Much has been written about the idea that growing broadband adoption
and digital technology would lead to the convergence of PCs and
TVs in a single device. Many commentators have actually predicted
the demise of the PC, citing falling PC sales, growing numbers of
internet appliances and handheld devices, and the emerging possibilities
of interactive television. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, has long
held the view that desktop PCs would diminish in importance. He
recently proclaimed, "The only things left on PCs are [Microsoft]
Office and games."
Steve Jobs, from Apple, however, holds a different view: "We
don't think the PC is dying at all -- just evolving"
If the PC is dead or dying as a result of the growing popularity
of other internet-enabled and interactive devices, it certainly
hasn't happened yet in the US. The US Department of Commerce's recently
released the report A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding
Their Use of the Internet, which indicated that only 1.5% of the
106 million households in the US had home internet access without
a computer in September 2001.
The Department of Commerce further added that there were only 7.6
million households in the US in September 2001 that contained an
internet access device other than a computer. There were 5.1 million
households containing an internet-enabled cellphone, 1.9 million
with internet-enabled PDAs or handhelds and only 600,000 that had
an internet-enabled TV.
The US has had a long love affair with the PC. According to the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the US has more PCs
per 100 inhabitants (nearly 60) than any other country. Europe,
for example, has only 17 computers per 100 inhabitants as of January
2002. The high PC penetration in the US is one significant reason
why few US households have felt the need to look to alternative
devices to get their internet access. By the same token, it may
have also prevented, or at least delayed, US companies from investing
in alternative internet devices.
In contrast, the United Kingdom and Japan, who have 34 and 32 PCs
per 100 inhabitants respectively, according to the ITU, are two
countries where interactive devices other than the PC are very popular.
In Japan, over one-half of Japan's 70 million cellphone subscribers
have net access through their phones, according to the Japanese
Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. The UK also has a very
high mobile phone penetration rate, and the population has particularly
embraced SMS (short messaging service) and interactive TV services.
While the PC is not going away in a hurry in the US (or anywhere
else, for that matter), the emerging trends in technology and interactive
devices will mean that services, applications and internet usage
will no longer be tethered to particular devices. The PC will need
to continue to evolve to maintain its relevance in the converging
Ben Macklin is a Senior Analyst for eMarketer
and the author of the Telecommunications Spending Report, the North
American Wireless Report and The Broadband Report. E-mail
him at with comments, suggestions and questions.