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Will the Desktop PC Live Forever? 625

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-can-be-only-one dept.
concealment points out a rebuttal from PCWorld of the increasingly common claims that we live in a post-PC world. "It's an intriguing proposition, but don't count on mobile devices killing off your desktop PC any time soon. While mobile gear is certainly convenient when you're trying to conduct business on the go, it's nowhere near as convenient as a desktop when you're trying to complete serious work in an office environment. Sure, your phone, tablet or even laptop might conveniently fit in your pocket or backpack, but all these devices are fraught with compromises, whether it's computing power, screen size, or, well, a really expensive price tag."
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Will the Desktop PC Live Forever?

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  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @03:58PM (#41600121) Homepage Journal

    Nothing lives forever. The PC will die eventually... but not any time soon. I can see fewer and fewer desktops in the home, by notebooks and tablets, but there's little you can do in an office that doesn't demand a PC.

  • Historical anaolgy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mccrew (62494) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:03PM (#41600177)
    I am reminded of Stewart Alsop's [wikipedia.org] famous quote about mainframes: "I predict that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996." Mainframes are going stronger than ever.

    Discuss.

  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:03PM (#41600179)

    Workstations (i.e. where anything important or revenue-generating happens) will always be desktops in one way or another.

    What will probably happen is that your average office desktop will get smaller. We're already seeing this, with some desktops using laptop parts, some going as far as using the same power brick as the company's laptop's (HP does this, others too, I suppose).

  • by badford (874035) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:03PM (#41600193)

    Having 3 big arse monitors connected to a giant, lint-filled box humming noisily under my desk will always be a part of my life.

    I have ipads, androids, smartphones, netbooks and ultrabook and a bunch of game systems. don't matter.

  • Gaming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphax45 (675119) <kyle@alfred.gmail@com> on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:05PM (#41600211)
    For now nothing beats a desktop for a gaming PC. I just built a new one and got Steam. Nothing else like it right now.
  • by santax (1541065) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:06PM (#41600219)
    Let's face it, the pc is very efficient in some things. Like text processing, image editing, programming, all tasks that depend heavily on user input are preferable done on a pc or laptop. A device that has decent input options. Typewriters replaced handwriting and the pc replaced those, the pc will be viable until someone comes up with a clever way to do those input tasks in a matter that is just as reliable as a keyboard/mouse but faster. That someone will become really rich btw. Till that day, I'm keeping my pc.
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:09PM (#41600277)
    Mainframes did not die because they were good for the market they served -- profitable for the vendor, utilized productively by the customer. PCs are different -- utilized poorly by most customers, and not as profitable for the vendor as they could be (oh, if we could just find a way to not allow people to run their own software...). That is why PCs are in greater peril now than mainframes ever were.

    You'll still have a computer on your desk, with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse hooked up to it in 20 years. The difference is that you will need to get permission from the vendor before running software on that computer, and you will not have the chance to use your computer to create disruptive technologies. Middle schoolers with a passion for programming will only get to exercise their passion in the tightly controlled environment of their school's computer lab, using the language their teacher demands they use. Programmers will use $10k computers with special licensing structures that most individuals cannot afford.

    The issue is not the form, it is the philosophy.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jxander (2605655) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:10PM (#41600281)

    Basically this, with a few reasons

    As long as desktop hardware is cheaper than comparable laptop/portable hardware, it will have a niche. You can hook up all the docking stations and external monitors in the world to your tablet, but a desktop rig will have more storage, more memory, more GHz and better longevity (if only due to superior air flow) at a lower cost.

    That's not even getting into the ability to customize and replace hardware without a dozen proprietary bits.

  • Re:Hybrid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grenadeh (2734161) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:10PM (#41600285)
    That's completely retarded. So what you're saying is we're going to replace laptops, the superior device, with a crappy device, used to to do the EXACT same things the EXACT same way using slightly different connectors? Oh wait nevermind, tablets can't do the same things. Desktops will never be replaced. Laptops are simply not reliable and not repairable or modifiable by most people, even computer technicians who know how to replace laptop components would not willingly do so on their own.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:11PM (#41600303)

    These claims of a post-PC world seem based on the fact that the vast majority of the population is fine with the kind of walled-garden content consumption found on nearly all phones and tablets and has no need for the sort of content creation you have to sit down at a workstation for. OK, I'll stipulate to that premise.
    But if the shift of that group of people away from the desktop PC means we live in a post-PC world, then what did we have before that group of people started using PCs?
    They pretty much didn't come along until we had mainstream GUIs, the World Wide Web, and ubiquitous digital media--all of which came considerably after "the desktop PC".
    Their departure won't kill the PC any more than their arrival created it.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:17PM (#41600373)

    Admittedly the "Post-PC World" comments involve quite a bit of hyperbole - but this was never about what happens in businesses, at least in those cases where someone's entire day involves inputting stuff into a computer (whether that's as a programmer, a web developer, or an office jockey). The concept of the post-PC world is more about what's happening in the personal lives of everyday individuals (which doesn't include most Slashdotters).

    The majority of people that have owned a home computer don't really use it for much more than browsing the web, email, and viewing photos or videos. For those folks, a tablet or a phone works just fine - and nowadays even their TV will let them watch YouTube or Netflix videos. They don't need a PC - heck, a PC is actually more inconvenient for their purposes than these other options are. And even if they take photos... they're probably just uploading them as-is directly to Facebook or Flickr.

    So yeah, the PC won't exactly be dying anytime soon... but fewer and fewer individuals will be owning one.

  • by afgam28 (48611) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:17PM (#41600379)

    And no one said it would. This is a really dumb article which totally misses the point of what the term "post-PC" means. If you click the first link in the article, it says it in black and white:

    It started last year...when (Steve Jobs) said that PCs are going to be "like trucks" in that they'll still be around and useful for certain work, but only a smaller percentage of the users will need one

    Somehow the author (and submitter) have taken that to mean a world "without desktop computers".

    Sure, desktops will have their place for a long time. But we're living in a post-PC world right now.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:25PM (#41600465) Journal

    Kill, no. Mortally wound, perhaps. Think about it this way: right now, you can get cheap PCs for a few hundred bucks. Adjusted for inflation, computers in the mid-1980s ranged from about $3000-$6000 in today's dollars. Now think back to high school economics class and remember the discussion of economies of scale, then think about how few parts from modern tablets are actually used in a typical desktop computer.

  • Re:Gaming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:37PM (#41600625) Homepage

    Yeah, except that developers have been fleeing consoles and coming back to the PC market for the last 3 years because it's a declining market. More so because PC's are a booming market not only in the Americas but in Asia. And it'll probably be another 2-3 years before consoles catch up. Let's not forget that as it stands, PC gaming is limited by consoles right now...6 year old hardware.
     

  • by eexaa (1252378) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:40PM (#41600663) Homepage

    ...and will be for quite some time, because we don't have any more convenient platform to do actual work.

    I mean, did anyone try to do programming, system administration and/or serious graphics or writing on iPad and alikes?

    And it's not about screen size, it's basically ONLY about having input devices that don't make your wrists rot away if you use them more than 2 hours daily.

    PS. do you count traditional notebooks (15" and bigger screens) as desktop computers? (I do.)

  • Re:Hybrid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:40PM (#41600677) Homepage Journal

    We're going to see tablets that connect to monitors and keyboards.

    At which point it's no longer a tablet, it's a PC.

  • by bonehead (6382) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:42PM (#41600697)

    If all you need a PC for is your calendar and email, then, sure, your idea sounds great.

    At the last company I worked at the engineers all got new workstations. Super high end stuff, basically the fastest desktop machines money could buy at the time. And Autocad performance was still just in the "OK, but meh...." range for the stuff they were working on.

    Do you want to be the one who has to explain to them that from now on they're going to be doing their work on a phone?

    Good luck with that.

  • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:48PM (#41600781) Homepage Journal

    I think we'll actually approach the point where you only have one "computer" and that what you carry is the user interface and cache.

    In practice, you're going to need a lot of cache, especially if you want to go offline. And this means you're going to have to have a lot of processing on your user interface devices so that they can act on cached data while not connected to a high-speed, high-volume network. Current cellular technology (LTE, which can be thought of as 4G lite) is high-speed but not high-volume, with single digit GB/mo transfer caps being the industry standard. So even though you'll likely have one shared set of documents among all your devices, they'll all need to be "computers" for the foreseeable future.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:48PM (#41600783) Journal

    No part of mainframes has *anything* to do with desktops. It does not correlate in any fashion.

    Desktops will always be in use in some fashion - miniaturizing technology only goes so far - so it's not a question of expense alone but also thermals and physical space. Since people tend to have to work on hardware you can't have it all be the size of a mobile SOC to do so or it becomes prohibitive. That's not just a "workstation" situation, but an "All PC's" situation.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @05:33PM (#41601283) Homepage Journal

    No part of mainframes has *anything* to do with desktops. It does not correlate in any fashion.

    Desktops will always be in use in some fashion - miniaturizing technology only goes so far - so it's not a question of expense alone but also thermals and physical space. Since people tend to have to work on hardware you can't have it all be the size of a mobile SOC to do so or it becomes prohibitive. That's not just a "workstation" situation, but an "All PC's" situation.

    Right; some tasks are better done with a full keyboard and a screen bigger than the palm of your hand.

    Even if it's solely in a "docking station"* type capacity, desktop workstations will be around for as long as computers are.


    * Speculative Future Vision (patent pending) engaged: Come home from work, the computer in your pocket communicates wirelessly with the display/peripherals in the room you're currently occupying, and activates them accordingly. Kind of like Synergy, but with a full suite of features and, of course, fine location awareness.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @05:36PM (#41601311) Journal

    Even those $300 non-PC computers would be about $639 in today's dollars, which is still more than six times what the cheapest non-Windows netbooks cost today. And they weren't nearly as capable as PCs. Most of the cost savings (except for the CPU) came from ingenious hacks that reduced the cost of the hardware at the expense of maintainability and the ability to upgrade the design later. For example:

    • Commodore used software emulation instead of a real UART, which limited them to about 2400 baud and made them particularly challenging if the baud rate on the remote device was off just a bit.
    • The Apple II's NTSC output wasn't actually NTSC compliant (read "can't be safely recorded or broadcast") and remained so through at least the IIe. When they added PAL support, it required different graphics hardware.

    Now you can certainly argue that those things didn't matter, and for most people, you'd be right, but the same argument that says that the $300 computer was equal to the $2,000 computer in the 1980s applies to touchscreen tablets versus desktop computers today.

    Also, the only reason prices aren't $100k per CPU today is because of economies of scale. Today, one person could design a basic Verilog model of a 6502-compatible chip in a matter of days or single-digit weeks, and even at the time, it probably took double-digit engineer years. Today, an Intel chip takes engineer-millennia. The R&D involved is orders of magnitude greater, and therefore, the number of chips they have to sell just to break even is also much, much greater.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @06:05PM (#41601581) Homepage

    As long as desktop hardware is cheaper than comparable laptop/portable hardware, it will have a niche. You can hook up all the docking stations and external monitors in the world to your tablet, but a desktop rig will have more storage, more memory, more GHz and better longevity (if only due to superior air flow) at a lower cost.

    Ah, but desktops don't have the advantage of shipping volume, laptops do by about a 2:1 advantage. What does that mean? That Intel sets their development goals to make Haswell a better mobile CPU, not particularly a desktop GPU. Since you mention RAM as an example, I find 2x8GB desktop memory for 734 NOK (includes VAT, so please don't compare to US prices) and 2x8GB laptop memory (SO-DIMMs) for 749 NOK. What's the price advantage? Zero. Sure you can get 32/64GB RAM in a desktop that you can't in a laptop but that's a niche workstation market. You can get up to a 1TB SSD in a 2.5" laptop form factor and it doesn't get cheaper using a 3.5" desktop form factor, you just add empty space.

    Sure a few things are better, you can't turn a laptop into a 10TB storage server and for a fully decked out 100W processor + 2x300W graphics cards in CF/SLI there's no laptop replacement. But those uses aren't enough to sustain the market share and the less people use desktops, the less support and higher premiums it gets. To cut costs you're pretty soon getting a laptop core in a desktop shell, which again cuts the "true" desktop market of dedicated desktop parts even more. I wouldn't not be so sure that desktop parts will always remain cheaper.

    That's not even getting into the ability to customize and replace hardware without a dozen proprietary bits.

    Ah, let me bring you back to the 80s, when the motherboard really was the motherboard full of daughter cards. Your network and sound and disk controllers and so on all had their own card, so you could mix and match and replace parts. I could actually go even further back, when people fixed solders and replaced chips on the individual cards too. What happened? Integration. More and more got on the motherboard and if the motherboard broke, get a new one. All-in-one volume and convenience beat flexibility and repair ability. Laptops are the same, volume and convenience of an integrated laptop means the market doesn't care or at least not enough.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tolkienfan (892463) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @06:43PM (#41601951) Journal

    The PC industry started with a few tinkerers.
    Then PCs became useful to regular folk.
    These regular folk have never cared whether they could write software or hack the hardware, or even open the box.
    They are moving on... and into a walled garden.

    Few of us have anything to say about it, and we are a tiny minority.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @08:42PM (#41602945)

    No, actually, the *desktop* PC must pass, if simply because we will have better wearable/integrated computers in the future.

    But every advance these wearable/integrated computers get will get rolled back to my desktop PC, which, because it is connected to both mains power and to wired network and has a decent keyboard and display, will forever remain more powerful than the battery/wireless/size-limited wearable/integrated computer.

    Your argument is as silly as claiming that the era of artillery will pass just because we have better pistols now, and for the same reason.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @09:32PM (#41603237)
    The advantage of a 3.5" mechanical hard drive over 2.5" is twice the usable surface area per platter and room to fit 5 of them in a single drive. The common 9.5mm high 2.5" drives only fit 2 platters. Thats why you see 1TB 2.5" drives and 3TB 3.5" drives.
    Technology is developed and built on the larger 3.5" platters. It is then further improved and put on 2.5".

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