Mobile devices are slowly replacing the importance of a PC for Japanese consumers. While businesses may want the latest personal computer, average households are looking to devices like mobile phones and game consoles for entertainment and connectivity. PC shipments in Japan have fallen for five straight quarters, the first ever drawn-out decline in PC sales in a key market. In the second quarter of this year, desktop sales fell 4.8% and laptops 3.1%.
“The household PC market is losing momentum to other electronics like flat-panel TVs and mobile phones,” said Masahiro Katayama, research group head at market survey firm IDC.
“Consumers aren’t impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That’s not as exciting as a bigger TV,” Katayama said. “And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn’t bright.”
The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs did a survey in 2006 and found that over 50% of the population send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones. The same survey found that 30% of people with e-mail on their phones used PC e-mail less, including 4% who said they had stopped sending e-mails from PCs altogether.
“We think of Japanese as workaholics, but many don’t take work home,” said Damian Thong, a technology analyst at Macquarie Bank in Japan. “Once they leave the office, they’re often content with tapping e-mails or downloading music on their phones,” he said.
The mobile phone isn’t going to replace the PC this year but the future looks bright for mobile devices. If I read the Japanese trend correctly, new PC purchases are being put off in Japan for the trendier mobile phones that can play games and music while keeping the user connected with friends and family. The PC won’t be replaced but it isn’t as important to Japanese consumers as it was in the past. If the PC market doesn’t find an important item to provide that mobile devices can’t, the PC may become one of those things that, “It would be nice to buy a new one, but the old one works just fine for now.”