The trend highlighted by the headline for this post may be fairly obvious to many, but I still think it’s worth discussing. The personal computer (PC) has been the dominant tool for accessing all that broadband connectivity has to offer, basically since broadband was introduced in the 1990’s. But as I read about news from PC maker Lenovo today, I was reminded that the PC run as that dominant force is over.
Lenovo is a Chinese company best known for buying IBM’s personal computer business many years ago. Lenovo competes with Dell and HP among others. They’ve since expanded their product portfolio, and for the first time, sales of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, outpaced PC sales at Lenovo last quarter. This is a trend, referred to as the post-PC era, we’ve all been aware of for some time – tablets, smartphones, and other devices are now the primary means by which consumers use broadband.
This has obvious implications for broadband carriers. It means Wi-Fi takes on more importance, given the mobile nature of these devices. It means carriers need to pay increasing attention to the digital home, where much of the activity with these “mobile” devices takes place (check out our Digital Home Summit for deeper coverage on this important issue).
For smaller tier 3 carriers, this shift takes on more importance. Rural markets lag urban markets with broadband penetration, meaning there is more room for growth in rural markets. One issue I’ve heard voiced over the years regarding this lag is the disinterest by older demographics in rural markets for broadband, particularly broadband tied to the PC. Many households simply don’t own a PC.
But in a post-PC era, where tablets, connectedTVs, smartphones, and streaming video players (Roku) can bring broadband to life in different and more appealing ways to some, PC’s importance for broadband penetration is diminished. Marketing broadband to those hold outs should be more about highlighting the experience broadband can deliver without a PC. Mobility, broader entertainment options, the exciting world of apps, video chat, and more, are the types of experiences that broadband delivers, PC or not.
Lenovo’s recent revelation confirms that consumers are already down this path. Recognizing and executing against this trend could help close the broadband penetration gap.
One thought on “Broadband in the Home is No Longer Tied to the PC”
A lot of cross and under currents here which are not being assessed, or are ignored, in this article.
1) carriers did not drive offload, it was foisted on them by Jobs (wifi offload is really 2 forms of equal access made vertically complete by the market).
2) historically carriers do not do a good job crossing artificial networks boundaries, liked fixed and wireless, like indoors/outdoors, like residential/commercial.
3) carriers think vertically, not horizontally and the consumer experience suffers as a result.
All of these things have to change. With hetnets, sdn/openflow, application ecosystems, all of this is very apparent, but we don't see the service provider business model changing to reflect a highly mobile society demanding HD services. Let's keep in mind that while video today is primarily 1-way (downstream), people also want to communicate and that will mostly be via video within a decade.
The networks aren't even remotely close to handling that future (synchronous, pervasive, high-bandwidth) reality, but there is a huge physical arbitrage with real-world physical and temporal costs to be had. Probably much bigger than the content/advertising/subscription market everyone is focused on because of the inherent limitations of webs 1.0-3.0. Web 4.0 will be high-def/bandwidth and 2-way.
So it's nice to suggest the carriers should take advantage of these trends, but it is another for them to be in a position to drive and control them.