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The Desktop Is Dead, Long Live the Desktop! 453

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-abandon-your-battlestation dept.
theodp writes "'The desktop or laptop is now in decline,' writes John Sall, 'squeezed from one side by mobile platforms and from the other side by the cloud. As a developer of desktop software [by choice not necessity], I believe it is time to address the challenges to our viability. Is software for the desktop PC now the living dead, or zombieware.' While conceding there's some truth to truisms about the death of the desktop, Sall believes there's still life in the old desktop dog, 'We live in a world of computing where dreams come true,' Sall concludes. 'The mainframe bows to the minicomputer. The minicomputer bows to the personal computer. The personal computer bows to the tablet and smart phone. It seems as if these will soon bow to the smart watch or smart glasses. But at each step along the way, some applications find their best home – and other applications as well as new applications find the more convenient and smaller home better...So let's keep our desktops and laptops, our PCs and Macs. They are amazingly good at what they do.'"
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The Desktop Is Dead, Long Live the Desktop!

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  • make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:11AM (#45593785)

    Go ahead. Fire up SolidWorks on your pad or phone. Or AutoCAD. Go On. I dare you.
    Now tell me the desktop is dead.

  • Every year (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twocows (1216842) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:11AM (#45593791)
    Every year we hear about how the desktop is dying and every year it doesn't. When will these idiots realize that desktop PCs are a niche that's not going to go away? It might shrink, especially compared to other forms of computing. But reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
  • personal computing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcello_dl (667940) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:18AM (#45593835) Homepage Journal

    The personal computer is not a form factor, it is a philosophy.
    No dependence on centralized service, computing done by the user, for the user.
    Unless done properly, cloud and toys (smartphones, tablets) are a regression into the mainframe era. Give your toys enough control and you'll see.

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:19AM (#45593845)

    nope, modern laptops are just as good as desktops now. Apart from the small screen (which can be good as a secondary thing to run your email or whatnot on), the laptop has as much power as your desktop.

    I have a i7 laptop with 8 Gb RAM on it - that's plenty for development and running the dev environment, including db and services. If I need more than that, I'll be running the code on a server box, not a desktop.

    Desktops are just cheaper, that's their only advantage nowadays.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:30AM (#45593949)

    There is no true death here: only an inevitable and natural partitioning of platforms based on target usage. Desktop PCs had a good run (three decades) as a platform for both creation and consumption, but the world has changed. Phones and tablets are better-suited for consumption (literature, movies, music, games, web-browsing), but PCs are still the best practical platform for creation (writing, editing, composition, game development, web-site building). And yet this is all pretty obvious. Of course PC market-share will go down, way down, as it must. But the sensationalist media can't help but to bandy about terms like "living dead" when describing the desktop PC industry because - as any MBA is more than happy to tell us - in business, lack of growth equals death.

    It's as though they have seized upon a mercantilist mentality of a world divided exclusively into winners and losers. World ain't like that.

  • by DEFFENDER (469046) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:32AM (#45593963)

    Haven't you seen the Star Citizen promo? Here. [] The PC and it's capabilities are not dead to the tune of $33.7 Million USD and counting.

    Just because a newer or different technology sells well and meets one segments needs (business) doesn't mean that the old one will die. I mean seriously, how many of you are still running a tape library out there?

  • by crow (16139) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:36AM (#45593997) Homepage Journal

    The desktop isn't even pretending to die.

    Yes, it's not the big hot thing anymore. Laptops took over the hot spot a few years ago, but for the purpose of software, they're generally the same as desktops. Now tablets and phones are cutting into the laptop market.

    But the markets are huge. Even a 90% decline would still leave a substantial market with opportunities for new products. It's only a problem for companies with established dominant products. If you are depending on upgrade or support sales to an established base, then a declining base is a problem.

    The comparison to mainframe may be particularly apt. While everyone likes to talk about how the mainframe was replaced my mini computers and later desktops, this isn't really true. There are lots of companies with large mainframe deployments. It's still a multi-billion dollar industry.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:37AM (#45594003)

    Exactly. For content consumption, small and mobile devices are very convenient. For quick interactions, they're OK. For serious content creation, they are just not the right tool for the job.

    The trouble for the PC vendors is that for most serious content creation, desktops and laptops were already powerful enough a few years ago. Only those who really need local power, like creative media or CAD types in business or gamers at home, are interested in buying newer and more powerful machines often any more. For everyone else, the desktop isn't dead, it's just a mature platform and they already have it.

  • by Lester67 (218549) <ratels72082@myp[ ] ['ack' in gap]> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:44AM (#45594081)

    For some reason that is the 800lb gorilla in the room... Windows 8 did more to damage the Laptop and Desktop market than anyone is willing to give them credit for. (8 and 8.1 are actually not too bad... ON A TABLET.)

  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:48AM (#45594115)
    Even outsourced jobs require a desktop. Just they won't be sold in your first world market. Aaaanyway I don't see the desktop as dying, but I do see it moving into a niche for power users, developers and gamers.
  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:54AM (#45594163) Homepage


    The only people who can migrate are the people who only do Facebook/Youtube.

    Reason: People who do any kind of job/work need a screen bigger than 10".

    The PC market will stabilize again once those people are out of the way.

  • Re:Every year (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:57AM (#45594205)
    Not dying, just moving towards a much smaller equilibrium point to reflect the size of their niche. Most people realize now that they can get all their computing needs from a phone. Some people will always need the raw computing power, the graphics power, the server ability, etc that only comes with a desktop. Poking around at a clumsy interface with your fingers is ok for occasional tasks, but keyboards and mice are specialized in what they do and so far nothing more efficient has come along to replace them. The same with multiple, big monitors. I have 3 23" monitors on my desk side by side - I love the horizontal real estate. It lets me track several things at once. Until you can give me a phone that I can plug my monitors, keyboard and pointing device to and that has the same speed, RAM and graphics ability I will be staying with desktops. I see no reason to "downgrade".
  • Re:Every year (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenh (9056) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:05AM (#45594289) Homepage Journal

    The incremental improvements in hardware performance haven't justified buying replacement computers for the last few years - that three year-old Core 2 Duo running at 3 GHz with 4 or 8 gigs of RAM runs everything the vast majority of users choose to run pretty well. For most home users the real bottleneck in their computing is the speed of their internet connection. Quad core CPUs don't make Facebook pages render that much faster. And Windows OSes have gotten better the last few outings (Win8 performs better than Win7 on the same hardware, Win7 performs better than Vista on the same hardware, Win7 and Win8 run better than WinXP on the same hardware.), and like it or not, most users run Windows OSes (some 90% or more, by some estimates).

    What makes a fourth generation i3, i5, or i7 CPU/system so much better than a third or second generation i3, i5, or i7 CPU/system FOR THE TYPICAL END-USER?

    The vast majority of new computer purchases are for either replacing dead/dying hardware or new users with no previous system.

  • Exactly. For content consumption, small and mobile devices are very convenient.

    Who exactly spends all of their time simply "consuming" on these devices? It's virtually impossible to spend more than a day online without feeling the urge to add to the conversation, and all iDink devices and touchscreen interfaces do is get in the way of that (2-way) conversation with the outside world.

    As to the consumption itself, as far as I can see, everything is clunkier on touch device. Everything. Designers are having to make buttons and icons cartoon sized in order to accomidate simple viewing on these "computers".

    I simply cannot accept the proposition that people are -- willingly -- going to accept a future of either creation or consuption on these restricted devices. Even if the whole industry collectively decides to abandon PCs, in a decade or so the current infants playing with iDinks will manage to "rediscover tactile touch based text input devices once called 'keyboards' " as a faster, better method of interfacing with their computers.

    Eventually, some of them will even rediscover the command line as well.

  • Saturation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sub67 (979309) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:11AM (#45594373)
    Whenever I see news or discussion about dwindling desktop sales I don't see anything about market saturation. Computers are relatively durable appliances that people aren't typically going to replace without the need to do so.

    When was the last time you replaced your toaster just for the hell of it?
  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geeper (883542) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:19AM (#45594479)
    I agree...developer and gamers. And finance, engineering, graphic design, manufacturing/planning, the list goes on and on.
  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:24AM (#45594537)

    power users, developers and gamers: so the majority of users then? I think most people play games occasionally. It might be going the way of the cable package: you might hardly ever watch anything on your tv anymore (at least not something that isn't PVR'd, hulu, etc other equally available from the net content) but you won't cut the cord because well you might ... sometime + the occasional Star Trek marathon or sporting event. Similarly writing your resume, doing your taxes etc on a cell phone would suck so you need to have a desktop around even if you rarely use it.

    I think a more realistic scenario will be that tablets/phones get powerful enough that people use docking stations when they need a bigger form factor, but to me that is still a desktop (not sure what the official categorization is) just like having a Mac Mini attached to a 30" screen and full sized keyboard would be a desktop. My guess would be that most corporate devices remain laptop desktop form factors for the next 10+ years. If they aren't portable they aren't getting lost/broken at bars. The hardware will remain likely cheaper but at worst the same cost as a smaller form factor, and likely will have a longer useable life (there is a cost to miniaturization and it is usually both performance and hardware faults both which lead to more rapid hardware churn).

  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:43AM (#45594735)
    I blame the design of the Windows 8 UI.

    Thanks for turning my $1000 gaming computer into a useless tablet.
  • Workstations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by emblemparade (774653) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @11:08AM (#45595073)

    You're right: desktops will become workstations (if they're not that already). They will continue to be very powerful devices suited for very particular work, that either requries a lot of computational power or is ergonomically sutied for a desk-and-chair.

    Until quite recently, desktops were multipurpose devices: they did all that but also browsed the web, did word processing, and other lighter tasks. They'll still be able to do that, for sure, it's just that unless people need the workstation stuff, there are simply better devices than desktops.

    The desktop isn't dying, it's just narrowing its mission.

  • Nope .. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mordred99 (895063) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @11:36AM (#45595403)

    I don't know where and why this keeps coming up, but at the end of the day, the death of the PC won't happen for a while, for many reasons:

    1) Creation vs. Consumption
            I hear this bullshit a lot as the main driver for the death of the PC. This is a particularly specious argument. The whole creation vs. consumption aspect comes from creating content. While I can type on a tablet or other device, it is not as good (no matter the method) as a keyboard. I can type this entire post in 20 minutes on a keyboard but would take hours (and having fun with spell check, etc.) on some tablet device.

    2) Ownership of content
            This a huge one. With a desktop I can own what I own, and it is mine. With any always connected, remotely managed device I never can control what they manage. Cloud apps just scare the hell out of me as you don't own anything. You buy a song on ITunes, it is yours until Apple says it is not. You buy a movie from Amazon, it is your until the movie studio sues Amazon and they get a take down notice. This is why if I buy something, it is a physical device. You can not take my Blu-Ray copy of Skyfall without a warrant and coming to my house.

    3) Ownership of information
            The next thing is who owns your data. Have you read many of the EULA for software? Try turbo tax. You would think that your data is yours. Nope. Well I can control how the software works and how it calls home for information my data is stored locally. It never sends that information out. Now use the online (cloud) app from them, they store your information for you. Let me see my tax information is probably one of three things I never want anyone to see (for identity thief protection). This is stored somewhere where you trust them to keep it safe. This is why a desktop (or laptop) is best for this as it is stored local and you have control.

    4) Form Factor
            Yes at the end of the day, you can consume any form of media on any form factor. I can watch netflix on my tablet or my phone, but is that the most enjoyable experience? Hell no, it is just the most convenient. If I am going to watch a netflix show I would rather watch it in all its glory on my 52" TV with dolby digital sound system. However when I am sitting at an airport, yes I have to watch it on my portable devices since pulling a 52" TV through an airport w/ associated 7.1 system would just be unfeasible.

    5) Gaming
            While some stupid little game like candy crush or angry birds work on those form factors, you cannot tell me that a high FPS FPS (heh .. frame per second, first person shooter) will never work on your dinky 4.3" Iphone screen. Yeah games can be made for those form factors, but at the end of the day, are those the games which are going to be what you want to spend 60 dollars on and want to spend hours playing on a larger screen. Nope, that is a console or a desktop.

  • Re:make my day... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deep Esophagus (686515) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:33PM (#45597139)

    Yup, gamers. My son was all about the portability of a laptop, but he finally gave up and went back to big iron because the desktop box was easier to upgrade and repair, had more RAM and HD capacity, and (most important to him) far better framerates on his FPS games.

    I keep a laptop in a travel bag for the rare occasion I need to compute on the move, but all my important work is on the desktop box. I'll give it up when they pry the GeForce card from my cold, dead hands...

Mathematicians stand on each other's shoulders. -- Gauss