|Desktop PC Platform: Fears and Predictions|
|Articles - Opinion & Editorials|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 09 August 2010|
Desktop PC Platform: Fears and Predictions
Benchmark Reviews is a consumer technology website that tests gadgets of all types, but maintains a focus on desktop computer components. We're not alone in this effort, as we've kindly recognized several other websites who do a good job of accomplishing the same mission. To this end, we collectively follow certain market trends more than others. Over the past few years, I've personally watched certain technologies such as mobile devices grow ripe on the vine while others like cellular broadband have withered. Yet, regardless of focus, one particular concept has continually ruled the industry: more for less. To some degree this moniker shaped the birth of desktop PCs, but may also very well become the death of it.
This isn't exactly a new concept, mind you, as it generally parallels Moore's Law. It's only when you target a specific market segment and consider the idea that one popular platform could completely replace another that this concept becomes more interesting. Forty years ago most people couldn't imagine an age where computers could be small enough for personal use. Yet in 1976, Apple and Commodore were doing exactly that with the first consumer PCs. The very next year computer games made their debut for this new PC platform, which subsequently spawned the Atari gaming console. Later on in 1983 the Graphical User Interface (GUI) would arrive on the scene. By some accounts, this was the beginning of the end.
The PC was born from the idea that computer devices could be compact enough to perform work-related tasks in an office or home environment. Sure, gaming was a factor, but arcade consoles and home entertainment systems satisfied this market. There would be times when gaming consoles offered the best experience, and PCs grew to deliver multimedia playback. As the years progressed both platforms evolved, and to a large extent each returned to offer similar functions. For the next decade, gaming consoles learned to deliver productivity tools as well as gaming entertainment and would soon be considered a PC of another flavor. Gaming was the first primary threat to the desktop PC platform, and as consoles evolved to offer better graphics for a reasonable cost this continued to remain a concern.
The early 1990's were an interesting time for personal computers. Gaming consoles created "All your base are belong to us" and countless other popular memories, while dial-up Internet access and Id's Doom video game made desktop PCs a popular choice. Despite their best efforts, the notebook computer, or laptop PC as it was first known, garnered the most attention. Adored for their ability to deliver much of the same functionality as full size desktop PCs from inside a compact profile, laptops were the choice of business professionals everywhere. I personally experienced the dot-com gold rush (and dot-bomb era) working for web-based companies exclusively using notebook computers both in and out of the office. The miniature footprint and mobile computing capabilities soon formed the writing on the wall for desktop PCs.
Enter the year 2010, a time where mobile devices such as the HTC EVO 4G Andriod SmartPhone can nearly replicate the functionality of a personal computer, yet consume much less power and occupy less real-estate. If ever there was a time when more for less was clearly visible within computer technology, that time would be now. Mobile devices cannot replace the processing power of a workstation computer, and most devices aren't capable of delivering the entertainment experience of desktop PCs, but they're hot on the heels of notebooks and netbook devices. NVIDIA's Tegra mobile GPU might have bridged that gap, as I had the honor of playing Quake from a SmartPhone back in 2008, but delays have kept this disruptive technology at bay. Had it been accepted into mainstream production on time, I can only imagine what the average cell phone would be capable of at this point.
So as we move ahead towards the end of the year, and as we will soon be experiencing yet another display of modern innovation at the upcoming 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I can only sit back and wonder what I'll be testing a few years from now. Some of the original players in the hardware review business undoubtedly know this fear, and have witnessed technology shrink from the jumbo full-size tower computers into palm-size versions holding the same potential. Though this article merely becomes the introduction for many subsequent discussions I'll share on the topic, the message is clear: desktop PCs have an expiration date, and that time may not be far off.
Welcome to the new Opinion & Editorials section at Benchmark Reviews. Your input is welcome.