The PC Era: 1976-2012

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Here is an important data point with which to start your morning: For the first time, ComScore reports, the number of desktop searches for a month declined in August, year-over-year.

It's not a secret. Even the folks at BlindFiveYearOld reported it.

This has not gone unnoticed by the tech firms. Intel ( INTC) is practically begging the PC industry to save itself through reinvention, as ComputerWorld reports. The company's chip inventories are building because it has little traction in the device-cloud industry that has evolved over the last four years.

Yes, it's been less than four years since the iPad's introduction. And a new era has clearly dawned in technology. That's change you can believe in.

Apple's ( AAPL) announcements this week make it obvious. The iMac now has 27% of that faltering desktop market but (more important) an iPhone can now pack in much more power than the sharpest desktop -- a faster processor, the fastest Internet, snazzier graphics, a better user interface. If you really need a typewriter, just buy a solar-powered wireless keyboard from Logitech.

Not everyone "gets it." Dell's ( DELL) head of services, Stephen Schuckenbruck, doesn't get it, as evidenced by his recent interview with AllThingsD. He still thinks it's 2009. But here's some news. Your servers are all in clouds now and they're Chinese. Your PC business is dying, and you have nothing to replace it with.

All this puts immense pressure on Microsoft ( MSFT) to deliver with Windows 8. If it's not competitive in the phone and tablet markets, it's circling the drain right alongside Dell, Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and (yes) Intel.

But enough about investments. What does the new era mean in the real world?

For one thing, it means an unprecedented level of control over users, business partners and software writers is now going to the ecosystem owners - specifically, to Apple, which can now pick winners-and-losers with more accuracy than the government, as The Los Angeles Times reports . And to Google ( GOOG), which can now apparently stop Chinese software competition in its tracks, according to Slashgear.

Speaking of government, fears of an end to "net neutrality" are no longer theoretical. Device makers now "choose" which search engine to support and which Web site-linked apps will be available. They control the horizontal and the vertical, as Amazon.Com ( AMZN) made clear in its recent Kindle introductions, as reported by CNET, before sort of backing down, as The Wall Street Journal later added..

This idea of "you buy our device, therefore you see our ads and do what we say" didn't work for carriers in the "feature phone" days of the last decade, but it's working now. And the default search engine on the new Kindle Fire? Not Google, whose Android software is the operating system. It will be Microsoft's Bing, because they paid for the "placement."

Whether regulators care to step into this mess will be one of the biggest news stories of 2013. But for all businesses of all sizes the message seems to be clear.

If you don't have a mobile strategy now, you'll be out of business soon.

At the time of publication, Blankenhorn was long INTC, MSFT, GOOG and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.