Data was published yesterday that PC sales are plummeting throughout the world.

It is obviously a result of a move to mobile communications and computing. Most people don’t need a powerful desktop or laptop computer for everyday tasks. Email, messaging, reading news, talking on the phone or through video conferencing, scheduling activities, budgeting, etc., they can all be done on mobile devices. Even the occasional memo or report can be produced on a tablet.

With the rise of ubiquitous voice recognition, artificial intelligence, and cloud based services, there is really a limited market for desktop computing. What we’re seeing is the realization of universal computing machines that can act as a multitude of useful devices. Most people can get by in their personal and professional lives without a dedicated computer.

There are still mainframe computers, but they are now highly specialized or focused on truly high powered applications. The desktop computing model will remain, but it will be increasingly marginalized to specialized applications and uses. Everything else will be mobile, always online, multimedia and multichannel, with embedded specialized AIs and interaction facilitators such as voice dictation, field of vision tracking, and various other forms of man-machine interfaces.

Microsoft, Dell, HP, etc., they all have business models that rely heavily on the desktop computing model. They’re trying to make the transition to cloud computing, mobile interactive online living, and various other manifestations of the universal computing machine model. But, it’s not easy.

This just shows how even the most successful companies can see their business models undermined. The only way to overcome this is to shape the future yourself. To take the initiative and to try to create the new business models, rather than just react to them. Microsoft, for instance, has been singularly unsuccessful at adapting to, and shaping, new business models. The company was highly successful at riding the wave of democratization and decentralization of computing, and even created it to a large extent by offering cheap and reasonably effective and usable operating systems and productivity software. But then it just stopped really innovating.

There are only a handful of companies that have operated in highly changing competitive markets that have been able to evolve and adapt, and even shape the changes around them. IBM is one, HP in its previous incarnations was another. Who will be able to adapt to, and shape the future business environments? Who will have the offensive mindset to seize and maintain the initiative? I’ve written about this extensively in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.


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