The Desktop is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!
Smartphones, tablets and other mobile gadgets seem to be taking over the computing world. Tech pundits have been predicting the death of the personal computer for over a decade. There were even predictions back in 2012 that within a few years you wouldn't be able buy a desktop PC. So are PCs inevitably going the way of shag carpet, typewriters, and encyclopedias? Here's my take on why that's that's not going to happen any time soon...
Here's Why Desktop PCs Just Won’t Die
Shag carpet and encyclopedias, Bob? Yes, there is a connection. As a kid, I could spend hours curled up on a shag carpet, leafing through the 26-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, that occupied a prominent place on the living room bookshelf of my parents' home. But these things, and the typewriter that I used to create my science reports, alas, are obsolete.
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 actually been rising for the past few years. This chart from Statista shows PC shipments worldwide from 2009 through the end of 2021. There is a definite decline from the peak years of 2011-2012, to the low point of 2019. But the total number of units sold in both 2020 and 2021 has risen sharply, almost to the peaks of a decade ago.
There is steady demand for PCs and it’s unlikely to go away. Over 88 million were sold in the fourth quarter of 2021 alone; sales for last year topped 340 million units worldwide. This happened despite supply chain issues, global chip shortages, and the return of many workers to the workplace. 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. Have you ever created a spreadsheet, presentation, or a 10-page document on a smartphone? 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.
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. But the mobile gadgets, with their incessant pings, beeps, and notifications will constantly demand your attention and distract you from getting things done.
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 and laptop 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 device are typically sealed up tight. You can't replace or upgrade the SSD hard drive in your mobile device. 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. You can't even replace the battery in most smartphones.
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. Oh, and you've probably never dropped your desktop PC in the toilet, or jumped in the pool with your laptop.
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 hacking and data losses involve 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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 Feb 2022
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The Desktop is Dead. Long Live the Desktop! (Posted: 8 Feb 2022)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved