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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the turn-the-page dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AllThingsD columnist Arik Hesseldahl noticed another milestone marking the passing of the personal computer era: for the first time since the early '80s, the share of worldwide sales of DRAM chips consumed by PCs (desktop and laptop computers, but not tablets) has dropped below fifty percent. Perhaps a more important milestone was reached last year, when more smartphones were shipped (not sold) worldwide than the combined total of PCs and tablets (also noticed by Microsoft watcher Joe Wilcox). While this is certainly of tremendous marketing and business importance to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and PC OEMs, others may reflect on the impending closing of the history books on the era that started in Silicon Valley a little over 35 years ago."
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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:36AM (#41352895)

    You buy a phone once a year vs a PC once every 3 years. I would expect 3x more smartphone shipments than PCs.

    • by QuincyDurant (943157) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41353137)

      Right. I haven't bought a refrigerator in a while either, but it's not because I don't like refrigeration.

      • by Stormthirst (66538) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:08AM (#41353153)

        But refrigerators don't double in power every 18 months.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:15AM (#41353201)

          Power isn't what matters. Useful power is.

          Desktop and laptop PCs have simply passed the point where even an entry-level model is sufficient for everyday home and business tasks like reading e-mail, web browsing, working on office documents and database applications, and playing audio/video files.

          As soon as that happened, the upgrade treadmill was doomed. That sucks for the businesses who were happily coasting along knowing that every 2–3 years someone was going to pay them more money just to get a faster PC and all the preinstalled software that would come with it. It's good news for everyone who actually uses these devices, though, at least until the industry responds by doing shady things that build in obsolescence and try to keep the treadmill running artificially.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bbelt16ag (744938)
            its time to buy the hardcore processing power pcs now! the prices are going to go up. I am going to do everything i can to buy two more desktops and a laptop this christmas. On top of a new car..
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by davester666 (731373)

              The American Economy thanks you for your efforts.

              Would you mind convincing all the people on your block to buy multiple big-ticket items for Christmas as well? Interest rates are low, so it's cheap to borrow!

              • Technology advances will likely start the treadmill up again (although percentages of RAM sold don't exactly spell the end of sales to me... lol)

                One example is real 3d displays. Not the stereo silliness they're trying to market now, but fully 3d volumetric renders. This will start out expensive and then drop into the consumer range. You'll need lots of CPU power to drive these; you'll need new display units; you'll need new hardware to drive those display units. There are prototypes now that work surprising

          • by Golden_Rider (137548) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:32AM (#41353359)

            Power isn't what matters. Useful power is.

            Desktop and laptop PCs have simply passed the point where even an entry-level model is sufficient for everyday home and business tasks like reading e-mail, web browsing, working on office documents and database applications, and playing audio/video files.

            As soon as that happened, the upgrade treadmill was doomed. That sucks for the businesses who were happily coasting along knowing that every 2–3 years someone was going to pay them more money just to get a faster PC and all the preinstalled software that would come with it. It's good news for everyone who actually uses these devices, though, at least until the industry responds by doing shady things that build in obsolescence and try to keep the treadmill running artificially.

            This. There is this weird opinion by many that "less PC are sold" automatically means "less people use a PC". That is not true - personal computers are still being used everywhere, it's just that a.) by now everybody who wants one has one, because they got cheaper and everybody can afford one now and b.) the hardcore upgraders (i.e. those who upgraded their board/CPU/graphics card every 6 months because of new games etc. which benefitted from those upgrades) do not NEED to upgrade as often anymore, because even the CPU/graphics card from 2 years ago can still run the latest games. I sure can still remember that around 2000-2005 or so I upgraded my main machine here every couple months because it actually provided a noticeable speed upgrade, that is not the case anymore. My core2 duo lasted 3 years in my main machine before I upgraded it - not out of necessity, but because I just felt like doing some hardware fiddling again.

            • by now everybody who wants [a general-purpose personal computer] has one

              Until the hardware physically breaks. After that point, the family PC might end up replaced with a locked-down iPad. Or until more children are born and eventually enter high school without a PC of their own to use, as betterunixthanunix mentioned [slashdot.org].

            • by 0123456 (636235)

              You're forgetting that PCs are now so cheap that you can dedicate them to different tasks. I think I have nine that are used at least intermittently, from my old Pentium-4 box that's booted up every few months to my laptop to my netbook to my HTPC to my home server to the Windows box we keep around so my girlfriend can run iTunes.

              • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:29PM (#41353811)

                Dude. We have to educate you about virtual machines. Time to recycle and reclaim!

                • by epyT-R (613989)

                  virtual machines are not equivalent to dedicated hardware.

                  • Alright then. Let's see.

                    Dedicated hardware, might be nearly 100% efficient. Most machines are not.

                    Virtualizing sound and video and certain other streams can be difficult with virtualization. Sometimes.

                    There might be a platform mismatch. First one I'd have seen in a long time, but might be a possibility, remote as that is.

                    Might need fast disk channel. Yup. We can do that. Same for network and CPU. Ok. Scratch that.

                    Except for multimedia redirects and certain graphics functions, there's not much left, really.

                    • by epyT-R (613989)

                      Anything requiring precise timing, from multimedia like you suggested, to things like emulation/simulation and any applications that use 100% cpu most, if not all the time, are not at their best with virtualization even on powerful hardware.

                      Then there's the concept of "I don't want my big core i7 machine idling 24/7 to run a VM install I could run on hw taking 1/1000th the power"

            • by DeadboltX (751907)
              Not only this, but the biggest improvement to overall responsiveness of a machine right now is an SSD. If you purchased or built your computer 1-2 years ago and are looking for a significant speed boost, all you need to do is buy an SSD, not an entirely new computer or even a new motherboard and cpu. I doubt their methods to track purchased PCs even include hardware sales that could indicate home-built computers, and are only tracking numbers from the larger pre-built companies like apple, dell, hp, toshiba
          • by amiga3D (567632)

            At least they still have Microsoft to push for more powerful hardware. If the OS requirements climb above what you have it's off to buy a faster PC. Of course smartphones are fast enough for what most users need and want. The average PC has been overkill for the average user's needs for quite a while, it was the OS itself that drove upgraded hardware needs.

            • If the OS requirements climb above what you have it's off to buy a faster PC.

              That's true of Macs: Mac OS X 10.8 wouldn't run on a Mac mini sold brand-new four year before it was released [slashdot.org]. But Windows system requirements stopped creeping so fast when Microsoft realized that people were keeping old operating systems around to run on old PCs. The system requirements of Windows 7 are all but identical to those of Windows Vista. The system requirements of Windows 8 are also all but identical to those of Windows Vista, I've read.

              • by 0123456 (636235)

                The system requirements of Windows 7 are all but identical to those of Windows Vista.

                That's because Windows 7 is just Vista with some of the suck removed.

          • by Sir_Sri (199544)

            Desktop and laptop PCs have simply passed the point where even an entry-level model is sufficient for everyday home and business tasks like reading e-mail, web browsing, working on office documents and database applications, and playing audio/video files.

            Sort of. Software hasn't caught up to taking advantage of hardware, in large part because you get glued to compatibility with 7 year old hardware and you can't take advantage of new hardware.

            Though I fully accept that some problems just can't get much 'better' by throwing CPU cycles at it. Windows XP was the first 'good enough for everything' operating system from microsoft, and by about 2003-2004 you could do the vast majority of generic tasks reasonably well on affordable hardware. Quadrupling the spee

            • Games naturally remain the driver of performance for home users.

              But since much of the serious PC gaming industry is dying under the weight of piracy, a lot of the big name PC games today are either console ports or MMOGs, neither of which is even close to pushing state-of-the-art PC hardware to its limits in most cases. It seems unlikely this will change until the next generation of consoles arrives.

              Also, it seems like these days it's not so much the graphics limiting gaming performance as the rest of the code. A single core on a CPU today is a similar speed to those of

          • by tsa (15680)

            I think the smartphone has also passed that point. I wouldn't know what to do with the awesome processing power of the iPhone 5.

            • Very true. If phones are basically still mobile communication devices, and tablets are basically information consumption devices, then the current levels of performance are more than sufficient for most users and will probably remain so. These kinds of hardware aren't well-suited to more demanding applications. While I suspect we will continue to see innovation in different kinds of device and almost certainly in more integration and ease of connection between devices, the idea that the PC era is at an end

      • by fm6 (162816)

        And if you buy a ice chest, it's probably because you're going tailgating, not because you're embracing a cold-storage paradigm shift.

    • by Ben4jammin (1233084) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:09AM (#41353165)
      That may be your hardware replacement schedule, but I doubt that is true for the masses. With ATT, you are eligible for a phone upgrade after 2 years. I think many people keep them longer once they find one they like, if for no other reason than to avoid having to "learn" a new phone.

      On the PC side, it has been my experience that most people have computers older than 3 years. The Slashdot demographic is probably not indicative of the general population in this case. I would put the average age of a home PC at closer to the 5-7 year range. Same with corporate. Where I work, the main DB servers are on a 3 year refresh, as are the customer facing computers. Everything else is 5-7 years.

      So while I agree with you that people will probably buy more smartphones than computers in their lifetime, I would not put the ratio at 3:1 nor would I expect a 3 year refresh cycle. Although I am sure the manufacturers would love it if the consumers did follow your schedule.
      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        Where I work, the main DB servers are on a 3 year refresh, as are the customer facing computers. Everything else is 5-7 years.

        The rule of thumb I give people is that computers have about a 50% failure rate for hardware at 6 years. If you really care about uptime you end up wanting to replace every 3 or so, BEFORE stuff starts to die. For computers that can be replaced without data loss and where 2 hours of downtime doesn't cause mass panic 5 years is fairly reasonable.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      You buy a phone once a year vs a PC once every 3 years. I would expect 3x more smartphone shipments than PCs.

      Around here, a lot of phones come with two-year contracts. Terminating the contract early would be very expensive, so I doubt a lot of those people are buying new phone more than once every two years (unless they are replacing their existing phone because they broke/lost it)

      • "so I doubt a lot of those people are buying new phone more than once every two years (unless they are replacing their existing phone because they broke/lost it)"

        ... and since a lot more people take their phones to the bars than bring their laptops, this helps explain it quite a bit, thereby negating your point almost entirely.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Also, smartphones are a growing market while the number of PCs is mostly stagnant.

      • by tepples (727027)
        True, the sale of Windows PCs as replacements for Windows PCs has stagnated, but there are still children born every day. Some will go to high school and take programming classes for which an iPad is not sufficient.
        • by Dahamma (304068)

          Stagnation doesn't mean no sales, it means no *growth*. Sure, there are some new consumers entering PC market (as you say, by entering the world) every year, but there are also consumers leaving that market. If the PC market is mostly saturated this turnover won't be enough to significantly increase sales, hence stagnation.

          Whereas with smartphones and tablets, the market is not yet saturated, so all of the consumers already in the market buying smartphones for the first time is causing a lot of growth in

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Phones are at a primtive stage of development compared to PCs, so they are now obsoleted very quickly and turnover is high.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday September 16, 2012 @01:45PM (#41354541) Journal

      Not to mention phones are treated as worthless disposable devices that are given "free' or at lost cost thanks to the contracts skewing the actual cost.

      Look can we all get together and tell these "journalists" to kindly go screw their uninformed clickbait...please? As someone who has been in the trenches since the 386 its REALLY simple, once the MHz wars ended and multicores became cheap PCs went from being "good enough" to insanely overpowered for a good 90% of the planet so like their washer and dryer they don't toss until they break, whereas the cell phone gets flushed by the kiddies, it gets coke spilled on it, its treated as the disposable crap that it is so NO SHIT you're gonna have more of them shipping, because people take better care of their PCs and laptops than they do their "worthless" cell phones.

      Here is the perfect example, look at what i was selling on the low end over five years ago: A Phenom I X3 or X4 with 4Gb of DDR 2 and a 300Gb+ HDD. Now is there anything your average user does that isn't gonna be just curbstomped by a multicore like that? FB? Surfing? Office? Quickbooks? Hell I have a customer running the latest Solidworks on a Phenom I X3 and he is happy as a clam with the performance and sees no reason to upgrade. Even gaming can't slam these chips, my youngest is blasting through giant MMOs on a 925 Deneb quad, that is a 4+ year old CPU and most games can't even hit more than two cores and even then don't hit 100%.

      We are at the start of a worldwide recession (I would argue depression, but whatever) where even China and India are seeing growth stall and people have less disposable income thanks to inflation and rising gas prices. Whereas before they might have been willing to just throw away a perfectly working system just to have a new shiny now there really isn't the extra $$$ lying around and people are deciding if it isn't broke why fix it?

      But other than the iDevices I think we are gonna see the same thing happen in mobile. What is the biggest area growing here in the USA? The pre-paids. Instead of getting raped on 2 year contracts people are finding out they can go to Walmart and get an Android smartphone at prices from $79-$200 and pay $50 a month for unlimited everything. As more and more get tired of the screwing they get from the plans you'll see more and more buying their phones (which I understand is already big in Europe) and when they pay for the thing out of pocket instead of getting it "free"? They'll be more likely to take care of it.

  • Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:37AM (#41352897)

    The only sorts of people satisfied with a smart phone or an ipad rather then a proper computer never really used the computer properly in the first place. They do not do the same thing and you don't have the same control over it. That vital in business which is where much of the demand for computers started in the first place.

    The cloud has it's uses and I think it will remain relevant for as long as our smart phones aren't powerful enough to do run desktop level applications entirely in their own processors/memory. That day will come though. And when that happens why trust the cloud and a likely unreliable internet connection when you can run the whole thing live?

    The personal computer is as likely to go away as the pencil and paper... less likely actually. The iFad is enjoying it's day but in the end it can't deliver the same utility as a personal computer. And even if it could, there are matters of latency, security, customization, etc that are a systemic flaw of the cloud.

    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      "the impending closing of the history books on the era that started in Silicon Valley a little over 35 years ago."

      What a load of bullshit.

      Of course, mobile computing is getting more and more important.

      But no one is giving up their PC on their desktop in their office to do their daily work on an iPhone. The number of PCs being sold is still increasing.

      People will be sitting at desks, typing on keyboards, looking at monitors, for the foreseeable future. And using their mobile devices when they're away f

      • by jon3k (691256)
        I agree, and I'd like to see the statistics. I think the vast majority of people aren't replacing their PCs, they're supplementing them.
    • Re:Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afgam28 (48611) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:52AM (#41353033)

      The flaw in your argument is that you assume that people have to choose between a pc and a mobile device. I'm perfectly satisfied with my phone and tablet, yet I still have a "proper computer". In fact I have many proper computers.

      No one ever said that the post pc world would contain no pcs. The point was that a greater share of users would be doing a greater share of their computing from non pc devices.

      This is exactly what happened, and the people who were insightful enough to see it coming were able to make a lot of money from their prediction.

      • That depends on your meaning of the word "computing."

        People already HAVE long since done more "computing" on other devices than on the PC. They use microwave ovens.

        As long as you use "computing" to mean the use of any device or appliance with a CPU, then watches, pocket calculators, MP# players, GPS units, your CAR, satellite radio, bread machine, digital wall thermostat and any other thing can be heralded as signalling the "end of the PC era."

        Whereas if you define "computing" as doing productive work, the

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        There will be... to a point. There is a point where the devices will end up with market saturation. PCs got to that point a number of years ago.

        The reason why we have seen such a spike in mobile devices is because of convergence. Until smartphones became commonplace, people would have a camera, MP3 player, pager, Blackberry for messages, cell phone, PDA, and GPS unit. Since an average smartphone does more than all these things combined [1], it ends up being a device that appeals for an extremely wide ra

      • "No one ever said that the post pc world would contain no pcs. The point was that a greater share of users would be doing a greater share of their computing from non pc devices."

        The flaw in your argument, and in the article, is assuming that because they call it a smartphone it is somehow not a personal computing device. The term smartphone is an artifact. They are personal computing devices that also have the ability to place and receive phone calls.

        • The flaw in your argument, and in the article, is assuming that because they call it a smartphone it is somehow not a personal computing device.

          I agree with you that an Android device is a general-purpose personal computer. Though smartphones and tablet computers manufactured by Apple are computers, they are not general-purpose computers. There exist purposes that Apple bans for the general public. For example, unlike with AIDE, one can't dock an iPad to an HDMI monitor and Bluetooth keyboard and develop iPad apps on it.

    • by TWX (665546)
      All an iPad is, to me, is another form factor of personal computer or terminal, depending on the type of application (ie, locally-run or predominately tied to some server far away). The only differences are how it's tied to the computer network (wifi vs cabled) and the physical layout of the user interface (ie touchscreen vs keyboard).

      Remember that there have been numerous form factors for computers. There have been all-in-one desktop units that were "L" shaped with integrated CRT on top, computer at t
    • Agreed. I have a laptop that is also my desktop machine, and my field machine. I have to be able to connect to a wireless network, wired network, USB devices, PCMCIA cards, SD cards, serial devices, and burn CDs and DVDs. I have a phone that makes phone calls, sends texts, and takes really mediocre pictures. Others in my department that have smart phones still have to take a similar laptop to support their work. Another thing, there are times even a wide screen laptop does not give me all the space I could
      • Well, you could always hunt down a Thinkpad W700DS. That was a 17" laptop with a second 10" screen that popped out of the side, as a second display.

        I bet it was awfully heavy, though.

    • You are under the mistaken impression that one must have to replace the other. This is not the case. There was an era where writing instruments developed over centuries or longer. The art of making the quill probably didn't take too long for somebody to figure out ideal ways of doing it. But the mass produced paper to write on was likely very disruptive because it coincided with the printing press. All of these things had their rise, and commoditization, and even falls. To get a quill you have to buy it on
    • by afidel (530433)

      Hehe, my smartphone does everything a PC can do and more. I run Debian chroot on top of Android so I have access to the entire Android catalog and the entire Debian catalog (well, ok X doesn't work very well yet, so the CLI catalog but that will be fixed eventually). With a dual core 1.5Ghz processor and a gig of ram and a decent GPU I have more power than a laptop from just 5 years ago. All that and it fits in a shirt pocket. Now tell me why that doesn't seem like progress.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      I think what will happen is that the touchscreen functionality of the iPad and the functionality of a _real_ computer in laptop form are going to merge--and Windows 8/Windows RT based machines may get there first. Despite what some people think, the iPad in many ways is still mostly a media consumption device, especially since you want a real keyboard if you're going to write anything of length.

      Indeed, I would not be surprised that Apple has begun research into a true successor to MacOS X that is heavily to

  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pav (4298) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:38AM (#41352909)

    ...more bicycles were sold worldwide than family cars*. Pundits hail the passing of the family car era.

    Pffft... hogwash.

    * - I have no idea how many bicycles or family cars are sold, but it's at least plausible.

  • NEWS FLASH: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson (465943) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:38AM (#41352911) Journal

    Cheaper products that tend to have shorter lifespans because they have not reached the "good enough" level of performance and because teenagers tend to drop them requiring more replacements are sold in greater quantities than more expensive products that have reached OK performance levels and aren't trashed as frequently! Film at 11!

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Something like 80% of the smartphones ever sold have been sold in the last two years, and aren't even due to be replaced yet. It has grown that fast.
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:41AM (#41352945) Homepage
    Most people already have a computer. They also replace smartphones more often than computers, since laptops and desktops that are fast enough for their use have been around quite some time, while the wireless domain is still improving with transitions from 3G to 4G, faster mobile processors, better screens with more real estate, lighter weight, etc. A better question would be: How many people own a smartphone, but no laptop or desktop? My admitted SWAG [slashdot.org] is that most who own a smartphone also own a laptop and/or desktop or are children in a family with access to the family computer, while a larger percentage of those who own a laptop or desktop don't own a smartphone. So, no.
    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Most people have never seen a computer.
      • So - basically - you're saying that you don't know what a computer is, then? Fair enough. Or is it more that you don't get that today's handheld smartphones are more powerful than supercomputers from the 1990s?
  • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:52AM (#41353037)
    For the basic user, desktop and laptop hardware is now Good Enough and has been for a while. You do not, in actual fact, need dual quad-core processors, 24GB of DDR1600 memory, or the latest Radeon 7000 series or nVidia Kepler video card to check your email, surf Youtube, and edit your TPS reports. So a lot of people have no need to buy a new computer regularly now. Furthermore, computers have gotten cheap. So much so that almost everyone who has any want for a desktop or laptop, has one. Laptops and especially desktops don't have the faux "oh, your styling is out of date! You need to replace your car that will be perfectly good for another ten years!" thing going on that phones to some extent do.

    So color me shocked: A mature and saturated market isn't growing 20% per annum, and is in fact shrinking relative to its size at the peak of growth! Meanwhile, servers always need MOAR POWAH so hardware there is more likely to keep churning. It's not like this isn't a predictable curve for every not-freshly-disrupted market (surprise: There's only 1 maker of gigantic utility-size power transformers anymore. I guess utility transformers are dying too), and yet it seems that every month this year there's been a breathless "Oh, let us lament the passing of the PC and the Laptop, for they are dying!" article posted. PCs are "dying" like file sharing is "dying": it's saturated at "everyone has one and does it."
    • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:45AM (#41353473) Homepage

      "You do not, in actual fact, need dual quad-core processors, 24GB of DDR1600 memory, or the latest Radeon 7000 series or nVidia Kepler video card to check your email, surf Youtube, and edit your TPS reports"

      True, but we don't need to worry, because Microsoft is working on solving that problem as we speak!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rueger (210566) *
      Laptops and especially desktops don't have the faux "oh, your styling is out of date! You need to replace your car that will be perfectly good for another ten years!" thing going on that phones to some extent do.

      Not an Apple customer I take it?

      (ducks!)
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:54AM (#41353059)
    People who use small devices are primarily consumers of information with obvious exceptions like texting, voice, pictures, and video. But specifically these people are not manipulating the information. They might take the video but they aren't likely to turn it into a documentary on their device. As the screens and computing power gets larger the amount of creation and manipulation increases. Thus programmers, video editors, 3D artists, engineers, etc all need powerful systems with good keyboards, mice, and many screens.

    A good example of how this trend is understood by the hardware makers would be the increase in video cards with more than one DVI port. Your average email/websurfer doesn't need dual screens. Even apple, which makes the vast bulk of its money from consumer devices, still makes the Mac Pro. I suspect that they don't make enough money from these to make it worth it. But if they were to loose that tiny core audience of hardcore users to another platform then those hardcore users might start recommending that other platform.

    In a way this whole reduction of the lower end users might help us who would prefer some more powerful machines as the manufacturers will waste less time making machines that are one step up from toasters.

    The one wildcard in this whole mix are the gamers. To a certain extent gamers may have driven the leading edge of hardware development for years with servers driving similar but different high end hardware. So I suspect that instead of the lower end causing problems for the average high end user like developers that the gamer and server market will keep things cooking along at the extreme end and things will trickle down to the rest of us.

    So to say that the desktop is dead is wrong. I would say that the crappy desktop is dead.
  • The article says that smartphones and tablets are not personal computers. If you consider the "PC" as only in the mold of a beige box with a display and keyboard/mouse tethered to it, then yes smartphones and tablets are not personal computers. However, I disagree. A personal computer is a general purpose computer intended for use by one person. How is a smartphone or tablet not a personal computer? In fact, a smartphone or tablet is, in some ways, more a personal computer than the beige box "PC" because it has more of a one-on-one interaction with the user. The bottom line is that the computing industry as a whole is always changing, perhaps now more than ever.
    • by DeadboltX (751907)
      I disagree with your using "intended for use by one person" as a key defining point of PC. The revolution of the PC was that the physical size had come down enough to where it was plausible to have one in a personal space such as a home, opposed to a space such as a business or university, and did not need to connect to a mainframe to function. Much like the early days of the TV, you would have one per household, not one per person.

      The phrase you need to be concluding on is "general purpose computer". Ta
  • I wish, desktop computers were not used by "mainstream", so I would be able to buy an expensive (really, I am perfectly ok with it being expensive) workstation that is something other than a cheap consumer product that contains only cheap consumer components, and is expected to run the greatest engineering failure of the 20th century -- Windows. I would be also overjoyed if people who use computers for business and engineering, did not have consumer crap and Windows shoved down their throats. And if it prom

  • by stevez67 (2374822) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @10:59AM (#41353089)
    We have 4 people in the household that use one PC, but we each have Smartphones. I build my own PC and update one individual part (mobo, cpu, RAM, video card, psu, etc.) every 6 months so I never really show up on the radar of the floggers who write such tripe based on HP and Dell stats, but we each get a new phone at a minimum every 2 years and frequently more often if there's an accident with one. The PC isn't dead it's just reached a saturation point like the tablets will someday. Phones I would expect to ALWAYS have higher numbers because they'll always have more frequent replacement, but they may suffer the same fate if they reach saturation once all the features have been fleshed out and hardware hits physical limits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:00AM (#41353091)

    We get a story about how the 'PC era' is over, even though there is no evidence for it. The mobile device is a supplement to a PC, the fact that people are turning to the mobile device for entertainment (web browsing, etc) isn't indicative of a mass move away from the PC.

    Everyone still needs their laptops for college classes, all companies still require work to be done on a laptop or PC, they aren't going away any time at least in the next decade. I can see the tablet possibly becoming the new laptop (once it runs a 'normal' OS and not a watered down one), you bring it to work where you have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse there... then you just bring the tablet home where you also have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse. At this point, is it really any different than a laptop? Is that really a post PC era, even though the computer is just a different form factor?

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41353131) Journal

    I never really dreamed of the day when I could pick anything I wanted without being a millionaire.

    Well, these days I can. The only thing I have to be concerned of now, is my personal health and well being (physically, that is!).

    Who's complaining? I only pity the kids who's only gripe on technology is an xbox and a smartphone, but they're not complaining either, they have no clue what we "the old dinosaurs of personal computing" grew up with, I pity them because they'll never have the in depth knowledge that we (40+ something) have.

    I grew up with a Philips Electric Engineer 2003 electronics kit where I learned to follow schematics and make modifications (eg my own police radio) with these kits, later on I got a Commodore 64 in 1981/82, and since there where literally no software for it back then, I had to code my own, and BOY was that frustrating...and ultimately VERY much fun later on. It was like going exploring in an incredibly interesting new world, unseen and uncharted. I just only WISH kids could experience what I experienced back then, I know David Braben is trying to do this with his Raspberry PI, but it just seem to fetch the interest of old timers like me...he he...no wonder, btw. one can dream and hope, and of course...inspire.

    I look at the world in a different way than kids do. Me? I live in a wifeless super-electronics-complex, totally mad science with 1000000's of components from the 50's to today, so many gadgets and computers you'd break into my house if you knew where I lived (and of course suffer the consequences of my analog gadgets that awaits such a culprit, oh straying off the subject here...). I have microcontrollers, I don't think about getting the latest smartphone if I feel like programming an APP, I actually make the darn thing from scratch with libraries, a few MCU's and sensors...and voila...new thingy that no one can explain, but most ...enjoy.

    The kids wonder if I am some kind of mad magician that can come up with stuff from gizmos (to them, totally unknown world...of components) laying around and just make it do cool stuff?

    Thank god for the MAKER movement though, it IS slowly but steadily arising, and maybe once again, we'll get kids curious enough to dive into this basic, simple, from-scratch kind of DIY world that we once took for granted.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I think the 3D printing environment has much of that same freshness that computing had in the late 70's and early 80's. What a rush that era was.

      • I agree!

        A lot of my friends are onto the 3D printing / CNC thing right now, personally I'm the "modelling" guy now, that does 3D models in software, so I'll just have to purchase the CNC from them :)

  • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41353135) Journal

    I wonder how many tablets are nothing more than multimedia devices... I know that's the only appeal they have for me, and every time I think about it, I realize my old, $100 netBook does the job better than any tablet could in most cases. Would we be so excited about these sales figures if, when PC sales slowed down, it was portable DVD players sales that went through the roof, and started requiring a big fraction of chip production? Would we still have the same doomsday predictions for PCs?

    From what I've seen, the only places where tablets replace laptops, is where folks just about only used them to launch Citrix, making it just a thin client, with some games, music, and movie watching built-in. And even there, you're buying a keyboard to go with it, and this is nothing a real laptop couldn't do, and better.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:30AM (#41353331)
      The point really is that most consumers use their computers for a few functions like facebook, web surfing etc. For that, a smartphone or tablet is enough. In the past, they needed a computer/laptop because it was the only option. Geeks here on slashdot don't always represent consumers. Geeks need much more than consumers and a tablet isn't going to be enough for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlm (69642)

      every time I think about it, I realize my old, $100 netBook does the job better than any tablet could in most cases.

      Boot time, battery life, and hot laps

      I have a netbook with androidx86 installed on it so its basically a keyboard equipped tablet. Doesn't get too much use compared to the ipad because:

      Pickup and go "boot" time of androidx86 netbook is about 180 seconds, "boot" time of ipad is about 2 seconds to hit button and unlock

      Battery life of netbook is 2 hours, ipad is ... I donno but its apparently way longer than I'm willing to work on something in one sitting. Every time I use the netbook I have to plan, OK, now

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Colonel Korn (1258968)

        every time I think about it, I realize my old, $100 netBook does the job better than any tablet could in most cases.

        Boot time, battery life, and hot laps

        I have a netbook with androidx86 installed on it so its basically a keyboard equipped tablet. Doesn't get too much use compared to the ipad because:

        Pickup and go "boot" time of androidx86 netbook is about 180 seconds, "boot" time of ipad is about 2 seconds to hit button and unlock

        Battery life of netbook is 2 hours, ipad is ... I donno but its apparently way longer than I'm willing to work on something in one sitting. Every time I use the netbook I have to plan, OK, now when the battery dies I'll either switch to ... or plug in to charge there... or ...

        Netbook is too hot to handle, literally, after an hour or two. Fan is loud and completely ineffective. ipad never gets too warm to handle and no fan and no cooling vents to block.

        I would assume an android tablet is equally useful, not ipad specific... basically my android phone with a bigger screen would be a really nice tablet.

        I find I task switch with the ipad a lot. Not switch apps inside the ipad, but in real life. I would not be patient enough to boot up a desktop / laptop / netbook to check the weather. Would I pick up a ipad and "button" "swipe" "click" to check the weather, sure, it only takes 5 seconds. You don't talk about a geographic location in theory, you just google map it. I've got a, one, minute this morning to check my email. Do I spend three minutes booting the desktop or fifteen seconds on the ipad? Lots of little task switching like that.

        If you have Windows 7 on your netbook, it would take 1-2 seconds to resume, matching the iPad. If you had a decent netbook, your real useable screen-on-and-doing-stuff battery life on the netbook would be 10 hours, comparable to the iPad. You'd also be able to do a hell of a lot more than you can on the iPad. Typical netbooks are also comparable in temperature to the iPad and have no fans whatsover. In fact, were netbooks ever made with fans? I never saw one so now I'm wondering whether you're just mak

        • They made netbooks without fans? All of the ones I've seen have fans. Small ones, and generally pretty quiet. Until the bearings start to wear out.

          My Eee 701 had a fan, my Eee 901 has a fan (that's wearing out and moaning like the souls of the damned.)

          The only time I got anywhere close to 10 hours of battery life out of my Eees was when I used a huge aftermarket battery that stuck way out.

          Three or four hours out of the 701 when it was new, maybe five out of the 901.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I think almost all smartphones are used for facebook, twitter and other social media and little else. I did watch a guy editing a movie on his iPad. iMovie works much better on my mac mini however.

  • by BrendaEM (871664) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:09AM (#41353159) Homepage

    I am sick and tired of people trying to bury personal computers. Just because smarphones sell, and there is a lot of money to be pried from their users, does not mean that we should abandon computers that we can actually get work done on!

    I own a tablet, but I use a laptop for word processing. I use a desktop for CAD and video editing. Because devices are small, they can be a marvel, but I remember when computers were much more useful with less hardware. Business did not want to spend the money for a 386DX 33MHZ, but if they did,they could run their whole business on it; smarphones are tablets are much more powerful and their are relegated to playing angry birds and small applets. People are amazed if they can write a single page of text on a smartphone, but were angry if they couldn't lay out a whole book on a 1GHZ desktop computer.

    RISC processors might be the way of the future, but my laptop is still 10x faster than my tablet, for now, and there is no reason to make them faster if we don't expect better software. AMD's failure in the marketplace means that intel has gone dormant like a sleeping bear--stagnating the desktop market. Microsoft is trying to wall-in the open PC garden. Ubuntu screwed up by trying "Unity." Gnome screwed up by turning its back on desktop users, and for removing too much usefulness.

    I like that people network more and can collaborate on projects more easily, but we have grown too dependent on single points of failure. To some, Google is the internet; that scares me. We are building too many card houses, and sooner or later, they will fall.

  • by Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:17AM (#41353227) Journal
    Have fun creating audio/visual content and software on your tablets... Buzzwords and marketing blah ("the passing of...", "a new era...", "groundbreaking, industry leading...") however might work well.
  • The thing we have to understand is that the vast majority of people bought personal computers because of what they could do. This means that the personal computer is very much replaceable in the lives of most people, especially if the replacements offer greater convenience.

    That isn't to say that the computer is going to disappear entirely. Things like tablets are going to become more computer like, up until the point that they reflect the needs of most consumers. There will also be a market for personal

  • The state of the industry is that even a 5-8 year old PC can still do everything most people need a PC for.

    I'm writing this post on a Dual-core Athlon machine I built back in 2005. This machine does everything I need a PC to do, from standard office type stuff to running Cadence for schematic capture and layout.

    New PCs stopped being necessary for anything other than games YEARS ago. Nothing the remaining 99% of the PC market does requires modern horsepower.

    • by kenh (9056)

      I'm most familiar with Intel CPUs, but IMHO there is very little a Core 2 Duo with 4 or 8 Gigs of RAM can't handle, and since Intel integrated graphics satisfy the vast majority of users, what is the motivation for most people to upgrade?

      My local school district uses 8 year-old Dell hyperthreading P4 systems with 2 Gig of RAM, IDE HD and integrated Intel graphics (Optiplex GX270) running Win7 and while I wouldn't call it a "great" system, it certainly runs MS Office and other mainstream apps and browsers ju

  • by pointyhat (2649443) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:35AM (#41353391)

    What a load of rubbish.

    What has happened is that there is a singularity on "good enough" PCs.

    Most of the people I know have PCs that are 4-5 years old because they are absolutely fine with what they have and it still works. They rarely go out and buy new stuff. The same is true of the company I work for. We bought decent quality dev workstations 4 years ago and they are still spot on now. Same for standard desktops.

    People aren't buying stuff as much because what they have works fine.

    I live in an expensive bit of London, UK and you'd expect it to be Apple everything. It's not. It's 5 year old ThinkPads everywhere.

    Windows 7, Windows 8 will run perfectly fine on a machine designed for Windows Vista.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:01PM (#41353605)
    YASIFS (Yet another sky is falling story). The overall computer market is still growing.
    • Please mod parent up.

      The number of PCs sold has been constantly growing from 1996 to 2011. No end of the PC era is in sight, just some slowing down of the total growth due to tablets and, probably more of an effect, the current economy.

  • by jasnw (1913892) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @01:08PM (#41354199)

    ... is just around the corner. That's another "finding" that the technoworld pundits root out every few years to astound their readers. I view crap like this article to be in the Mark Twain "lies, damn lies, and statistics" category. You could probably show that left-handed red-heads buy more PCs than ambidextrous bald winos, but so freakin' what? This is clearly a move-on-nothing-to-see-here story.

  • by pbjones (315127) on Monday September 17, 2012 @02:11AM (#41359635)

    no surprise here! people bought computers because it was the only way to access the net and play games, now they can pay less and buy a phone or tablet and not have to have a space available for a computer. And computers will still be bought by people who still need the flexibility and apps that can't be provided by a 'smart' phone. It's the way that the market has gone. My guess if that it's the end of crappy cheap computers as people invest more to get the power that isn't available in a phone or tablet.

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