app market as a major revenue stream. A wise choice which insulates them from some of this leveling. Android has not fully caught up. Microsoft came late to the game, and has an abysmal market share.

So what is the future? Apple is trying to develop an Apple car. Google is working on a self-driving car. I suspect these will take time to catch on, especially since Google car has already taken casualties.

One of [Googles]’s autonomous vehicles, which was being tested near its headquarters in Mountain View, CA, struck a city bus on a public street... Fortune

That may be the new innovation. Apple is also pushing Apple TV; but is running into stiff competition. The smart watch is not really catching on as expected.

As for me, in my search for a new computer, I was hoping that Apple would release a reasonable Mac-mini. I like small form factors. But the 2014 model -- the last Mac mini model -- was a disappointment. RAM was soldered in, forcing one to buy all the RAM upfront at Apple's exaggerated pricing. The top end processor was downgraded from a quad- to a dual-core. Consequently, the older 2012 Mac minis, with the quad core, command a price comparable to the highest version of the newer 2014 model. Apple abuses its customer base with such antics.

But the small form factor entranced me, and if Apple does not come through...

Intel has introduced the Skull Canyon NUC [NUC6i7KYK], with a high-end Core-i7 and upgraded integrated graphics on the CPU. You add your own RAM and memory. Not cheap, but one ends up with a very small high-end computer under two pounds, about the size of one's hand. Far more powerful than the dual-core Mac mini. The Skull Canyon, even equipped with twice the RAM, and more storage, and with better ports, comes in hundreds of dollars cheaper than the Mac mini.

The thought of a power computer so small and light was attractive -- no more having to crawl behind the back of a computer to change wires -- even if its i7-6700HQ CPU (processor) has 20% less in performance than the usual champion, the Core-i7 6700K -- it was still more powerful than 95% of the computers out there, and probably more powerful than I would need. Comparable to the present fully loaded 21" iMac, with last year's Broadwell CPU, with it lower RAM limit soldered on, and less powerful integrated graphics. Even figuring in the cost of buying the 4K monitor, the Skull Canyon NUC comes in hundreds less than the 21" iMac. Was this small computer the future of the computer industry?

Then I went to the community forum at Intel. Apparently, even though the hardware is great, Intel released the Skull Canyon without proper driver support. The community has referred to themselves as beta testers, and some are quite upset. The Mac mini is less powerful, but it works.

So who was abusing their customers more: Intel or Apple?

The trend is to smaller, using far less power, with the newest trend being the use of laptops docked to monitors in place of desktops. Ironically, speed is a secondary issue.

The boom days are over. The computer industry will start to level off. It will still produce change, but less drastic and more incremental. Capitalism is marvelously thorough.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is neither Latin, nor Arab. He runs a website http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin