“The PC is dead; long live the PC!” If you look at computing history, we’ve really come a long way in a very short time. Remember those old bricks that required an entire desk set-up to deal with? Now there’s more power in our smartphones than those beasts, and we’re getting ever smaller and powerful with our devices. We’re seeing a merger of mobile and laptops, with convenience and portability the main goals. However, we’re never going to get away from needing something that will help us be productive, and the PC form factor is uniquely positioned to do just that. Depending on what pundit you read, you’re going to hear differing opinions on whether the PC is still relevant with all that is currently going on; it’s a common theme that seems to be kicked around quite a bit in the tech industry. In this article, we’re going to hear from several different voices who have explored this topic, and then we’re going to invite you, the reader, to chime in with what you think is really going on in the PC ecosystem.
As we see form factors continue to evolve, it might be tempting to postulate that the PC is on its way out. However, one writer believes this thinking is absolutely incorrect:
“We’re trained to think that this process is evolutionary, that desktops gave way to laptops, which give way to tablets. But that’s like saying four-door sedans gave way to two-door sedans, which gave way to Mazda Miatas. You can’t live off a cell phone or a 7-inch tablet, yet that’s where the market seems to think evolution is taking us. With a large cell phone or small tablet, you don’t need a laptop as much when you are mobile, so if anything, laptops might be riper for replacement. The powerful, productive desktop still has a role to play.”
In other words – the desktop isn’t going to die. Many of us witnessing the current evolution of PCs are able to see it for what it is now: a device that makes the world accessible. The desktop is the device that is doing the power lifting in productivity.
Is this a comeback?
With the help of Wifi and laptops, our computers are now mobile dashboards that make it easy for us get stuff done whether we’re on a train or in a cubicle. Ten years ago, it would have been considered somewhat vulgar to have more than one computing device simply because they were so expensive and took up so much room; now, we think nothing of having a tablet for each person in our household along with at least one laptop, a desktop, and a few smartphones sprinkled around for good measure:
“It's quite interesting to notice a so called "comeback" that's happening in the PC world. The launch of Windows 8 by Microsoft has thrown PC manufacturers back in the game with over 60 million licenses sold since launch. The question of PC or tablet is now being re-analyzed.” - InsiderMonkey
What we use our devices for
Typically, tablets are for content consumption, and PCs are for content production. You can’t discount the keyboard and the mouse for sheer power-through-it work:
“Not to mention that people will still use laptops if, for nothing else, having an actual keyboard is important to students, business people, and older-end users who cannot do well with touchscreens. Further evidence of that is the U.S. Department of Defense deciding to spend $617 million on Windows 8….PCs and laptops are also used as the home base for the accessories like tablets and smartphones. Accessories sync and backup to the home, not the other way around.” - SeekingAlpha
Are they almost “too good”?
The last time I upgraded my PC was in 2007. Yes, that was six years ago, and with the help of a few new additions it’s still creaking along. People don’t upgrade their PCs as much as they used to, simply because the systems are made so well now, with the ability to upgrade with new custom additions so easy, that it’s not completely necessary to spend the money to do so:
“The PC doesn't go obsolete as fast as it used to. I built my 6 core I7 Extreme over a year and a half ago and it still outruns 95% of PC made today. Ten years ago it would have been slower than half the systems within six months. More people are using PCs than ever, they just don't need replacing anywhere near as often as in the past…..Part of this is caused by PCs being so high performance that users rarely use all of the features or computing power. Therefore they no longer junk their working computer to buy the latest wiz bang model. Also, PCs are getting so reliable that they do not break as frequently. I am using one that is over ten years old and working perfectly.” – Yahoo Finance
Where does this leave the developer?
No matter which pundit you listen to, the reports of the PC’s demise are definitely greatly exaggerated. We as a society are not going to leave behind the productivity workhorse called the PC anytime soon, even as form factors merge ever more steadily between mobile and tablet. Developers have to watch this whole process quite carefully, as where the users go, they go:
“Both software developers and users should demand more. Developers should look for ways to reach their users unimpeded, through still-open platforms, or through pressure on the terms imposed by the closed ones. And users should be ready to try “off-roading” with the platforms that still allow it—hewing to the original spirit of the PC, perhaps amplified by systems that let apps have a trial run on a device without being given the keys to the kingdom.” – Technology Review
So – is the PC really dead? Hardly
As discussed in the recent Intel Developer Zone hangout, PCs have essentially been the same old, same old. However, recently we’ve seen quite a shift in the PC industry with brand new designs that flip, detach and do all sorts of interesting things. There will never be a “one size fits all” device, which would just serve to stifle innovation and growth. Everyone has different requirements for their computing devices. The general direction does seem to be more processing power in ever more smaller devices. Mobile and PC devices are essentially merging. What does this mean as we keep moving forward? Who knows! But one thing I think we can definitely agree on is that the PC is not dead – not even close.
What do you think? Are you watching what’s going on in the tech industry with PC form factors and thinking to yourself that the PC’s days are numbered? Or are you in the opposite camp? Let’s hear from you in the comments section below.