Technalysis Research
Previous USAToday Columns

October 5, 2015
Microsoft's next smartphone may extend Windows 10 features, like iris scans

September 24, 2015
Is the auto industry ripe for disruption?

September 10, 2015
The next version of Apple? It’s all about services

September 1, 2015
A fresh look at PCs

August 10, 2015
The future of cars is smart, not autonomous

July 23, 2015
The Personal Value of IOT is All About Connections

July 3, 2015
Over your PC monitor? These changes will surprise you

June 18, 2015
Passwords must die

June 4, 2015
The best new tech is invisible

May 13, 2015
The Battle for the Living Room

April 30, 2015
The new platform wars

April 15, 2015
Is Apple now a Gen 2 product company?

April 2, 2015
Smartwatches: The New Smartphones Jr?

March 19, 2015
Microsoft Windows: Not dead yet

March 5, 2015
MWC 2015: It was all about connected wearables

February 11, 2015
High tech and the laggard effect

anuary 29, 2015
Microsoft Hololens and the evolution of computing

January 15, 2015
Commentary: Tech device diversity set to explode with IoT

2014 USAToday Columns

USAToday Column

October 15, 2015
Is it time to upgrade your PC?

By Bob O'Donnell

FOSTER CITY, Calif. — Technically, it’s called an apologia. Not an apology—which implies remorse for doing something wrong—but rather a story or logical argument that explains why a person chose a particular course of action.

In today’s tech world, it often feels that talking about, writing about, using or buying new PCs are in need of that type of justification. After all, aren’t mobile phones and tablets and wearables and smart homes and connected cars really where all the action is happening?

Well sure, but that doesn’t preclude the need for PCs. In fact, arguably, the rise of all these other types of devices actually increases the need for a central point of control, a home base of connectivity and storage, and a big screen to see and make sense of it all. Yep, a PC.

Despite the need, the perceived value of a PC has been getting lost in the digital noise of all these new devices, leading to a prolonged slowdown in the PC market, both here and abroad.

The problem isn’t that we don’t have PCs. PC penetration in the US is actually in the 75% to 80% range (even above smartphones, which are at 64% penetration according to the latest Pew Research study — though not above mobile phones overall — which are at 90%). Plus, those PC penetration numbers been relatively consistent for a while. The issue is, lots of people have really old PCs. In fact, there are approximately 500 million 4- to 5-year-old PCs in regular use, according to various industry estimates.

In recognition of this challenge, an unprecedented collaboration of major players in the PC business — Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo — all got together to a launch a new effort to educate consumers about what today’s PCs can do.

The campaign is called “PC Does Whaaat?!” and it will launch with a series of TV ads, social media interactions and more across the U.S. and China (which together make up over 50% of the worldwide PC market) over the next week. According to the group, the goal of the integrated marketing effort is to raise awareness about how much more you can do with a new PC than you can’t do with that old clunker you’re probably still working with.

The key messages that they’re focusing on include new PC form factors, such as 2-in-1s, up to 30x better graphics for gaming, much longer battery life for notebooks (up to 18 hours in some cases) and much thinner, sleeker notebook designs.

All of these are good, solid reasons for consumers to take a fresh look at PCs, but in my mind there are many more.  Windows 10, for example, finally removes the ugly Windows 8 shadow that’s hung over the PC business for years.

Biometric authentication — that is, allowing you to log into your PC with its integrated 3-D or infrared camera, or via a fingerprint — through Windows Hello, for example, seems like a minor convenience now, but when you can start to use it to securely log into your online banking or shopping sites, it will quickly become a must have.

Plus, there’s the whole question of boot time. We’re now accustomed to our devices being available almost instantly, but that’s just not the case for older PCs. They often take a minute or more to get to a usable state. New PCs, on the other hand, are down to seconds, low enough that it’s no longer a barrier to usage.

Then there are the practical issues. Where are you going to keep your collection of family photos or your personal finances? Sure, there are cloud-based services, but don’t you want to have immediate local access to that? Plus, I don’t care how big your new phone or tablet’s screens are, they can’t even come close to the visual experience you get on today’s PCs.

The truth is, some of the same reasons that drove people to buy PCs in the first place are still equally valid today. It’s just that now there are enough enhancements and refinements to make the overall experience significantly more satisfying.

If you are among the half-billion still using an old machine, you really do owe it to yourself to check out today’s new PCs. You might just be surprised at how incredibly useful your old tech friend can be.

Follow USA TODAY tech columnist Bob O'Donnell on Twitter: @bobodtech

Here's a link to the original column: