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What is the Computer Industry?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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The phrase “computer industry” applies to most jobs and businesses that involve computers or computer technology. Years ago, the computer industry described only the narrow work that was done on the first computers — often room-sized machines programmed to perform but a few discreet functions. The industry has grown in leaps and bounds since, and now includes not only the design and sales of computers themselves, but also software development and manufacturing, computer and Internet networking, broadband and wireless connectivity, and a whole host of information technology services.

Depending on the context, references to the computer industry can mean different things. In business, the computer industry is generally understood to be the sector of any given economy that is concerned with technology sales and manufacturing. The health of technology corporations over time, the competition of computer sales across brands, and the financial outlook of innovations in mobile and tablet computing are among the pieces making up the computer industry as it is known to market analysts and corporate investors.

Developers often see the industry slightly differently. Sales and marketing is certainly a big piece of what makes computing a viable industry, but many of those computers depend on technological parts, programs, and infrastructures in order to be marketable. Computer components manufacturing and computer hardware design, although done mostly behind the scenes, is as much as part of the computer industry as is the final sale of completed machines.

The creation, marketing, and development of after-market products are also important pieces of the computer-related industry. Many machines come with some software pre-loaded, but most computer owners elect to purchase additional programs to personalize and customize their experience. Software ranging from basic word processing and data analysis to gaming and photo editing is readily available, usually in disk form or via Internet download.

Some parts of the computer industry overlap with pieces of the so-called “Internet industry,” particularly where online businesses are concerned. For the most part, however, the foundations of what makes the Internet the Internet — the wires and cables, the packets and signals — is typically understood to be a primarily computer industry function. Computers and other computer-like devices, including many smart phones and palm computers, depend first on a functional ability of computers to connect, and second the ubiquitous or near-ubiquitous availability of those connections. Computer scientists and IT professionals who work to network computers and who enable devices to be web-ready are, in today’s day and age, a truly essential part of the industry.

Just as there is no fixed parameter around the computer industry, neither is there a limitation on the kinds of careers or jobs one could find in that sector. The industry is, in most cases, much more than sales, manufacturing, and development. Brand representatives, administrative personnel, and corporate technology support staff can all legitimately claim to work in what is broadly known as the computer industry. As the industry continues to grow with changing technology, the job opportunities and innovative potentials will likely grow, as well.

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