One of the interesting elements of the forecasting job is the fact that not all of our forecasts trend upwards — and people often forget that the dynamics of decline are just as important to a company’s bottom line. In recent years, for example, the attractions of notebook/laptop PCs — such as lower prices — have been eating away at desktop PC sales. In our recently published Forrester Research Online Population Forecast 3/10 (US),we estimate that household penetration for the desktop PC dropped from 73.9% in 2008 to 73.6% in 2009 and will fall further to 69.7% by 2014.

 The phenomenon has happened to devices like audio cassettes, video cassettes, and POTS (plain old telephone service) lines. Technology keeps moving forward and new technology replaces the old.  But with the desktop PC, there are two interesting trends at play:

  1. It’s evidence for the steady transformation of devices from household objects to personal ones.
  2. This personal orientation results in a proliferation of devices targeted at narrower consumer segments, which reduces peak penetration rates (I’ve written about this previously).

When Sony launched the original Walkman, it included two headphone jacks on the assumption that nobody would listen to music alone. But 30 years later, this has completely changed: Mass-market home hi-fi components have virtually disappeared as a product category because it’s now harder to imagine people sitting together at home to listen to music than it was to imagine individual listening at the dawn of the Walkman. 

 But, contrary to expectations, this proliferation of personal devices, individually oriented and more customized for each user, has deepened the overall engagement between consumers and their entertainment. Media consumption continues to increase across channels, while consumers engage further with their media and one another online.  Have you noticed these changes in your devices and your engagement with the media you consume on them?