PCs Might Be Losing Ground in Japan, But Not Because Their Cellphones Are Amazing

keitai.jpgWith overall PC shipments in Japan dropping for five consecutive quarters, the AP has the numbers to back up its trend piece declaring the downfall of the PC in favour of a broader range of consumer electronics—phones, consoles, and the like. Anecdotally, this bears out—walking into a Starbucks (or any other loitering spot) in Japan, it was a rare occasion to see someone pounding away on a notebook.

But while most people (and this article) point to the state of cellphone awesomeness in Japan as a major factor, they're not wholly miraculous devices, and come nowhere near replacing a PC. Yeah, they have some functions that US phones don't, like RFID payments and the like, but nothing that completely leapfrogs our feeble American technologies.

Prime example: You know how browsing sucks on cellphones here—cramped screen, crummy navigation? It's not really any better there—more sites are mobile-optimized, yeah, but I still wouldn't say using internet on my cellphone was a good experience. The reason that mobile phones can function as day-to-day devices nearly replacing PCs is that, based on my experience, PCs occupy a different status with different usage patterns than in the US. Japan's just not PC-oriented like we are—hence pseudo mobile PCs (i.e., smartphones) aren't very popular, and open Wi-Fi networks are a rare, treasured find. In other words, it's not so much that PCs are being displaced in an epic struggle—they don't really hold that great cultural/technological import in the first place. So it's easy for mobile phones and other fairly limited replications of PC functions on the networking/entertainment front to push a real PC to the side.

Conclusion? The article's tweaker, that the trend "could be the picture of things to come in other countries," is bunk—for us, anyway. PCs (and Macs) are too central to the way we live and work to see that kind of displacement in the US (unless some revolutionary mobile and home entertainment developments happen), despite the media's fondness for pointing to Japan as leading the way to where we'll be in just a couple of years. What would it take for you to ditch your PC or leave it collecting dust in the corner? [Yahoo!/AP]