Every now and then a profound concept is developed that sometimes goes unnoticed. This past week may have witnessed one of them. PC Magazine's Cranky Geek John Dvorak announced the commoditization of the personal computer. Let me first defend commodities, before we think that his conclusion is too negative. Commodities are some of the most important items of civilization, what would we do without steel, wheat, concrete, polyethylene, gold and other vital commodities.
In Dvorak's article he discusses how PCs today have few differentiators, especially now that most are made in China. Without differentiators anything becomes a commodity. This trend has reduced advertising in magazines like PC and Computerworld hence, from a revenue perspective, forcing them to focus less on print media and more on digital media. Dvorak claims only Apple's innovation appears to keep interest in PCs high.
Dvorak thinks the future will be more tied to Smartphones, GPS, MEMS and other devices where opportunities for innovation are still strong.
I think we should not misinterpret John's article. The PC is profoundly important, just as steel is. Hundreds of millions of PCs per year will continue to be produced. There just isn't that much differentiation among PCs, hence its commoditization.
It is interesting that commoditization never happened to the automobile. There is still much difference between the 1995 Dodge Neon I retired last year and a Lamborghini!