The PC is dead! Long live the PC! Yes, it’s that time of the year again when analyst firm IDC announces that PC shipments have yet again taken a downturn, with some potentially thinking the end is nigh for the personal computer as we know it. But there’s a surprise: Macs are on the up.
IDC’s figures for the second quarter of 2023 show the likes of HP, Lenovo and Dell with reduced shipments, with the latter two seeing a double digit decline. And across the board, other Windows computer makers saw a reduction in shipments over last year. But Apple bucked the trend, with IDC seeing a 10.3% growth for Q2 2023 versus 2022.
Now with a market share of 8.6%, Apple isn’t going to have Mac spell the end of Windows machines. And IDC noted that Apple’s growth comes from being on the back foot in 2022 when COVID-19 related shutdowns affected Mac supply.
But to me, a garden-variety consumer as well as a tech journalist, I found this noteworthy.
The market share and shipments of Mac have both grown over 2023, signaling that Apple is doing something right in the world of computing while Windows laptops languish.
Think about it, when was the last time a Windows laptop truly got you excited? And I’m not talking about some concept machine or a gimmicky foldable laptop.
I’d say it’s not happened recently. Sure, when Apple was churning out somewhat uninspired MacBooks with Intel processors about four years ago, the likes of the Dell XPS 13 seemed properly exciting. But Dell hasn't really remixed its formula, nor have other computer makers. Yes, the Asus Zephyrus G14 is worthy of being one of the best gaming laptops, but it’s not really evolved much since its launch several years ago.
Desktop PCs haven’t moved the needle either; they are more powerful than ever, but all the cores and clock speeds don’t mean much in the face of such things as poorly optimized games. And Dell hasn’t done anything hugely exciting with its machines, with sub-brand Alienware having not mixed up its Aurora gaming PCs for some time. And while custom PC builders like Starforge Systems have caught my eye, they exist in a niche, offering powerful but pricey machines to gamers and content creators.
In the meantime, Apple has offered innovation. In November 2020, we got the reveal of the MacBook Air M1, which while on the outside had a tried, tested and arguably tired design, it sported the first Apple Silicon chip that delivered impressive performance and eye-catching battery life. Flip to 2021 and we get the M1 Pro and M1 Max-equipped MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch variants offering a fresh design.
Fast forward again to 2022, and Apple showed off the compact powerhouse that’s the Mac Studio and the slim-and-light marvel that’s the MacBook Air M2. Despite pretty much always being a Windows guy, I splurged for the latter, thanks to the slick redesign and the M2 chip the MacBook Air continue to impress me with its power and efficiency.
Don’t get me wrong, the likes of the dual-screen Lenovo Yoga Book 9i are intriguing. But the price and practically isn't there. Meanwhile, Apple has innovated in the areas where it counts to produce a laptop that I adore using and heartily recommend at every turn. And you can get some pretty aggressive prices too thanks to Prime Day MacBook deals.
As someone who’s been writing about computers for years, I don’t buy the idea that the PC is dead; shipments may continue on a slow downward spiral, but that’s arguably a sign of how capable PCs remain despite being several years old.
But I do think other PC makers could learn from Apple. There's scope to ‘think different’ when it comes to custom chips and nailing machines that do general computing near-perfectly without any need for gimmicks or superfluous bells and whistles.
Granted, Microsoft has gone the custom chip route before with the Surface Laptops and Surface Pro models and not always hit the mark. But I’m sure with one eye on innovation and another on what people actually want computers for, we could see PC shipments perk up for the usual suspects.