Desktop PCs May Be Poised for a Comeback

Desktop computer users are more satisfied with their devices than laptop and tablet owners, according to a recent American Customer Satisfaction Index survey. However, the category of personal computer satisfaction in general appears to be somewhat in the dumps. The annual measure of satisfaction fell 1.3 points to a score of 78 out of a possible 100.

The decline in the score for laptops, though, was more severe, dropping four points to 76. Tablets fell by one point, to score 80. The star performer in the category was desktops: With a three-point gain, they took the lead at 81.

Tide Reversing?

The findings point to a possible reversal of a long-developing trend toward everything mobile. Mobile devices, from phones to tablets to wearable devices, is where the industry focus, the consumer interest, and perhaps most importantly, the sales have been.

Worldwide PC shipments last year fell by 9.8 percent, which represented the most severe contraction yet in the space. However, that was slightly better than the 10.1 percent decline IDC had a projected.

There are several drivers behind ACSI’s recent numbers that could account for this shift, ACSI Director David VanAmburg told the E-Commerce Times.

“A lot of households have foregone buying new PCs for many years because they were spending their electronics budgets on mobile devices. Now they are needing to upgrade their PCs because the desktops they have are too archaic to use,” he explained.

Desktops have made improvements in processing and graphics and other features in recent years, VanAmburg noted, which may not have caught the attention of many users. “So they are pleasantly surprised at what they can do and their quality, compared to what they used to own, and hence their satisfaction is higher.”

Misplaced Expectations

It seems that user satisfaction with tablets is declining for the opposite reason — overhyped expectations for these devices.

“Tablets are still, at heart, a consumption device, not a computing device,” James Brehm of James Brehm & Associates told the E-Commerce Times.

When people do try to adapt their tablets for work, they find the experience is not seamless, he said.

Also, not all tablets are alike in sophistication and ease of use, Brehm pointed out. “Frankly, the Android experience stinks.”

Little Wiggle Room

Despite these trends, ACSI does not see much potential for significant leaps in market share for PCs, in part because PC makers have shown few signs of taking advantage of consumers’ rediscovered affection for them.

Only smaller manufacturers have been pushing forward with innovative designs or advancements, while all of the largest PC makers continued to deteriorate, the survey indicates.

Although Apple maintained a sizable lead over its major competitors, which it has held since 2004, its score dropped 3 points to 84.

Large Windows-based manufacturers did not fare well either, with Dell declining 4 points to tie Acer at 76, followed by Toshiba, which dropped 4 points to 75. HP dropped 8 points, falling to the bottom of the category at 74.

Meanwhile, companies with a smaller market share, such as Samsung, Lenovo and Asus, were up 8 points, earning an ACSI score of 82.

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


  • In my case I actually like using a desktop PC better. The mobile solution is always a compromise to make it more compact and lighter. Two examples myself that I grew tired of was a 11.6" Chromebook and a iPad and Nexus 7 Tablet.

    Both I grew tired of because of size and lack of abilities. I always gravitated back to my laptop or desktop PC. To me the limiting factor of PC sales has pretty much come from the poor acceptance of Windows 8. Otherwise, I think sales of PC would have increased more. I know I would have purchased a new PC if it were not for Windows 8. I have nothing against the mobile platform other then I do not find a tablet any better then my smartphone at providing a mobile solution. For home I still like a PC.

  • I think this article is very accurate in a lot of ways. I actually predicted that this push toward mobile would fizzle out in a few years once people figured out that tablets are generally terrible for doing anything productive on. Simply put, Windows, Mac OS, and Linux are still the best way to actually get things done and create content, because creating quality content usually demands horsepower and precise input control, the latter which suffers considerably on any touch screen device, even with active pen input.

    I’ve seen for years people trying to get their Galaxy Tabs and their iPads to adapt to their work style when all they needed to use was a desktop or a laptop.

    That’s not to say the experience itself is bad on tablets, however. The experience, especially with Android Kit Kat, is exceptionally smooth, streamlined, and actually the most powerful and efficient its ever been. The one that seems to be suffering in usability in my opinion here is iOS, which appears to be taking more cues from Android than ever before but showing clumsiness in their execution. For every thing I want to do in iOS, IF I can do it, there are two ways or more to accomplish this task in Android.

    Bottom line though, everyone STILL needs a powerful desktop in their home. Any time that need to create something of lasting value or do meaningful WORK arises, there’s nothing like a large screen, a mouse, a keyboard, and a lot of horsepower.

  • I’d like to know how the android tablet experience ‘stinks’. Not looking for an argument, but I AM looking for info, as I’m getting ready to replace my 1st Gen Kindle Fire, and have been thinking I’d like a more open system. Particularly when it comes to ebooks.

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