What’s a Computer? (Premium)

Those of us who have been around a while always recoil a bit when confronted by how the personal computing industry has changed. In the good old days---the pre-iPhone period, basically---it was all about Microsoft. But in more recent years, Microsoft, Windows, and the PC market they fostered have taken a back seat to online services and mobile computing devices, especially the smartphone.

As such we have to deal with things like today’s news, where Apple is somehow the number one maker of PCs in the world. You know, if you look at it in an Obi-Wan Kenobi “from a certain point of view” way. And trust the source, which is Canalys and not a major analyst firm like Gartner or IDC.

I’m fine with the latter I guess. But I’m still mixed on the former.

What you need to accept with the former assertion---that iPads and iPad-like tablets are somehow PCs in the same sense that traditional PCs and Tablet PCs are PCs---is in any way reasonable. And for that to be reasonable, two things need to be true: that iPads (and iPad-like tablets) can replace traditional PCs for many people, and that there is some competitive wave of tablets made by traditional PC makers that could help ensure that this deck isn’t arbitrarily stacked against the PC to begin with.

The first of those two items is undeniably true. Users have a range of needs and expertise, and the iPad is capable enough to replace a PC for some segment of the population. There’s no use in arguing this generally, though I guess we might quibble over how big that number is and so on. Whatever.

The second of those two items is what makes news like this so mixed, if not irrelevant: Apple is the only company on earth that makes a unique platform for tablets, and lumping in those products with more capable and sophisticated PCs in some ways seems unfair. The rest of the world uses Android or, to a lesser extent, full Windows on true tablet form factor devices. Most Windows-based “tablets” are really just PCs, meaning they are convertible laptops or detachables, not consumption-focused tablets like the iPad.

To play the devil’s advocate here, I will point out that I’ve argued in the past that every company, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, goes to war with the army that they have. Meaning that it is up to every company to determine how they will compete in an open market using whatever platforms, form factors, and the like. So, for example, Apple can be disadvantaged in some ways in, say, the PC market, by how they compete as the only maker of Macs. But that is their choice. So, on the flip side, Apple can be advantaged by also making iPads that can replace PCs, and maybe those should be counted, disadvantaging those companies---most of them---that don’t do this. It’s only fair to see both sides of this.

If you do not count iPads, Apple is the fourth largest PC maker on earth as of full-year 2021, with 7.8 marketshare. And as I pointed out when I published that artic...

Gain unlimited access to Premium articles.

With technology shaping our everyday lives, how could we not dig deeper?

Thurrott Premium delivers an honest and thorough perspective about the technologies we use and rely on everyday. Discover deeper content as a Premium member.

Tagged with

Share post

Please check our Community Guidelines before commenting

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thurrott © 2024 Thurrott LLC