For PCs, a new lease on life.

There are some interesting results being reported so far this year in the world of “screens.” While smartphones and tablets have seen lackluster growth — even a plateauing or a decline of sales — PCs have charted their strongest growth in years.

As veteran technology reporter Dan Gallagher notes in a story published recently in The Wall Street Journal, “PCs have turned out to be a surprising bright spot in tech’s universe of late.”

In fact, Microsoft and Intel Corporation have been the brightest stars among the large-cap tech firms so far this year. Intel’s PC chip division’s sales are up ~16% year-over-year and now exceed $10 billion.

The division of Microsoft that includes licensing from its Windows® operating system plus sales of computer devices reports revenues up ~15% as well, nearing $11 billion.

The robust performance of PCs is a turnaround from the past five years or so. PC sales actually declined after 2011, which was the year when PC unit sales had achieved their highest-ever figure (~367 million).  Even now, PC unit sales are down by roughly 30% from that peak figure.

But after experiencing notable growth at the expense of PCs, tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad and various Android products have proven to be unreservedly solid replacements for PCs only at the bottom end of the scale — for people who use them mainly for tasks like media consumption and managing e-mail.

For other users — including most of the corporate world that runs on Windows® — tablets and smartphones can’t replace a PC for numerous tasks.

But what’s also contributing to the return of robust PC sales are so-called “ultra-mobile” devices — thin, lightweight laptops that provide the convenience of tablets with all of the functionality of a PC.  Those top-of-the-line models are growing at double-digit rates and are expected to continue to outstrip rates of growth in other screen segments including smartphones, tablets, and conventional-design PCs.

On top of this, the continuing adoption of Windows 10 by companies who will soon be facing the end of extended support by Microsoft for the Windows 7 platform (happening in early 2020) promises to contribute to heightened PC sales in 2019 and 2020 as well.

All of this good news is being reflected in the share prices of Intel and Microsoft stock; those shares have gone up following their most recent earnings reports, whereas all of the other biggies in the information tech sector — including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Netflix and Texas Instruments — are down.

It’s interesting how these things ebb and flow …

The mouse that roared: Smartphones take on bigger screens – and they’re winning.

The key takeaway message from MarketLive’s latest e-commerce statistics is that smartphones are where the go-go action is in e-commerce.

SmartphonesIf there’s any lingering doubt that smartphones are really on the march when it comes to e-commerce activity, the latest user stats are erasing all vestiges of it.

MarketLive’s 2nd Quarter e-commerce stats for 2015 reveal that mass-market consumers purchased ~335% more items via their smartphones than they did during the comparable quarter last year.

MarketLive’s report covers the buying activity of millions of online consumers. And the uptick it’s showing is actually more like a flood of increased activity.  That’s plain to see in these year-over-year 2nd Quarter comparative figures for smartphones:

  • Catalog merchandise: +374%
  • Merchandise sold by brick-and-mortar establishments’ online stores: +207%
  • Furnishings and houseware items: +163%

The critical mass that’s finally been reached is most likely attributable to these factors:

  • The growing number of “responsive-design” websites that display and work equally well on any size device
  • One-click purchasing functionality that simplify and ease e-commerce procedures

Interestingly, the dramatic growth in smartphone usage for online shopping appears to be skipping over tablets. Smartphones now account for more than twice the share of online traffic compared to tablets (~30% versus ~13%).

Total e-commerce dollar sales on tablets have also fallen behind smartphones for the first time ever.

Evidently, some people are now gravitating from desktops or laptops straight to smartphones, with nary a passing glance at tablets.

Another interesting data point among the MarketLive stats is the fact that traffic emanating from search (paid as well as organic), is actually on the decline.  By contrast, growth in traffic from e-mail marketing continues on its merry way, increasing ~18% over the same quarter last year.

One aspect remains a challenge in online commerce, however: The cart abandonment rate actually ticked up between 2014 and 2015. And conversion rates aren’t improving, either.

Marketlive logoFor the bottom line on what these new findings mean, I think Ken Burke, CEO of MarketLive, has it correct when he contends:

“Shoppers are seeking out their favorite brick-and-mortar brands online and expecting their websites to work on any device. We’re calling this trend ‘Commerce Anywhere the Customer Wants It.’ The more agile retailers and category leaders are outpacing their competitors by constantly adapting to – and embracing – a retail landscape where technology, consumers and markets are evolving at breakneck speed.” 

Details on MarketLive’s statistics can be accessed here.

Smartphones and Tablets have Doubled Our Time Spent Online

screenjumpersWhat a difference a few years makes.

Back in February 2010, Americans over the age of 18 spent a total of ~451 billion minutes’ time on the Internet, according to comScore’s Media Metrix research.

By comparison, in February 2013, the total time spent online had nearly doubled to ~890 minutes.

The vast majority of the increase is attributable to tablet computers and smartphones rather than PCs:

  • PC minutes rose from ~388 billion to ~467 billion (+24%).
  • Smartphone minutes grew from ~63 billion to a whopping ~208 billion (+230%).
  • Tablet minutes grew from zero to 115 billion (tablets didn’t exist in 2010).

In fact, taken together, smartphones and tablets now account for nearly 60% of the time online spent by people age 18 to 24.  On the other hand, smartphones account for a relatively small 25% of time spent online by Americans age 50 or older.

This age divide is also clearly evident in comScore’s estimated breakdown of platform adoption:

All American Adults

  • PC only:  ~30%
  • “Screen jumpers” (PC + mobile):  ~63%
  • Mobile platforms only:  ~7%

Young Adults (age 18-24)

  • PC only:  ~22%
  • Screen jumpers:  ~65%
  • Mobile only:  ~13%

Older Adults (age 50+)

  • PC only:  ~48%
  • Screen jumpers:  ~51%
  • Mobile only:  ~1%

The comScore analysis also provides some interesting stats pertaining to online share of minutes by the type of content being accessed.

Most online time spent on PCs:

  • Business/Finance (~68%)
  • TV (~68%)
  • News/Information (~62%)
  • Sports (~62%)
  • Retail (~49%)
  • Health (~54%)

Most online time spent on smartphones:

  • Radio (~77%)
  • Social Media (~58%)
  • Weather (~55%)
  • Games (~48%)

Tablets don’t lead in any single category, but score particularly well in these two:

  • Games (~34% of time online is spent on tablets)
  • TV (~20% of time online is spent on tablets)

More details and insights from the comScore report can be found here.

Tablet Computer Adoption: Fast and Furious

Tablets are growing faster than smartphone adoptionThe tablet computer hasn’t been around long at all.  But it’s making a huge splash in the digital arena … and giving not only laptops but also smartphones a run for their money in the bargain.

Consider these data points as reported on recently by Mark Donovan, a senior vice president at comScore, a leading Internet cyber-analytics firm:

  • Tablet adoption is happening significantly faster than what was experienced with smartphones.
  • The majority of iPad users don’t own an iPhone or some other type of smartphone.
  • Tablet “early adopters” are equally male and female – a departure from the norm which typically finds early adopters of new digital technology being primarily young men.
  • There is very high usage of tablets for shopping, watching video, and other media consumption. That’s also a departure from what was experienced with smartphones, where it took much longer for consumers to become comfortable shopping from their smartphone devices.
  • People use tablets and smartphones differently – and at different times. For example, smartphone usage peaks during the day whereas tablets are used more in the evening.

That tablets are making big gains on laptop computers is no surprise at all, considering their lighter weight, nearly effortless portability, brighter screens, and the ease of using them in environments not conducive to a keyboard-and-mouse (like in bed).

But of the trends noted above, I think the most intriguing one pertains to tablet computer usage versus smartphones – specifically, how tablets are becoming an alternative to smartphones rather than an adjunct.

Indeed, it seems as if some people aren’t making the transition from feature phones to smartphones that everyone expected; they’re opting for tablets instead. We may see the adoption rates for smartphonesbegin to flatten out as a result.

Indeed, Adobe Systems reported in May 2012 that tablet traffic is growing at a rate ten times faster than smartphone traffic.

But if you really think about it, maybe these latest developments aren’t so surprising: Many folks have long complained about the “miniaturization” of display screens that are a necessary evil of mobile phones. Now that the tablet has come along, there’s finally an effective solution to that dilemma – and the market has responded accordingly, blowing away even the most optimistic sales forecasts for tablets.