Many have cited the demise of the PC. Now that tablet X is on the market or that smartphone y has sold millions, it’s only a matter of time before you pitch your PC out the window, right?
I actually believe it’s going to be around for a long time (and that’s not just because I need to get paid). What we are starting to witness is the transcendence of functionality beyond what our devices were originally used for.
Let’s be honest, here: you don’t need a PC to check email and surf the web. The way I see it, too many people have computers; the evolution of smart, integrated devices will correct the size of the PC market.
Workstations used to be used for solving problems, not checking your bank balance and surfing Facebook. I think they are entering a time of homecoming, where people who use computers for their original intent will reclaim the PC and purpose-driven devices will fill in the void for others.
The Need For PCs
Let’s consider a worldwide acceptance of the tenet that PCs are dust. On International Ditch Your PC Day, everyone throws out their computer in favor of whatever device they are carrying around. What happens next?
Nothing. All the applications you have on your device will be all you ever have. Device development would halt. There would be no new gaming systems, much less games. There would be no new prototypes for handheld devices (as many of these start out by taking up several square feet, built off of an emulator on a superfast PC). Advances in medical research would be crippled.
They can’t all go away, simply for the reason that the bulky little buggers we’ve grown used to on our desktops over the last two decades are needed to advance the things we take with us when we leave our desk.
I don’t mean to discount mainframe computing and virtualized workstations, those will have their place as well, but there are types of folks – myself included – that will need the localized, on-demand power and processing capabilities of a personal workstation.
Cheap Things and Consumerism
This whole situation we’re in is partly a problem with the way we’ve taken everything in our culture to the extreme. I won’t rant on this too much, but if a 21 year old office clerk can service the debt of an SUV, she does. If there’s a new computer out that is 8x the speed of your old one with 4x the memory, and it’s only $400, you tend to want to purchase it. Bigger, better, faster, shiny-er. That’s how we roll.
So computers fall below $1000 and lots of people start to buy them. Lots too many, actually. Then reasonable PCs come in at $750 and you’re shopping with Grams so she can get pictures emailed to her of your new kids. Then $500. Now $400, monitor included. Laptops at $379, netbooks running at $289. Everyone getting something.
We won’t ever see PCs abolished from planet Earth, but they will start to sell less and less. Prices will even adjust to reflect demand, and we can expect to see PCs priced back up around $1000 (in today’s dollars, that is, not just due to inflation).
This will happen because Grams doesn’t need a laptop to see pictures, she needs a digital picture frame. Your dad doesn’t need a PC to surf the web, just a small touch tablet.
Desktops will not go away, and their end is not nigh, but I suspect they have peaked in popularity. They will morph, take new shapes, miniaturize and maybe even become a remote device to our desktop (which has only inputs and a display of some kind).
For anyone who actually uses computers, they will be here for a long time to come.