Apr 222011

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.


Microsoft Girds For Demise of PC

  30 Responses to “The Future of the PC Repair Business”

  1. […] The Future of the PC Repair Business, your author speculates on what technicians should expect in the coming years. Virus removal is an […]

  2. The technology industry changes constantly, every six months or so a new, more powerful cpu and gpu hits the news. With more and more people beginning to use tablets and their phones for uses the computer used to only provide we will definitely see a shift in the way we use technology. Tablets will more than likely replace laptops and netbooks all together, while desktops will still hang in there for a while longer due to performance over tablets but with phones advancing as well, it won’t be long after that, that tablet phones become the way of the future, we can already see phone processing power gaining on tablets in the Samsung Exynos processor for phones, which can run, slightly better than, nintendo 64 graphic games in 1080p. So there will definitely be a shift in how technology is used and technicians will have to find a way to survive, those who take the changes head on will dive into the new technology and figure out how they can repair/modify it to make some money while others may change their career choices.

    Jobs have been taken over by machines and technology for over a decade, an example being robots that help put cars together. it was only a matter of time before the trend caught up with those who work on that technology and begin taking over their jobs as well.

  3. The amount that my customers have been willing to pay continues to decline each year with the cheapening of PC repairs across the board and cheaper parts. The future of the computer repair business is unknown.

  4. Anyone doubting this is seriously in denial. I’ve been the business for over 7-years, and have noticed the constant decline. On the other hand, there is a bright-side. In my opinion, we’re going to play the role of “middle-man” re-selling subscription based services such as remote backups and the like.

    The lower-skilled guys will be fazed out in no time. Which is fine by me. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of wannabe technicians running around nowadays. No Certs, no insurance, operating out of their garage or spare-bedroom for Christ’s sake.

    Bottom Line: Bone-up on Windows Domain Environment, Active Directory, GPO, Cisco, and VPNs…or you WILL be out of a job in 5 years or less. Mark my words.

    -Matt Fales

  5. I mostly agree with Matt; however, I doubt “boning-up” on a few commonly used enterprise techs is going to be sufficient to keep diplaced IT working in the field. Even the good ones. I have years in the field, and have worked with the techs you mentioned, and many more. Heck, I’ve done Windows, Netware, Unix, AS-400, and I’m Red Hat certified to boot.

    We’re experiencing a paradigm shift in technology now. In spite of being substantially better, and I say that with confidence, than most of my competitors, I recognize it’s time to be looking for another field. The “technician” role, regardless of whether you’re a systems engineer or a desktop tech, is probably on it’s way out. Oh, there will be a few, but not in numbers sufficient to support the ones who want in.

    You mentioned the wannabes being displaced. Unfortunately, the ubiquity of tech will probably keep that from helping the good techs simply because your average Joe doesn’t understand any of it well enough to make an accurate judgement about who is good and who isn’t.

  6. Good questions and some interesting responses. We see users becoming more reliant on tech and less able to figure it out and repair it themselves. The same happened in the car industry as manufacturers sought to make purchasers of their products dependant on their aftercare and garage services. So it is with the Computer industry, get users hooked on your product, then get them to commit a few dollars every month on your support products and before long they are paying you month on month just for the privilege of using your kit. If cloud computing takes off big time then expect to see the return of dumb terminals with little or no processing power and a net connection serving all software and files. Chromebook is just the start.

  7. I really don’t believe it’s out! Maybe your prices are too high for your services? Who would want CLOUD to have all your info? THEIR SERVERS COULD CRASH, CATCH A VIRUS, ETC. I really don’t see it, really cell, tablets who wants to carry a small cell, looking at site where its small, or facebook and such (and your cell gets hot). I would rather be on a laptop where I can put on a flashdrive, dvd, etc because i know the cell or not that safe for hackers or PC but I love using the keyboards etc. I really don’t see it happening, I see cheaper laptop, but MICROSOFT will always want to make money, as long as BILL GATES IS AROUND, he will come up with something for windows, I believe he is working on it! We shall see.

  8. Good points. It’s a scary thing, for PC techs, but it’s an inevitable reality. It’s ok, things will change, and we’ll just have to evolve with technology. Like you said, other markets will open up. The more open we are to learning newer technologies, the better equipped we’ll be to start offering other services.

    However, to kind of play the other side of the argument for a second, the Ultrabook could be massively popular, and will still get viruses (among other things). Windows isn’t going to just.. fall off. Things will just change. Because of that, there still may certainly be a strong computer repair demand.

  9. This is why we have to become great at what we do, or move up in the ranks beyond the level of technician. The average tech / programmer / labor worker will make less money while decision makers and leaders will become more valuable to companies, and have the opportunity to work for themselves.

  10. See yesterday’s NY Times article on tech professionals not getting hired because of changes in the industry.

  11. THE COMPUTER BUSINESS IS NOT A SAFE ONE TO DO… margins are declining, open prices are available on the net, distributors are retailing through the net, all the technical solution are available on you tube, and other website no privacy in business.

  12. Computer shops are in for a difficult year. The cost of replacing a laptop with a newer, better version is close to the cost of fixing. Technicians are all migrating to MSP, but it’s getting to be a crowded space.

  13. We’ve been in business for about 7 years… We service about 60% business and 40% residential. Business had been great up until this year. Business has ground to a halt over the last few months… We are completely dead. Another month or so of this and my only alternative may be bankruptcy.

  14. Ral,

    It’s a tough story to hear, and I am sorry. I work with a lot of contractors, and speak with computer shop owners in our area, so I know what it’s like. It’s visible in the closure of shops all over the place.

  15. Thanks Guys for all these comments. I have been thinking about fixing computer long ago, and today in 2012 where technology is going fast I will learn how to fix computers in a couple months, and have my repair shop ready, and regarding the all bad luck other repair shops are facing there’s still repair shops that makes a very hug profit, so I will just prepare my self to be one of them, nothing will stop me from the success, even I’m 27 yrs old and its too late to learn how to fix the computer. But if you have got the will, then you can do it, computers need a minimum of 10 years to start disappearing. Now the thing would be that you offer excellent service for a good price, and you will succeed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Those are my thoughts and my plan. I have been in the USA, and middle east, now in middle east and later in USA again ๐Ÿ™‚ peace.

  16. There are some very good points here. One other service item not mentioned is wireless networking. At one time that was big business for techs in both sales and service. Now the ISP’s are providing the equipment, installation and troubleshooting. Does anyone know how many techs were laid off at geek squad?

  17. Hi Guys I have a solution for you who offer PC repair services. Most of the times when you repair/setup any office/firm PC they tell you that you will be paid after a week or so…
    What if they do not pay you?
    What if they pay late?
    We pay utility bills after due date with extra surcharges. But we are earning money very hard and late.
    You could not go to their property and take their PC in custody or something else… otherwise you will face law against you.

    So for this type of problem I have a solution for you guys. I have a small and tiny application that actually setup a timer in their PC. So when you are dealing in your business just use this small file and it will setup a timer in their machine (before double clicking the timer file you need to enter date in a separate notepad file residing along this timer file).

    Nothing hard to do. you enter future date of crash and you close notepad file. You double click the time file it does nothing it simple flashes on the screen for 2 seconds and that’s it.
    It is not virus / not trojan it is simple PC timer that will shutdown their PC on the specified date and they have to call you back in order to get it work again.

    Now here is your turn. You can either request for last service money or you could also ask along this new service money. Atleast you will get the old service money.

    Any confusions…. any details… I am here to help you guys.

    Thank you and save your work money.

  18. Well how may tech are laid of in Geek Squad?

    There are many – you can say thousands doing this service.

  19. Hannan: Although it may seem just to install such a program, I don’t think this would be good for your reputation, and there certainly would be legal concerns.

  20. Interesting conversation. I say donโ€™t do it! I spent a decade running my own mobile repair\computer consulting business here in the northwest. I started in 2000 at the peak of troubles galore. Windows XP problems, viruses everywhere, some of the most unfriendly printers and scanners, what a pain in the ass, nobody could install a scanner back in the day. If you add the fact that computers had taken over so fast and nobody had a clue how to fix any part of it, it was a good time to work for yourself as a tech. It took me two years to build a great customer base, I rode the ride for six great years and then in 2008 things went to shit. The mortgage collapse wiped out half of the small businesses that I serviced and another interesting thing happened along the way, the software and hardware developers got their shit together and made things easier to use, they had too or nobody was going to buy it anymore, and then something else miraculous happened, people got smart about computers. Iโ€™ll end with this: When I started the business the average job ran a couple hundred bucks and people were happy to pay, when I finished the business in 2010 those same people were calling me after they had done all the work themselves and they just needed my free phone help. When I tried to charge them they would say “why should I pay you when I can just call my internet provider and they will help me for free? I thought I was just doing you a favor (click).” I say tell that to my advertisers, insurance, phones, bills, vanexpenses, I still owed over $5000 to my debtors when I went out of business. Computer repair no longer pays.

  21. Not sure about “Cloud Make Data Recovery Obsolete”. No one around here backs up the pc. I talk to them till I’m blue in the face. Even with a FREE trial, they will not install or allow me to install. Then months later they are back….. “need my data recovered”, we’ll now lets take look here. Like it’s a simple push a button copy and paste all the time.

  22. Don, “the cloud” will be part of a computing product that the user is unaware of – he won’t need to purchase & install separate software. It will be baked into the product he walks out of the store with.

  23. I used to be heavily involved in the IT service business – PC repair will always be a requirement, in particular data recovery as more and more data is carried about on small removable Flash drives which get wiped easily and the cloud never has a chance to back them up as they are not paired with the hardware. My own PC still has the same components in it as it used to and the cost of ownership is not really falling – some components are cheaper but the main items cost about the same.What is happening is that people are moving towards using tablets rather than PCs – any repair service who is not repairing these are not taking advantage of the market changes that are always a strong undercurrent in IT. People thought that laptops would remove the need for PC’s but they never did – they just added them to their mounting pile of hardware and bought more….

  24. Saying tablets and cell phones are going to replace the PC is like saying laptops are going to replace the PC. The PC isn’t going anywhere simply because people don’t care for squinting their eyes each time they want to use the computer to see the monitor. Nothing is going to replace sitting down at your desk and looking at a large monitor unless it has that same type of setting. Unless Microsoft really breaks more into the cell phone market people aren’t going to be able to use the same programs on their cellphone as they can on a Microsoft OS so I don’t see that happening either.

    The only thing that will happen is there will be more options in addition to the PC. Just as the laptop and PC have lived happily together for a long time, so will Smartphones and Tablets live side by side with PC’s and laptops.

  25. PC repair technicians will be in as much demand as a toaster repair man. Better jump, that ship is halfway sunk already.

  26. Laptop are going to replace the PC. We can’t easily handle PC, but laptop is easy to handle. You can come with anywhere with laptop.

  27. Fantastic article! The PC repair business is a great experience for people of all skill levels in the IT field, which is good to remember. Here’s a link to further help those interested in this:

    Complete Guide to Repairing Computers on the Side

  28. Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar
    one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks?
    If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can recommend?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

  29. Surprisingly, most of the comments posted are valid. to insure the site stays spam free all comments must be approved before they are allowed on site.

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