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Written by Scot Strong   
Friday, 28 September 2012

Is the Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!

So the desktop PC is a dying breed, you say. Hmmm, are you so sure about that? Since making such a statement infers a comparison, one then has to ask the question "compared to what?" Compared to the way it used to be? Considering that we are discussing one of the most rapidly and continuously evolving technologies known to man, "the way it used to be" can be as little as six months ago. The ongiong need for desktop PCs continues to manifest itself in many ways.

With the rapid proliferation of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, notebooks, ultrabooks, etc. the trend has become for people to own multiple devices. Tablets and note/ultrabooks have advanced to the point that they are literally portable PCs. But are not the majority of these purchases in addition to the desktop PC still being used at home? Mobile devices also tend to get replaced more frequently; whether it be a mere upgrade, or due to being lost or stolen. Upgrading a mobile device almost always requires replacing the device; rather than just upgrading an individual component. If it breaks, do we try to have it repaired (good luck with that) or just replace it? At the end of the day, many of us still go home (or get up in the morning) and fire up the desktop PC for our first/last dose of personal computing for the day - especially if we need to print anything.

Whether it be your "workstation" at your job, or your own personal desktop PC at home, the ergonomic advantages are the same. The desktop-style keyboard is designed to fit the natural spacing and shape of the human hands; allowing the use of all the fingers (and thumbs) to create speed and accuracy with its use. Would you rather compose a lenghty e-mail or report on a standard-sized desktop keyboard? Or would you rather do the two-finger or finger-thumb hunt and peck on a miniature or virtual keyboard? Which one lends itself to greater accuracy? Would you rather use a mouse that is desigend to fit the human hand/fingers; or a trackball/touchpad that is overly sensitive or not sensitive enough? Again, which one lends itself to greater ease of use and hence greater speed and accuracy?

newegg_warehouse.jpg
Photo courtesy of Newegg

And then, of course, there is the visual aspect. The desktop gives you the option of a wide variety of displays. The trend is toward wide-screen monitors or even flat-panel HDTVs (guilty, your honor!) as monitors. For gaming, the bigger and wider the better - even multiple monitors for the hardcore gamers. For workstation situations that require multiple tasks such as spread sheets, documents, user manuals, training materials, etc. that wide-screen monitor is hard to beat. With most mobile devices, you are stuck with whatever screen comes with that product.

The lifespan of a desktop PC continues to get longer and longer. The desktop PC platform offers a whole host of upgrade paths. Virtually every component can be upgraded from a multitude of choices from a multiitude of manufacturers avaiable through a multitude of retailers and e-tailers. Yes, the desktop PC component market is alive and well. Key players continue to make significant investment in ongoing product development for desktop components. Intel and AMD both continue to develop desktop processors. With storage being the most frequently upgraded portion of a desktop, the storage manufacturers continue to develop larger capacity, faster, more reliable drives. HDDs, SSDs, hybrid drives, internal, external - take your pick. The 'health' of the dekstop PC business should not be judged based solely on new OEM pre-built system sales.

The single most compelling reason that I feel that desktop PCs will live on for many years yet is that funny not-so-little thing called the world-wide-web. The vast majority of content is browser-based. Browsers are by design a primarily desktop interface. Even the most robust mobile browser does not compete with a full-featured desktop browser. If you have some serious web-surfing, research, or shopping to do, are you not going to gravitate toward the best tool for the job?

When we see all of these mobile devices being developed and sold, consider that much of that is in addition to - not instead of their dekstop PC The desktop PC as a usage model will live on in homes and offices for years to come. It will continue to be supported by hardware and software vendors for years to come. Those of us who build, repair, and upgrade desktop PCs will still be needed for years to come as the technology continues to evolve. The continued "evolution" of the desktop PC certainly does not yet equate to its "death" - and we never have to recharge the battery!

Mobile Phones, Tablets, Laptop, Desktop PC... what direction are you going?


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Comments 

 
# RE: Is the Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!Jon 2012-09-28 11:39
Nicely written, Informative I agree.
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# I'm a monitor-bigotCarlie Coats 2012-10-06 07:03
...and I am not happy with what is being sold as "wide-screen".

Real work requires both screen-width and screen-height, and
frankly a lot of these "wide-screen" 16x9 monitors are not
adequate in that department, much less tablets or smart-phones.

For real work, you need to be able to compare multiple documents
side-by-side. That's why I use a 2560x1600-physical monitor
with ten 3200x2400-virtual screens -- on Linux, do

xrandr --panning x --fb x

to get virtual screens (possibly much) larger than physical.
Going without that kind of screen area has been shown to cut
my productivity in half, or worse.

FWIW
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# RE: I'm a monitor-bigotMichael 2012-10-08 01:13
That is so true! I can't imagine myself using smaller resolutions for work
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# Different strokesMergatroid 2012-10-08 14:42
Many people like to use their PCs in different ways. That's one of the things so attractive about PCs. Personally, I have no use for virtual screens, but at home I do use two 16:9 monitors.
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# Google workstationsCarlie Coats 2012-10-06 08:07
I forgot to mention:

net.rumor has it that the standard Google workstation
configuration has two or three 24" 1920x1200 displays
*in portrait mode* to give sufficient height to display
context in those side-by-side comparisons.

FWIW.
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# RE: Is Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!Doug Dallam 2012-10-07 23:03
Yep, they will live on but at the same time, die a slow death. As everything continues to shrink, heat vs power will no longer be an issue for the consumer market. Eyeglasses will come with fully integrated super computers (compared to now) with HUD like full screen lenses that can pan infinitely depending on your "desktop" needs, similar to how spread sheets work now.

According to Michio Kaku, by 2050 contact lenses will have an entire computer built into them and so to for the visual aspect. No need for a keyboard. The interface will be completely mind driven. I know this all sounds ridiculous, but if you read Michio Kaku's book _Physics of the Future: How Science will Shape Human Destiny and our Daily Lives by the Year 2100_, you'll see it's no joke.
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# Heard it beforeMergatroid 2012-10-08 14:49
Go back 50 or 60 years and read a similar book. The predictions at the time look quite ridiculous now, or for those that don't they just are nowhere to be seen.

Where's my flying car? The moonbase? Manned trips to the other planets?

Personally, I would have no desire to wear contact lenses if I didn't need them to correct a vision fault. Hopefully by then, they will have done away with the things.
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# RE: Heard it beforeHunting.Targ 2013-06-13 01:24
Looking back 1,2,5, or 10 generations, the truth of human vision smacks us in the face; we have no real idea where the future is going. Of course there are futurists such as Buckminster Fuller who see where the world is going and get there first. There are also hard-tack scientists or gritty entrepreneurs that see possibility and MAKE it become real (Ford, Von Braun, Adm. Hopper, Adm. Rickover, Gates, Jobs, Dell, Walton, etc.)
My point is that technology opens up so many possibilities that we can't possibly explore, develop, and integrate them all into society in the next generation. So what the world looks like in ten to twenty years isn't dictated by scientific discovery; it is decided by human thought and choice.
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# RE: Is Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!Doug Dallam 2012-10-07 23:05
I might add too that when things shrink to that level, there isn't going to be any corner computer hardware repair shop. You'll need an electron microscope to see anything.
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# RE: Is Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!kzinti1 2012-10-07 23:18
Exactly who says that desktop PC's are a dying breed?
The only time I ever, ever, hear such a ludicrous statement it's from the author of yet another of these lame "PC's Are on the Way Out" articles.
I have never heard anybody, anywhere say that the PC is on the way out, to be forever replaced by whatever catches the pre-teens fancy on any certain day. Smart-phone, iPad, Tablet or console game. Whatever the suckers fall for at any given moment.
Except for the lone authors of these ridiculous articles that I've been inundated with since Windows failed with the Millenium Edition and came up with XP.
With all the things going on in the computer world, why is it that the only thing you can come up with is this drivel about a fictitious claim of somebody, somewhere that says the PC is a failing platform.
I suggest that you get a real job instead of writing a repeat of an almost infinite repeat of this non-existant, never going to happen idea.
With your poor imagination I believe you would be an excellent candidate for a 3rd rate burger flipper at your local scarf and barf.
You certainly haven't the wherewithal to be any kind of a writer.
Desktop PC's aren't going away this century or very likely even the next two. Just like Rock 'n Roll, PC's are here to stay.
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# do a google searchScot Strong 2012-10-08 06:16
Try doing a google search of the phrase "desktop PC a dying breed" and you will receive nearly 70,000 results.
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# Sales are droppingMergatroid 2012-10-08 14:54
PC sales are at their lowest point in years. It's easy to see many people would never have purchased a PC at all if it weren't for the #and email and such. Once tablets came out, these are the people who abandoned their PCs because they just don't need that kind of capability in a device they only owned for such limited usage.

I agree, the PC isn't going anywhere, but for many people that have no need for a full fledged PC, they have no use for them. I would never trade mine in, but I also own a tablet that I use for reading (something I used to use my PC for), doing some browsing and streaming video.

The PC used to be the only game in town. It's not anymore.
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# GeesMergatroid 2012-10-08 14:56
For some reason the site filtered out the triple W I used to indicate the world wide web.

Lame.
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# RE: Is Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!Argos 2012-10-08 00:13
Nice article.
Most of the time this subject is debated in a scaremongering fashion.
PC owners anxiously look at their desktop PC's thinking they wasted their money on a dying device.
This is nonsense of course.

Yes, the PC is a 'dying breed', but like the car is a dying breed and like the mobile phone is a dying breed. In a far future there will probably be no cars anymore because we will have something better. Same goes for PC's. No need to get scared. Most of us will probably not be around to see it happen. And when it happens in your lifetime you will not object to the change because you will have moved on with new exiting technology. There will be no short term revolution to overthrow the PC. It will be a long term evolution and we will all embrace it, because we will perceive it as a normal and natural development.

For the time being, and I believe at least the next several decades, the PC will be with us. I am sure of it. There is no alternative at the horizon at all. Thinking that current mobile devices are an alternative for the PC is ludicrous.
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# Another one of these articlesET3D 2012-10-08 00:17
Occasionally hardware enthusiast sites post these articles, to get some hardware enthusiasts to chime in with support for this point of view.

Are desktops going away altogether? Probably not. Neither did Vinyl. But anyone who takes a serious look at what devices people use will find it hard to claim that desktop PC's are the main computing devices.

At work I'm using a laptop for software development. So does my wife. The art department girls also use laptops. At home the PC I use most is my wife's Inspiron 1720, since it's more conveniently located. For many other people their phone is their main computing device, where they play, post to Facebook etc.

Sure, my "main" PC is a desktop, because, after all, I'm a PC enthusiast. But I use laptops a lot more than I use that "main" PC. Do I use any of these laptops with a touchpad? Not a chance. Why would anyone even use that as a reason for using desktops where it's easy to hook a keyboard, mouse and external monitor to a laptop?

The industry has been moving towards mobile for a while. Not only do more mobile devices sell than desktops, but the CPU companies see it as the main market, with AMD bringing mobile versions of Trinity before desktop ones, and Intel concentrating on reducing power consumption.

So sure, desktops will stay because there are still enough people who enjoy building them and having an extra bit of power that most people don't need, but it doesn't make sense for most people to have a big box fill mostly with air when they can have a compact device which does the same thing.
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# RE: Another one of these articlesArgos 2012-10-08 00:33
"when they can have a compact device which does the same thing."

But can a mobile device do the same thing?
What 'thing' are we talking about here?

You see, this is crucial.

Some 'things' can be done effectively and comfortably with a mobile device. Other 'things' certainly can not.

For comfortable computing and gaming, and DTP-ng, Database-ing etc. etc. I always return to my full keyboard and mouse and wide screen display. I only use my mobile device when I have to, when there is nothing better around. And I assure you in most cases my Desktop PC actually is the best thing around! For countless tasks no mobile device can compete with it.
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# Laptops such for daily workMergatroid 2012-10-08 15:03
Maybe you and the rest of your coworkers are using laptops because you have a cheap boss?

If I owned a large business, I would easily outfit it with PCs, and use the money normally used for replacing laptops for upgrading the PCs. They're easier to use, harder to steal, and simpler to repair.

Of course, not many businesses see how much better it is to upgrade the main board, cpu and memory in a PC every few years as opposed to replacing laptops. It's better for the environment too.
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# RE: Is Desktop PC a Dying Breed? Many Think Not!ET3D 2012-10-08 02:04
You're talking mostly about peripherals, which is also what the article talks about. But peripherals can be hooked to a laptop or nettop just the same. I use my laptop at work with an external keyboard and mouse, and occasionally hook it to another display. A colleague of mine has his hooked to a 27" display.

Why a laptop? Because you can talk it home, or to a meeting room, abroad, or to your favourite coffee shop, and all your work is with you. There are other side benefits, like when electricity dies you can continue to work. I've used UPS's with my desktop PC's, it's not the same.

As I said, I don't think that desktops are going away. But I think that the main reason for having them is the desire to tinker, to know that you can upgrade anything (even if you don't), to be able to tweak the system for a little extra power (that you don't really need).

Of the things you mention, gaming is still the one thing where the power of the desktop helps, but integrated graphics are becoming adequate, and for people who aren't very demanding (i.e., most of them) it will be enough.
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# Easier to disappear tooMergatroid 2012-10-08 15:08
I've never had my PC stolen from a coffee shop.

Even though I own a decent tablet, and may use it for working on stuff out of home/office, I would still never give up my desktop PC. I find it far more comfortable to use and far more powerful for gaming than most laptops. It's also completely upgradable, which I do every couple of years.

I own a laptop as well, but it's really old because I just don't need it for anything as much as I do my desktop. I own a tablet because, for those few things I don't want to use my desktop for, the tablet does a great job. In fact, I purchased the tablet instead of purchasing another laptop.
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# Don't forget custom buildsmatt 2012-10-08 03:46
As you said, the parts are not included in the counting of it. This means that custom builds are not counted. At my school, probably around 30% of people who buy desktops buy custom builds.
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# KeyboardsJeff DeWitt 2012-10-08 05:43
I agree that desktops are not a dying breed, for bang for the buck you can't beat a desktop, and they are easy to repair and upgrade.

However some laptops have excellent keyboards, when Lenovo talks about "the legendary ThinkPad keyboard" it's not just advertising hyperbole. Those keyboards may not be quite as nice as a classic old IBM Model M but they have a nice feel, are full sized and are easy for us touch typists to use. (The little red TrackPoint is also an excellent alternative to a mouse)

##pcworld.com/article/147939/greatest_keyboard.html

One of my favorite keyboards was a big old, clicky Power Beige IBM desktop keyboard, and it had a TrackPoint.

At home the two computers I use the most are my little X60 ThinkPad... and my HTPC, which I built myself in a wooden cabinet and it looks like a 50 year old radio.
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# Weaker eyes, bigger fingersAdi 2012-10-08 10:36
those are my problems with todays small/smaller devices. even a 10" netbook causes an uncomfortable situation when i have to type a lot or see a lot of numbers on excel.

as for the market development, it's not down - but relatively stagnant. which is no wonder because even major manufacturer go small
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# Desktops will be deadBob 2012-10-08 11:16
I see the sentiment you have towards your desktop and for the sake of gaming and otherwise productivity-based applications the desktop will remain king. But once devices nearly match or do match PC equivalents and the technologies emerge that no longer rely on screens and physical keyboards, that will all change.

And don't kid yourself, those technologies are partially here, already here, or have been worked on for a number of years and just aren't public yet. And they are coming. Scaling mobile computing (not just 'smart phones' or even 'small tablets') will be the future of computing.
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# Not for a whileMergatroid 2012-10-08 15:13
Voice and touch are not king, and for home and office use I doubt they ever will be. All these technologies will have their uses, but I doubt they will replace the desktop PC (although eventually it may no longer be a "desktop", but that can already be done).

I have no desire to use a large display with touch for all my computing needs, and voice doesn't do the job either. Perhaps a combination of these technologies will be the best way to go.
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# In the long run we are all deadJeff DeWitt 2012-10-08 13:28
Yes desktops will be dead, as the article said, but it won't be any time soon. As a matter of fact I'd be willing to bet 50 years from now people will still be using IBM Model M keyboards... be interesting to know what they will be connected to!

As a matter of fact I'd be willing to bet that desktops will be around longer than laptops. Laptops are kind of halfway between desktops and tablets, I expect laptops are going to fade. (Again this is going to take many years). People will carry their tables but when the get to their desks they will put it in a dock where it acts as a screen while the dock has a keyboard and mouse plugged into it.
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# marginally dead!iFLAME 2012-10-08 14:42
"The 'health' of the dekstop PC business should not be judged based solely on new OEM pre-built system sales." - This!! The reason I became an enthusiast in the first place (realization followed afterwards) and got into PC-side of things was the freedom, fun and flexibility of the platform itself. And where do you get most of it if not in the desktops? Listen to the OEMs and you might miss the forest for the trees! The desktop market is a lost cause for them and 'real desktop market' is beyond their reach which by the way continues to grow. Big OEMs like big margins and run away when facing tough competition; HP deserted the Touch-pad and almost pulled out itself from the PCs last year, Sony is getting out of optical drives - a segment pioneered by the company and all these should tell you something! The whole "desktop is dead" cry is ill propagated. For the incompetent OEMs, it is dead for sure but for us, the users, it's never was more lively!
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# Wooden cabinetJeff DeWitt 2013-04-15 07:10
This forum doesn't seem to allow pictures or links but if you google "Wooden computer case" you will get hits for a lot of custom cases AND for the nMEDIA Red Wood HTPC 8000 ATX case. About $100 and it's a very cool looking case. My HTPC looks like a 1940's vintage radio.
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# RE: Wooden cabinetOlin Coles 2013-04-15 07:13
Benchmark Reviews tested that wooden HTPC enclosure:
benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=331
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