The market is shifting away from desktop PCs to laptops or all-in-one devices because consumers are opting for portability. That trend may change due to the rapid growth of computer components and the Right to Repair movement.
In a recent survey conducted by WindowsReport on the Right to Repair, 74% of consumers spend less than $1000 on a new PC. The data clashes with the prices of components that continue to be on the rise. For instance, the prices of GPUs almost doubled from 2020 to 2023. And here’s the catch: 67% of the respondents would like to repair or upgrade their devices at home or through a local repair shop. The Right to Repair Act requires manufacturers to provide access to replacement parts, repair documentation, tools, and software, for up to seven years for devices worth more than $100.
The conclusion is straightforward. Instead of investing in a new PC, consumers want to breathe life into their older devices by fixing or upgrading them. Of course, that is a lot more simple to do on a desktop PC than on a laptop. If you only have 4GB of RAM, you can just replace the modules or add new ones, and that will provide a serious boost to your PC. At the same time, replacing your GPU with a new one is as simple as changing the module on your motherboard with a compatible graphics card.
However, laptops are a lot more compact, so exchanging your RAM or adding a discrete GPU can become impossible nowadays. Even replacing a depleted battery can be a daunting task without the proper tools or parts.
In a report by Statista, in 2010, desktop PC shipments reached 157 million units and that is expected to drop to 70 million by 2025. At the same time, tablet sales rose from 19 million units in 2010 to an expected 140 million in 2025.
However, the rising prices of computer components will also lead to a rise in the overall prices of the devices prompting a shift in consumer behavior. As a direct consequence, the PC shipments worldwide dropped from 82.73 million units in Q1 2021 to 55.15 million units in Q1 2023. That translates to a 40% reduction and this is a clear sign that the consumers either can’t support the rising prices or are looking for alternatives.
There are a few factors that influence the rising prices of computer components. First, the manufacturing complexity of the components demands higher costs. Also, there is a growing demand, especially for GPUs that are great for intense calculations and cryptocurrency operations.
However, probably the most important factor is the evolution of the workforce in developing countries. China is still the core manufacturer of a wide variety of products, especially computers and computer components but the rise of the middle class has triggered a steady growth in the demand for higher living conditions and wages. That also leads to higher manufacturing costs and higher prices for components to cover the growth margins from the manufacturer.
Therefore, the Right to Repair movement comes as a real alternative for consumers. And it brings a lot of benefits not only for our budgets but also for the environment and at the same time, it provides a boost for the circular economy.
California is the latest to pass the Right to Repair Act and it’s among four states to do that, with 40 more working on the legislation. The goals of the movement imply empowering consumers to repair or upgrade their PCs at home or in local repair shops, circumventing the repair centers licensed by the manufacturers.
In other words, you will have access to tools, components, schematics, and software to fix your PC as you see fit, without worrying about voiding the warranty of the device.
We expect that this shift will also lead to a growing number of repair shops that may also double as recycling centers.
On the other side, the manufacturers are not so happy about the Right to Repair movement because losing control over the repairs will cut into their revenues. Repairing your device instead of buying a new one translates into direct loss for them, especially if you’re doing that at home or in a repair shop that is out of their reach. However, there are good signs from that side as well. Major players like Apple and Microsoft have actively endorsed the Right to Repair Act, and that will hopefully set a new trend for the rest of the industry players.
In the long run, consumers and society, in general, will benefit from this shift by reducing the budget for electronics and PCs in particular, and by reducing the huge amount of e-waste that is piling up in our landfills. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030 we will produce 81.6 million tons of electronic waste per year, but it’s in our power to change that prediction.
The bottom line is that consumers are not willing to pay premium prices for electronics and demand the right to repair their devices. Whether or not they like this trend, the industry players will need to quickly adjust their practices and adapt to the needs and demands of the consumers. As for us, the Right to Repair Act provides the right incentives to fix our old computers and prolong their lives: less money spent on new electronics and less e-waste for generations to come.
About the Author
Vlad Turiceanu is the Editor-in-Chief at windowsreport.com, a leading independent online publication that covers Microsoft’s Windows platform and its related products and services, connecting millions of people with the correct answers they seek online.