Scary statistics show desktop dropping fast

I was 16 when a long time ago, I walked into an electronic store where the guy tried his best to persuade me not to look into transistors, because vacuum tubes where much more interesting, transistors being “toys”. A couple years later transistors were everywhere and not long after the shop closed down.

A few decades later, Apple II and IBM-PC were the platforms for corporate and small businesses microcomputing. Mac was largely considered a toy for yuppies, not worthy of any more than a nice decoration on an executive desk. Then Apple discarded the Apple II and Apple III, and a lot of third party suppliers of software and peripheral went south with it.

Then Windows arrived, that was largely despised by tenants of DOS programs like Lotus 1-2-3 as not anything but a cute imitation of the Mac, not worth much more attention from ‘serious’ people. It was slow, it had no applications, it was too demanding in hardware resources, and so on. We all know what happened to Lotus when Excell came about, and what came for PC-Dos.

When the iPhone and the iPad came, a lot of distinguished luminaries explained at length how these toys would never be anything but cute gadgets, not worth any consideration for business use. Still today, quite a few developers look down on iOS and Android as just a platform for small apps and games. Gimme Windows, gimme Mac, they are serious computers. Tablets ? Pfuhh !

Just like transistors versus tubes, miniaturization does sell, in spite of ‘authorized’ commentator’s opinion. I just read this article :

In it, it appears 48 per cent of all devices, tablets, desktop, laptop and smart phones are running Android. PC sales should average 308 million units, while tablets will represent 256 million. Next year, 321 million tablets, compared to 317 million PCs. Tablets continue to grow. In the tablet market, about 30% are iOS. In the PC market, Mac is less than 7%. Effectively, the trend is diluting both Windows and Mac in half of the total computing devices, so Mac is sliding down to some 3.5% and Windows under 40% (was more than 90% last decade).

How will desktop app developers cope with these new figures ? Do like the vacuum tube shopkeeper of the sixties, or move ahead into the new systems ?

Yet another source of concern for desktop developers. You must have seen the like of combo laptops as the Asus Transformer Book above. Intrinsically a tablet with a keyboard. All sorts of hybrids like this exist, from tabletish laptops, to laptopish tablets. From the Microsoft Surface to 15" tablets that come with a big keyboard and a drive. How long will it take for these devices, all touch capable like most of laptop and an increasing number of all-in-one desktop, to switch to an OS conceived for touch ? How long until the successor of the MacBook Air becomes that kind of thing, running iOS ? How long for transformers to massively run Android, instead of Windows-the-unable-to-chose, neither good at desktop nor touch like demonstrated so dismally by Windows 8 ?

My son, who is no young chick at 39+, is using his iPhone for most everything, switches to his Surface sometimes when he needs a bigger screen or a keyboard to type a long letter, and once in a great while, boots up his Vaio to use iTunes. I suspect he would dump it if he could run iTunes on the tablet. If that is any indication of consumer behavior, we may be in the process of the most massive OS animal extinction since the disappearance of Apple II, PC-Dos and Dos 6… What are we to do when our ecological niche is so much at risk ?

iOS Xojo may seem futile to some. I believe that is the only salvation both Xojo Inc. and us users can count on to survive the coming debacle. And for Android, B4A, pending an hypothetical Xojo product…

I really feel for people in the retail software market. It’s just going to hell. I think I’ve spent less than $100 on software in the last 5 years (not counting Xojo). I’ve spent maybe $5 on software for my phone and tablets. How many people really buy apps? I know I don’t. On the other hand, it’s still very hard to use a phone/tablet for data entry and business critical functions. My customers rely on desktop apps. A tablet would seriously hamper their productivity. I think that will eventually change, and I’m constantly looking to the future, but we’re not there yet. I’m just glad I’m not in the retail market.

Note: Windows tablets using x86 chips are the bomb! We’re able to innovate into niche applications and drive productivity using the Xojo we already have.

Hence the transformers…

Those are basically laptops. Once you detach the tablet, it’s utility plummets. :wink:

I completely agree with your analysis of the retail software situation. I just still live in a world where a mouse is a productivity killer, let alone a touch screen.

AMEN to that, Tim! My largest customers (making up more than 80% of my business) tried at one point or another to use various business apps on their mobile devices (iPhones and iPads) for their salesmen in one-on-one customer visits and for some internal applications. But all came to the conclusion that what needed to be done was better accomplished using the desktop environment. Quoting the CEO of my largest customer, “At the end of the day, the best thing I could say about deploying the apps we did is that it made us look ‘cool’ … I don’t think it brought us a lick of additional business.” Let’s face it … smaller screens are, well, smaller. Tough to clearly convey a complex product or intricate marketing message’s value proposition effectively. My customers hate virtual keyboards or real keyboards so tiny that my 5-week old grandson’s pinkie finger overlaps two or more keys at a time. Although the functionality of the mobile device app will often technically suffice the need, the “visual” just ain’t there!

Will that change? Probably … technology creates the things of tomorrow that we don’t even dream of today. Will it happen anytime in the immediate or even near future? Doubtful, in my opinion.

Mobile apps remind me a lot of “automation”. Everyone climbed on the automation bandwagon years ago only to find out in most cases that “they embraced automation for the sake of saying that they had automation” … not that it really improved anything … and in some cases even made things worse. It took quite some time for businesses to learn “what” was a “real” candidate to automate. I think that “learning curve” is underway right now with businesses and mobile device apps … but like automation, it’s gonna be a while before they figure out “where is the true fit?”

[quote=133550:@Tim Hare]Those are basically laptops. Once you detach the tablet, it’s utility plummets. :wink:

I completely agree with your analysis of the retail software situation. I just still live in a world where a mouse is a productivity killer, let alone a touch screen.[/quote]

I never said my favorite interface was a tablet. I am born with the Apple II and still remember the shortcuts from then :wink:

Nevertheless, when half the devices are touch, it becomes frighteningly apparent something is happening.

Hi Michel
You have a great view in the market is being moved for phones and tablets

but is that way there is also a great competition for low money pay for you app

is hard work for less money.

but your point is correct.

the best choice keep you customer with mix app Desktop and mobile app

20 years ago I was the only one that used a personal computer at home for non-business use in my circle of friends and family. Some people had one, but really did nothing with it and certainly did not purchase software. Now, 20 years later, everyone in my circle has some sort of personal computing device (iphone, ipad, laptop, android, etc). Some are purchasing apps for their devices but I would estimate that 99% of my family and friends use their device for personal amusement, email and reading the news.

20 years ago, everyone in my business was provided a PC. Everyone used them, mainly for line of business software. Now, 20 years later, everyone in my business still has a PC and some have multiple PC’s and Macs. My business spends more each year on software and we have kept our head count low by using technology.

My personal opinion is that business use of PCs and Macs will grow (total number of units) and personal use of PCs and Macs will shrink or stay flat. The total number of “computing devices” will continue to increase. The majority of the population who bought laptops and home computers from 1995 to now did not use them for anything other than internet and email. Those people are buying iphone, ipads and android devices and really have no use for a PC. I think Microsoft may be on to something with the Surface but because it is from Microsoft, it is not cool, so I’m not sure it will ever take off. I just bought my daughter a Surface 2 RT for $350. The reason I did is because she wanted Microsoft Word for typing papers for school. This device is very high quality (much better than a crappy laptop or netbook) but is also one of the cheapest ways to get a PC that will run Microsoft word. She is now using it for Instagram and web browsing instead of her iphone since the screen is much larger.

Small and large businesses are still doing many things like they did in the 80’s and 90’s. I see it everyday. There are lots of opportunities for developers. Many businesses do not realize how technology can increase their efficiency and allow them to enter new markets as well as compete in existing markets. I think there are lots of opportunities for developers who can deliver a product that solves a problem for a business.

I think the retail software market is as good as dead. I work as an ICT consultant/manager and when I encounter problems that can’t be solved without truckloads of architects, change managers, PID’s, developers and every other ‘necessary’ echelon that is nowadays standard in corporate environments I demo a solution with Xojo and most of the times I drive home with a fresh new order, charging €100,- an hour for an application that solve problems quick and fast.

I use Xojo to create applications or services solving interface problems, printing problems, database extraction problems and so on. Never ever will I try to sell apps via appstores or similar.

[quote=133583:@Alexander van der Linden]I think the retail software market is as good as dead. I work as an ICT consultant/manager and when I encounter problems that can’t be solved without truckloads of architects, change managers, PID’s, developers and every other ‘necessary’ echelon that is nowadays standard in corporate environments I demo a solution with Xojo and most of the times I drive home with a fresh new order, charging €100,- an hour for an application that solve problems quick and fast.

I use Xojo to create applications or services solving interface problems, printing problems, database extraction problems and so on. Never ever will I try to sell apps via appstores or similar.[/quote]

There has always been two kinds of commodities : ready-made and custom. What is true for clothes between ready to wear and tailored is true for software. You found a nice market providing custom solutions. Good for you. I did that too about ten years ago. Brings in good money, but like cattle, you got to take care of it 7 days a week, and support is intensive.

Standard applications, what was boxed software when I begun, today meat on virtual shelves such as the MAC, Windows Store or web site with online delivery, are great because of their self-service nature. Develop once, sell many. Fire and forget, to a large extent. Statistically, stable products produce an anecdotal number of support requests. At present, if I have one a week it is top, between all the venues, including MAS.

Some of the software I sell today is the spinoff from previous custom developments. And it may very well be the case for more developers here. After struggling to deliver a custom solution, I realized some aspects could be packaged, and voila. So the development effort is not always as massive as one would imagine.

I like the MAS, because once you got the app over there, you can do something else, and yet, the cash register rings. I would very much like to keep it that way in the iTunes and the Play Stores :wink:

I have one of these two in one laptop/tablet for two weeks (or three ?). I do not had time to try it in the tablet mode.

One important thing is both use Windows (8.1) AND th boot disk is in the Tablet part: I can use my applications without thinking at … anything.

Also, the screen (11.6") is a Full HD screen (1920 x 1080) at 120 dpi (screen shot in memory / clipboard, saved with Paint). Very nice images (compared to Windows XP).

Note: my buying conditions does not included a two in one, but price and features were good for me.

There will always be a need for desktops (and desktop apps). There are plenty examples to be found for apps that will not work (good) on tablets or mobile phones: DTP, Graphics editing, Movie/media editors/converters, Music DAWs, Web design, coding, …

They are two different markets but it is true that many small apps are now more convenient to use on tablets and/or mobile phones: games, small tools/utilities, …
it is just a booming businesses that will hit a ceiling soon.

Desktops will keep running for a very long time. Same for Tablets and Mobile Phones.

[quote=133610:@Christoph De Vocht]it is just a booming businesses that will hit a ceiling soon.

Desktops will keep running for a very long time. Same for Tablets and Mobile Phones.[/quote]

Sure, desktop OSes (read Mac and Windows including laptops) are not going away, and will most probably remain. But for specialized uses as those you described.

The concern is that regular users will no longer bother with anything desktop, or even laptop. Which means iOS or Android, no longer Mac OS X or Windows. Already, the market share of Windows and Mac OS X has been divided by two in the total number of devices. That is not a small dive, it is a frightening plunge.

I am not concerned for the coming year or so, but for what comes afterwards. If the trend verifies, desktop will be down to 25% in three or four years. Up to last year, iOS and Android came on top of the traditional desktop market. So in terms of number of units, desktop remained pretty stable. But this year, computers supporting Windows and Mac OS have started to slow down, so the number of units sold is winding down. Which means soon the software market for these OSes will diminish as well.

Better be prepared before…

I agree. Surely there will be a demand for desktops for quite some time, but they will be more and more demanded only by Pros – for most private customers, a tablet will be the preferred platform, or a combination of a tablet and a bigger screen visualization like an Apple TV.

And, besides all problems with the new iOS, it‘s really amazing how capable tablets are even now. I have installed a free iOS game using Metal on my iPad 3, and it gives incredibly good graphics without heating up the tablet like before – even after hours of running the battery was way above 50%. Very interesting stuff (and in now way meant to pour oil into the 64 bit discussion).

The real money is to be made in the desktop market, though. In the enterprise. It’s the rare app that will make appreciable money in the tablet/phone retail market. That ship has sailed.


Enterprise apps will still be required for the foreseeable future. The platform of the future remains to be determined, but it can be expected that the desktop will survive for quite a while in the enterprise. ERP applications tailored for specific verticals can still beat the Oracle and SAP of this world. Oracle , SAP and other major ERP’s are too large, maintenance intensive and too expensive for many companies in the SMB space, despite their best efforts to move down from the Fortune 1000 space. Specialized software is still in high demand. These are just a few examples among many opportunities that will make serious money. The key is to understand the needs in a specific market, vertical or specialty, and to design a product that provides real value in addressing the issues of the target market.

In short, the basics still apply to today’s evolving market.

I had last year my first customer asking specifically for an iPad version of one of my popular desktop apps. Since then, I have been looking for all solutions available. All current offering implies a considerable rewriting effort, and a rather steep learning curve to go from my existing Xojo code to Objective-C, C# (Xamarin) or JavaScript (Titanium). The learning curve seems somewhat less terrible with Pascal Delphi (Embarcadero). From “The Swift Programming language” ibook, seems possible to learn a lot easier than arid OC. But yet it remains alien. I have started a first app in LIveCode quasi natural language but still, it was a rather dull experience to have to constantly refer to the manual.

I had a much better experience with Basic4Android, where the IDE and the language are similar enough to Xojo to help port code with a minimum of pain.

Xojo iOS will be an extremely welcome and strategic mean of porting existing applications with a minimum of pain.

Indeed. Today desktop is still the bread and butter. But what about in a couple years ?

There is little doubt that tablets will become the inhabitant of every corporate suitcase, and users will demand the same apps they had on desktop. So we must be prepared to provide the same apps we have currently on desktop, to tablets.

In the corporate world, though, the destiny of iOS rests on Apple racket-like policies. Ad hoc with 100 installations cannot seriously address big companies, and the iOS Developer Enterprise Programs is definitely not for indies. On the other hand, Android lets a developer distribute his apk through email, and probably with minimum effort could even enable auto-update like some of use do on desktop.

In the mid term, it would seem desirable for Xojo to explore Android as a future platform, since it seems well on it’s way to become the Windows of the next decade, with an overwhelming presence on the immense majority of devices, just like the Microsoft product was installed on 90% of machines up until now.

I really think in teh enterprise having custom desktop, web and tablet/phone apps that talk to the same server can be a huge. In fact there I think tablet will be more important than phone. Also for the Enterprise for internal use use I could see something like an iPod Touch with Wifi and barcode reading being important (more portable than a tablet and cheaper but a phone)

  • Karen

To put that in perspective … if you assume an app is $1.99 from the online store, the average industrial/business desktop application I’ve made over the past 1-1/2 years has netted the same income as selling AT LEAST 5,000 copies of that $1.99 app. Usually, it’s more like 10,000 - 20,000 … with one such application resulting in much more than that. Each business I deal with always has “specialized” needs that require a custom application. Some can be re-purposed in part (especially when I’m actually smart enough to create everything I can in modular form). These businesses are ALWAYS looking for a marketing or sales tool that will “prove” their product’s value proposition superiority and establish a competitive advantage. Creating a sequence of such tools that can be integrated into a “dashboard” is highly popular with them. The opportunities in this area seem rather broad and somewhat endless. Having said that, one must have a decent knowledge of business/finance in general to create such tools (I spent 30 years in industry before starting my own company in 2003). It’s not for everybody … just happens to fit me for which I feel I’ve been blessed by our Lord far beyond what I deserve.

In no way am I saying that this is the only market to stake your claim. Heck, I wish that I could create that one “magic” app that sold a million copies at $1.99 … but like Tim said … I think that boat has left harbor (market saturation has set in). Besides the folks like my wife who buy apps for entertainment on a somewhat regular basis (and I’ve got to imagine there’s a boatload of folks out there like her), there’s also a need for mobile apps in industry as well … I have a large customer who makes industrial/commercial printers who does quite a bit with iOS for various reasons (think Hertz rental cars check out procedure, or warehouse inventory control, etc.). And if I was one of those really “artsy-crafty-creative” kinds, I might just try my hand at that “next Angry Birds” … but alas, you’re looking at a guy who has degrees in Engineering and Mathematics but can’t even draw a decent “stick man” figure, let alone a bird! To me, an “Angry Bird” is the middle finger on my hand (can’t even draw that well unless I rotoscope it). ^^

So, while I don’t argue in the least that the mix between mobile devices and desktops continues to slide in further favor of mobile, I can with significant experience say that 1 desktop app = MANY MANY MANY MAS apps in my world … but that’s just “my” world … which is one of a number of “worlds” out there in terms of fulfilling customers’ needs. Everybody has to pick their battles and live with the results.

@Don Lyttle : I think you are somewhat comparing apples and oranges when making a comparison between custom development, and toyish $1.99 iOS games.

And that is precisely I think where lies the semantic trap about the perceived nature of portable devices. Its is not because desktop computers are used by adolescents to kill virtual extraterrestrials that all desktop computers have to suffer similar humiliation. Neither is it the case for iOS and Android devices. Sure, we hear most about the Candy Crush and Angry Birds $1.99 cr@p, but tablets in particular are able computers just like desktop. Properly programmed, they can support the very same business and productivity applications.

Another issue here to me is the extremely diverse population using iOS and Android devices. Especially when it comes to phones. I see everyday riding the metro quasi-illiterate people playing some stupid game, while some brainless others saturate their ears with loud music. Such individuals will never use anything but the cheap and moronesque games and apps. Others will use the full computing power of small screen devices to consult their bank records, do personal accounting, read and write email, use custom web applications, in a way never possible in the past even with the smallest of notebook computers. Here again, it is not because a lot of people with an IQ of less than 70 use phones smarter than themselves that the whole category of device is doomed to apps for cretins.

In fact, I think tablets are the next frontier in business productivity, and they can support most custom software we are accustomed to see on desktop today. Plus their connectivity and portability makes them ideal for certain uses where a desktop app cannot go. A business representative able to access his mainframe from a tablet will have an edge on the road that require today laptops that are, if you tried them, always too heavy and bulky.

Smart phones have proven with banking, personal accounting and other stock management software, that they can be suited for productivity. Granted, their miniscule screen makes it a challenge for the developer, but at the same time, a tremendous opportunity for those who dare venturing into these possibilities.

Prices and profit, now. I have given up custom development, but following the Basic4Android forum, I say quite a few developers who seem to be great doing custom applications for corporate customers. Pretty much in line with what happens in Desktop. For myself, I always had a foot in consumer software, since the eighties and Dos programs, through Mac OS 7 and Dos, up to today’s Mac OS X and Windows. In the 80’s, an average program was in the $100 range. But I was happy when I sold 600 copies a year. Today, the very same kind of program sell for $14.99 on the MAS but I may sell several thousands. In terms of profit, it is pretty equivalent, since distribution and marketing cost is way down with electronic distribution.

I have checked productivity apps on iTunes. Contrary to the image of cheap toy games projected by iOS, productivity apps are in fact the same price as on the MAS. And I have no reason to doubt they sell at least in the same quantity. Actually, with 20 times more software titles sold than each Mac, the iOS market should be tremendously larger, even for non-games. I want in on that pie…