Five Reasons Desktop PCs Won’t Die

Category: Hardware

Tablets and smartphones seem to be taking over the computing world. Some pundits are predicting that in a few years you won’t be able buy a desktop PC. Are PCs inevitably going the way of buggy whips? Here's my take on why that's that's not going to happen any time soon...

The Desktop is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!

It’s true that mobile computing devices are gaining market share at the expense of deskbound PCs. But the number of PCs sold per year has remained remarkably stable. (See the bottom, dark blue bar in this IDC Research chart. There is steady demand for PCs, and it’s unlikely to go away. Here are five reasons why desktop PCs will not die:

Ergonomics: Tablets and smartphones literally cause pains in the neck when used for extended periods. They’re harder to use for typing than a desktop with an expansive keyboard. Their displays are smaller than those of typical desktop PCs. Fine cursor control is difficult or impossible on tablets and smartphones. When faced with a choice between mobility and comfort, mobility often wins. But when people don’t need mobility, they usually choose comfort over saving space.

Desktop PC Won't Die

Compute Power and Storage: Desktop PCs can accommodate faster, more powerful processors than mobile devices, and can control more peripherals simultaneously. They are almost infinitely expandable. If you need several terabytes of storage in a PC or Mac desktop, it's not a problem. Tablets and smartphones can’t even come close, in either raw power or storage capability.

Work habits: When you really need to buckle down and crank out work, a desktop PC helps you get into the groove. It stays in a specific space called a “workspace” at home or office; just going there and sitting down at your “workstation” helps put you in a productive frame of mind. Conversely, when it’s time for a break you can escape your immobile desktop PC easily. You needn’t take time to pack up it and its cables, and you don’t have to lug it around while you’re not using it.

One of the must-haves in my computing environment is dual-screen capability. Mobile devices are designed to be small and portable. So you're never going to replicate a dual 24-inch monitor setup on a smartphone or tablet. Once you've had the experience (and productivity boost) of working on dual screens, you'll find a single monitor setup (even with one large screen) very restrictive. I typically work with a web browser on one screen, and a word processor or spreadsheet on the other. Programmers benefit from having source code one monitor and the actual running program on the other.

Expandability/Repairability: If your desktop PC needs more RAM, you can open the case and pop it in. If you've outgrown your hard drive, you can swap in a larger one or just add a second one. Desktop computers use mostly commodity (off the shelf) parts, so if one component fails, you can find replacement parts and fix it yourself -- usually with just a screwdriver. Hard drives, RAM memory, video cards, power supplies, monitors, the CPU and even the motherboard can be replaced without too much hassle. You can even use a different brand if you like.

But mobile devices such as your iPhone, iPad, or Android tablet are sealed up tight. You can't repalce or upgrade the SSD hard drive in your iPad. If the screen cracks on your smartphone or tablet, you can't just buy a new one. If any component breaks or fails, you'll have to send it away for repairs, which may be more expensive than buying a new one.

Finally, consider external peripherals. Try connecting a scanner, or an external hard drive to your mobile device. What about a second monitor? Where are the USB ports? Heck, it's a hassle just to print something from a mobile phone or tablet.

Cost: Miniaturization is always more expensive. You will never see a tablet that costs as little as a PC of comparable capabilities. And as I mentioned before, getting a PC serviced is cheaper than comparable repair of a tablet, or even a smartphone.

I know I promised five reasons, but it's always good to exceed expectations right? So here's one more I thought of while putting together my thoughts on this topic.

Security: Have you noticed how many news reports of massive data losses involve laptops, portable hard drives, and other mobile devices? Public wi-fi is a security risk that most users don't even understand. And it’s much easier to lose a smartphone than a desktop PC. Many employers restrict the loading of data onto mobile devices, and constantly struggle with network-connected mobile security risks.

Desktop PCs still have an important role in both home and business environments, and I just can't see that changing for many years to come. For many, a good laptop is the ideal compromise between mobility and the advantages of a desktop PC. Of course, nothing prevents you from owning a desktop PC, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone -- except your budget.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 10 Dec 2012

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Most recent comments on "Five Reasons Desktop PCs Won’t Die"

(See all 37 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

10 Dec 2012

My main reason not to give it up is gaming

Posted by:

10 Dec 2012

Yep. I agree with all. My wife loves her iPad and iPhone. But my main hobby is photography and tablets are all but useless for anything productive in this endeavor. I need large amounts of storage space and the desktop meets that requirement without having to resort to external boxes sitting around. I also desire the larger 21" to 24" monitor for editing and managing my photo images. Even a top-end, expensive laptop does not meet those requirments. So....yep...I agree with all of your assessment. I'm gonna keep a copy of it because I'm always being nailed with questions on this subject by friends and family members.

Posted by:

Grada Schadee
10 Dec 2012

I so totally agree with you on why PC's will not fade away. My eyes are fading fast;I suffer a joint disease which worsens with age. E-reader, tablet help lots for their ease of weight and fast communication... but for _real_ productivity (yes I am full time lecturer), give me the PC always and anytime.
I also find the PC much better, more flexible in connecting with other systems and my Intranet; managing large amounts of information and programs, adn connecting other hardware, such as loudspeakers, printers, beamers.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2012

I finally gave up my desktop when my hard drive crashed (again). As a freelance writer/editor, I needed something immediately. Since my husband and I also travel in an RV quite a bit, I decided the best bet for me was a high-end laptop with 17" monitor. I have it hooked up to another monitor at home and use it as a desktop, with a 1T external harddrive for backup. But when we travel, all I have to do is pick it up and go. Incidentally, we replaced the harddrive in my other computer (which was less than one year old when it crashed). My laptop is faster and more productive than it. As far as tablets go...I love my 7" generic Android tablet for playing games, checking e-mail, and reading books. But it is for consuming information, not generating it. Tablets have their place; so do desktops and laptops.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2012

What a great article. Very thought-provoking at a time when many older people are wondering whether to buy tablets rather than desktops and may be getting advice from younger people. Pros and cons for all options are nicely covered in the article plus readers' comments. However, fading eyesight (for both screen content and keyboard) is probably the major criterion for much older people who wish to benefit from the empowerment of the communications revolution.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2012

Ergonomics is not just about a work area designed for comfort, it's everything being discussed here.

In 2000 the International Ergonomics Association defined it as:

Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and other methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

With respect to the PC/MAC - there will be changes we can't even imagine. For example, the equivalent of a PC will be a part of our body. Then, we'll likely be gone when it comes to that!

Thank You Bob

Posted by:

11 Dec 2012

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said - in spades!

Posted by:

Brian S.
11 Dec 2012

Well, I use my notebook for working and in my bedroom which I hook up to a second 24" monitor. I also use it, for instance, for typing this comment. I use my desktop PC which is hooked up to my 40 inch flat screen TV, with wireless keyboard and mouse, when I want to sit down on the couch after a hard day working and watch a movie or browse the internet. I use my Android phone on the go and as my mobile hotspot for my notebook and desktop PC, since I don't have cable or DSL. They all get used equally for different purposes.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2012

Screen size and especially dual screens are very important to me. It effectively mimics he ability to shuffle papers around on a desk. It even allows cutting and pasting from one program to another so much easier.

Posted by:

12 Dec 2012

yes.Desk tops are great.Only the mass of wires at the back is a bit daunting but there is an option of all in one too.For older people like me ideal

Posted by:

12 Dec 2012

I agree with the posts that i did read. I do believe that the desktop is here to stay, despite all the hype of iPads/tablets and other wireless devices. You can't beat sitting down in a comfortable chair in front of a big monitor of your choice and resolution, under lighting conditions you select, to get your work done. I love laptops, iPad devices,and smartphones for what they can do given the location and situation you are in, but they are not replacements for people serious about computing work.

I see people here in the NYC subways constantly with these iPads who appear to be doing nothing more than than trying to impress people by viewing pics, rotating them,zooming in and out,etc, or maybe playing a game. Some are reading online papers, but i see those few and far between. The book readers are using Kindles,etc. As someone who has fixed desktop pc's for years, i don't even open a laptop,except for stuff like the RAM,disk drive or possibly the optical drive. I can't imagine government workers sitting at a desk with a laptop and/or tablet to get their work done, no way. In my opinion, the desktop is here to stay, and i hope the stick shift and round steering wheel for cars is here to stay too.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2012

Thumbs, excellent scrutiny. Both desktop and mobile devices are important in their own aspect. During work i use Desktop but at times when don't feel like sitting and working then i pull out my laptop, and still when i need to type it's again switch over to desktop. So both have their own pros and cons. Thank you bob.

Posted by:

22 Dec 2012

I feel the same. If you juat have to have your computer with you every waking minute no matter where you are, then you need to get a life. What people are mostly using those devices for is "tweeting" and "facebooking", both of which are mindless pursuits. Since the invention of those things, traffic accidents have increased as well as the seriousness of them. More people are dying than ever before in auto accidents because of these "convenient" devices which, from what i have seen, cause more problems than they are worth. What was good about laptops is you couldn't really use them while you were driving. First it was "smart" cell phones being used by dumb people to text while driving. Now, thanks to ipads, androids and now the windows rt, you can not only text while driving but have complete conversations on twitter and facebook and even watch a movie. After all, you dont really need to watch the road while your driving because it is not your responsibility if the other idiots on the road are not watching out for you. If they get hit it's their fault for getting in your way while your watching a movie on your ipad. Thank you apple for increasing the number of fatalities on the roads. Everytime someone gets into an accident while using one of these devices while driving, the manufacturer of it should be held responsible. Meaning that the person, or persons, not at fault in the accident should be able to sue the manufacturer of the device and then maybe, just maybe, they will start putting some kind of device in them that will prevent people from using them while driving. Then maybe these people will actually have to get a life and discover that there is something else besides twitter and facebook. Who knows, they might actually have a real conversation with someone that does not involve a keyboard. OMG! LOL!

Posted by:

24 Dec 2012

i looked into replacing my desktop with a laptop,which meant loosing some features as others have stated.Which may have been ok, but to get close to the same spec was 6x times the price,which says it all.
most likely with 6x times the loss of usability all things considered.Except portability.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2012

I agree with all your comments. I enjoy building desktop computers. The web is an excellent source of help and repairing is a cinch, even for seniors.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2012

Smart phones, lap tops and tablets offer convienience and portability, true enough, but, the power and the glory remain with the desk top.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2012

Anything smaller than a desktop has never appealed to me. One huge reason is that, due to a severe wrist fracture many years ago, I have a huge problem manipulating small keys, buttons etc., or even holding on to the thing. Also, to me a laptop is heavy, and even an iPad that I held seemed a bit much for me. This is all probably due to my injury.

But--there is nothing like a tower PC. It looks serious, powerful and really makes me concentrate on what I am doing. I think all the reasons given in this article are very valid. Long live the PC!

Posted by:

01 Jan 2013

Great article. I work from home typing transcripts. I cannot work on a laptop all day, but when my PC died I bought a laptop to use as the processor only and kept my full size keyboard and large monitor. It's also easier if I have problems to just hop on a bus to the computer shop with the laptop. So I have the best of both worlds!

Posted by:

Geoff Greig
02 Jan 2013

A few counters to you arguments.

Re Power and Storage. With Cloud computing this is far less relevant as mobile cloud storage could be as large as you want it. Using external cloud computing power can be faster on a mobile device than a PC. eg Voice recognition on my Android phone is faster than on my PC.

"Miniaturization is always more expensive". Try configuring a PC with a Mobile phone Radio, a FM Radio, Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, a Digital Compass, a proximity sensor, two cameras and a touch screen and see the price compared to a smart phone. PC's use physical footprints and technology developed decades ago and have far lower component integration than Smart phones. Now and more so in the future this concept, Miniaturization will make the future devices far cheaper than PC's such that it will be cheaper to purchase a new Smart phone than repair a PC.

It is possible to add external USB devises, including external hard drive keyboards mouse and the like to Smart Phones such as the Samsung Galaxy. Its only marketing by the like of Apple that disallow such things from happening. After all, mobile devices are just PC's in a different form.

The big downside of mobile devices is screen size and data entry which will be overcome in the future with heads up display glasses and thought input.

Geoff Greig
Brisbane Australia

Posted by:

18 Oct 2015

I agree with all of Bob's comments on the subject. I am fairly certain that when most people have any proper work to do they will be turning to their Desktop to do it. Surely the trend for smaller and (supposedly) clever hand held devices is driven by those who crave the latest fad and fashion. All the hype has been pushing this stuff. Very recently we are seeing a few of the big names pushing desktops again. The sheeple will follow the trend.

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