The year was 2007, and Apple Inc.'s shiny handheld computer was finally being unwrapped after years of speculation. Not everyone could have predicted that just four years later, mobile devices would officially overtake the PC.
Worldwide growth of smartphone shipments skyrocketed by 1,000% between 2007, when there were 124 million shipments, and 2015, when shipments topped 1.4 billion, according to data from industry tracker IDC. PCs, meanwhile, have been on the decline since peaking at 362 million in 2011, dropping by more than 20% over the past four years alone, according to Gartner.
While much of the decline in recent years has been because of the rise of two-in-one tablet devices -- traditional slate computers with detachable keyboards, such as the iPad Pro -- the trend also speaks to a broader shift in how people are accessing the Internet.
"Our view has always been that smartphones and tablets didn't replace the PC, but extended the life cycle of it," said Ryan Reith, a program director at IDC's mobile device tracker group. "Consumers just are not refreshing their PCs as much as they used to because they're using them less."
The huge rise in mobile computing time has, over the past few years, powered the growth of companies that have positioned themselves to profit from the huge increase in mobile, like Apple AAPL, +0.37% , Alphabet Inc. GOOG, +0.42% GOOGL, +0.37% and Facebook Inc. FB, +0.08% But it has weighed heavily on companies more exposed to the traditional computer market, such as Intel Corp. INTC, +1.95% , HP Inc. HPQ, +1.50% and Dell.
On Tuesday, Intel cut 11% of its workforce, or 12,000 jobs, marking one of its largest workforce reductions ever in an attempt to streamline the business and refocus on fast-growing business lines such as data centers and cloud computing.
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While the product life cycle of the PC in 2009 was around three-and-a-half to four years, it has since expanded to between five and six years as people use their PCs less frequently and the hardware lasts longer, said Reith. In other words, the smartphones apps you're addicted to, such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Spotify, are stealing away quality PC time.
To make matters worse, the PC's keyboard is even starting to lose some of its luster. While the keyboard has been among the most desired features of PCs even in the wake of the recent declines, tablet keyboards are becoming more capable and mobile devices are becoming more powerful, which is starting to lead to the cannibalization of PC sales.
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