Computer repair business owners are seeking to find new business models as computers become more replaceable then ever before. On a popular PC business forum, a long, ten-page thread titled “The End of Windows PC is Near” has a lot of technicians discussing concerns about the business. The discussion is rather bipolar and sometimes characterized by denial, with one side claiming that there will always be plenty of business and the tech simply needs to adapt and evolve, while the other side warns that the end of PC repair industry as we know it is imminent. And, it seems, those who predict the demise of the PC repair industry have the stronger argument. The question is not whether the PC repair industry is coming to an end as we know it, but rather how quickly and to what extent.
The Declining Cost of Computers
An increasingly-common customer objection is discussed: “I might as well buy a new PC [rather than get mine repaired]“. Some techs say the answer is to switch to the SMB market, focusing on higher-value services. For your business, this could mean focusing on small business consulting and specialized computer services outside of break/fix, like servers and company networks. Of course, there are already businesses covering this market, and as more former traditional PC repair techs seek to migrate to these higher-value technology services, competition increases; the SMB market will not grow as fast as the PC repair market will shrink, leaving a shortage of work to support technicians.
Will the Cloud Make Data Recovery Obsolete?
Although many people are still not backing up their data online, we have seen a trend where this task has been getting easier and cheaper at a rapid rate. The future of computing holds integrated automatic online backup solutions built-in to the application, or even operating system – or perhaps at a layer entirely outside of the O.S. (this would allow the user to easily and reliably restore the entire system to a previous date without any boot disks or obscure menus). Soon, the default will be to have one’s data stored online, and it will become an opt-out procedure for the few who don’t want this. The tech-savvy few, who place a high value on privacy, will have their own simple, redundant private backup systems.
Will Cell Phones (and/or Tablets) Replace Computers?
We can already see that some consumers who are very comfortable with their phones are settling with using them exclusively. Others will be happy to settle for occasional tablet use, and some will require a docking station to be comfortable. At the very least, these people will not be willing to spend as much to repair their computer since they have a good alternative. Gamers will hold onto their PCs for a long time to come (unless the console industry sees a breakthrough) – but the number of gamers that are not already fairly tech-savvy and capable of even building their own PC or replacing components – are not going to do much to sustain the PC repair industry.
The technician wants to believe that the PC will never be completely replaced, since other devices are not convenient for power-hungry applications or comfortable typing. While that’s currently true, consider how the supercomputer of the recent past fits in today’s PC – is it not such a leap to imagine that the power of today’s PC fits into the phone of tomorrow (5-8 years from now)? It’s easy to picture a future where our phones seamlessly integrate with monitors and keyboards, replacing the PC or laptop as we know it, except for power users. Imagine sitting down at a keyboard and monitor, which senses your phone’s presence wirelessly. You enter a password, and suddenly you’re connected to the operating system on your phone. (The Linux kernel is already on Droids.) The common computer user really only demands access to the Internet and its applications.
Even so, we won’t experience a “complete elimination of the PC” in the next 5 years – but we can be certain of a significant decline in the PC’s value, and the willingness of consumers to repair them.
The Good News for Techs
The good news is that, although it is easy to predict the end of the PC repair market, it is difficult to predict what markets will be created by the future of technology. That is, we won’t know what complicated technical mess the former “PC owner” will be finding himself in 10 years from now. Although technology will continue to simplify the current processes that we’ve become accustomed to, it will also allow for newer applications and complex integration among various devices, and this may be something a technician of a new era can solve for the technically-challenged.