Is desktop computing dead? (Image credit: Shutterstock)
As a tech blogger as well as an Android user, mobile is a big part of my life. Smartphones and tablets have irremediably shaped the way we think of, and the way we use technology to serve our various purposes. But although mobile is here to stay, I feel like too many tech bloggers advertise the death of the PC. To me, nothing could be farther from the truth!
As mobile devices are being mostly used to do light stuff such as browsing the web or consuming content, there is no sign that the PC is now obsolete. Sure, the PC industry took a major blow and will have to adapt to the new circumstances and trends before it fully recovers, but it is my opinion that the PC will never become obsolete.
For starters, when you compare a PC against an equally priced tablet, the difference in computing power is huge, and more and more people now need this extra power: can you render graphics on your tablet? Can you edit videos? Can you edit/produce music at a decent level? Can you play graphically intensive games? How much data can your mobile device store? To illustrate, my desktop currently holds 2TB of data, and while the cloud may be an interesting solution, there are some files that are just too large to be instantly uploaded and downloaded from the Internet.
As tablets will undoubtedly continue to carry more and more processing horsepower, modern PCs will still continue to be much faster than their mobile competitors, mainly due to the cost of miniaturization. In addition, the PC supports true, real-time multi-tasking, which is a must for a lot of professionals.
Why am I putting so much emphasis on the professional side of the PC? Because more and more people do their job on a PC, that’s why! And as all companies struggle to keep costs down, most employed people will continue to have a PC in front of them at work for a couple of reasons: first of all, it is much more comfortable to type on a keyboard and follow data on a 24 inch display (as compared to a tablet + keyboard combo), and it is also cheaper.
I am aware that keyboard accessories can turn your tablet into a netbook, but the price of an Apple iPad + keyboard dock is exactly the price of a much more powerful PC opponent. The keyboard dock only extends a tablet’s functionality, but it is a long way before I consider that combination as a nemesis for my amazing Lenovo Thinkpad L530.
Additionally, it is my opinion that desktop PCs will continue to remain the “go-to” solution when you need as much performance as you can get, because they can suck out all the energy they want from a power plug. This advantage will never go away and might lead to the adoption of static data-centers in tomorrow’s homes, where all the data is held and processed on the PC, and just streamed to other devices around the house, in a way that could be very similar to a router allowing access to the Internet.
And for as long as desktop PCs will have a place at home or at the office, the laptop PC market will always be there to provide a mobile version of the same experience. In addition, just look at how compact these new Ultrabooks are. In my eyes, the extra power and cross compatibility that they offer is worth the ever tinier price to pay for their extra volume.
But if the PC is not becoming obsolete, what’s going on with the poor PC sales for the past couple of years? My guess is that the huge amount of tablets sales bitten from that of PCs is largely due to the fact that plenty customers are willing to get a new (and trendy) device rather than update their desktop / laptop. But that does not mean they have or will stop using it. In fact, some recent reports already claim that the PC industry will rebound during the second quarter of 2013.
As tech advancements in the PC universe reach unprecedented levels, expect a lot of people to consider getting a new, extremely powerful PC in the next three to four years.
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It should be abundantly clear by now that “Post PC” was a Jobsian marketing construct to sell iPads and was never really a thing.
“Here, have some delicious fallacy that will help justify you spending moneydollars on this thing you don’t need. So another industry gets hurt along the way big deal. What’s that you say? We product PCs too? No we product Macs, they’re different.”
Consumers gobble that rhetoric up oblivious to the fact they’re being made the fool of.
We also are in the PostMac era… ;)
My Desktop Windows 7 PC is still my “go to” device. I browse on here more than any device(with pleasure) and I create content on here way more than I ever could on an Android or iOS device. The “PC” is still King IMHO. Mouse and keyboard rule.
As many of being constantly telling the end of PC this is so rubbish and none of the tabs or mobiles could ever replace PC
Really can you watch Netflix, write an email, and reply to a facebook chat. That just summed up the extent of what people in general ask of their computers. The issue is that computers aren’t the central source for entertainment, which is what is important to most people. Most people who read this and are annoyed enough to comment are already exceptions to the rule.
Post-pc didn’t mean death of pc. steve jobs and bill gates talked about it (although gate, uses different term for ‘post-pc’ but they mean and were talking about the same exact thing). Post-pc means, when PC stopped becoming the hub of your multi-media and other stuff. Both S.J. and Gates pointed out that PC’s will remain, but will not continue to be the hub, but will instead join the other devices connected to one new HUB — the cloud.
Misconception breeds misinformation.
Thank you god for someone who actually knows what the death of something means at a metaphorical level!
undeniable truth is tablet both android and ipad is full of toy apps. even if they sport quad or octa core processors they still have toy apps with limited functionality.
post pc thing is noting but marketing gimickery started by apple.
I would have ditched my laptop if my tablet had storage around 256gb to 512gb, dont know why people say 32gb is enough hell no and about cloud storage , is still very far away for me due to very slow speed connection and no unlimited plan and also no usb port , next i am gonna buy surface pro only as my professional tablet.
most of the people who say 32gb is enough are from US or european countries where internet speed is fast and there is good wireless internet being in 3rd world country cloud thing is impossible. surface pro is tablet+laptop hybrid, power of pc with portability of tablets this is what android should have been.
I don’t know but what most people do on pc is browse the web, download music, movies etc and do some facebook stuff. And tablets do all of those. IMO tablets a going to become more powerfull and usefull in future. Also PC sales are declining. So i think post pc thing is true.
I would assert that “most people” do not do “personal computing”. For the fact of the matter those that do PC tasks on desktop are still doing PC tasks on their smartphones.
Post PC is just a failure to call a spade a spade.
hmm, exactly why I agree with the converged vision of the upcoming Ubuntu-touch/desktop.
I think the desktop is here to stay for a long time, just that those powerful phones you mentioned will also be another means to accessing one and do more complex stuff.
Very good article. I share the same opinion. In fact, I would go as far as saying that, in most situations, serious intelectual work can only be achieved using a desktop computer. As for the PC sales that are going down, I was under the impression that it was mainly due to the fact that many ex-PC users don’t need more than what tablettes can offer them in terms of computational power. In other words, a lot of people just want to browse the Internet, check their emails, go on Facebook, watch videos and photos, etc., all of which can now be done with a tablette.
“tablets”, not “tablettes”. Sorry about that! :)
Exactly and this is what they mean when they say the PC is dead. It is no longer central, or at least won’t be in the near future.
This is also evident by chrome os entering the market… Smartphone have made some people realize that they don’t need the bells and whistles of a PC.
Cell phones, tablets are wonderfully convenient and allow us to do a lot of the things that used to keep us shackled to a computer on the run.
But, if I am using Photoshop editing a 1 GB image file with 10 or 20 layers – well, need I say more? lol
To say, “The PC is Dead” makes a nice attention grabbing headline but like most headlines manufactured for effect and resting upon a thin substrata of dubious conclusions – rather than underlain by a bedrock of truth – it doesn’t quite pass the reality test with flying colors.
Still can’t root/unlock your bootloader without a PC, so I know PCs are not obsolete, and won’t be for a very long time.
You can on a Note II
I don’t think PCs will be dead, just yet. But one has to ask, what does the shift towards mobile means ? In my opinion, people who did not have to run PCs to watch youtube videos, chat on facebook, don’t have to. However people who create things like software, video, articles will need PCs or similar form of production machine for forseable future.
Many of these people too use their mobile devices, for basic tasks (e.g browising the web, watching videos), and in this case mobile is a compliment device rather than a competing one.
you can replace your tablet with your laptop but you cannot replace your laptop with a tablet
and desktop are workstations
all those who claim that PC is dead are those noobs who do nothing more than access facebook on their devices and watch youtube or play music
the MAC works well for these type of noobs
PCs are never going to die!
Good article! People need to always keep in mind the purpose of companies is to sell you STUFF. To do that, they need to convince you of a particular position. In the case of tablets, the latest, shiniest technology, MARKETERS need to convince you that the PC is dead. That *everyone* is/will be using a tablet and if you aren’t/don’t you are a Luddite. The economics are as simple as that.
Last Christmas, when I needed to replace my broken 7lbs (!!!) laptop, I bought a W8 11.6″ Asus Touchscreen laptop. I was really tempted to get a tablet, but why didn’t I? Well, it just didn’t have the ports and power I needed to do my work as an IT road warrior. At just 2.9lbs, it was only twice as heavy as any RT tablet available, but multiple times more efficient. (By the way, this is the same reason I wouldn’t buy either an Apple or Android tablet: They are *mainly* consumption tools, not *extensive* productivity ones.)
One day in the future when they have found a way to make productivity tablets (read Windows 8+ Pro) laptops way lighter (<1.5lbs) – and cheaper – I'll get one of those. Because I need to do more than simply CONSUME stuff that MARKETERS are trying to sell me, I'll continue to make choices in MY best interests.
Oh, and one last thing: I'll be even more excited when they've created a virtual keyboard so you don't have to tote around an extra pound or more with the additional bulk – and inconvenience.
“Global PS shipments plunge in worst drop in a generation”
Q1 2013 PC sales have suffered their worst sales drop in history. Tablets are eating up PC market share.
Call it what you will, but it’s impossible to deny that this really is a “post-PC” era.
Its a bubble dude, or has everyone forgotten how we were supposedly gonna buy everything from caskets to catfood online according to the press during the dotbomb?
Just like the dotbomb bubble its about to burst, in this case it’ll be performance, just like what happened with X86. You have Samsung testing a hexacore, nvidia selling Pentacores, because you just can’t get ARM to scale without killing battery life.
So just like we all said “yeah whatever” when the dotbomb was having these gold plated “On the Internet!” fantasies so too will this bubble pop and all the press that swore “All you need is an iPad!” will look just as stupid as they did after the dotbomb burst.
I always stress that tablets only compliment desktops/laptops, not replace them.
You are in the minority. Most people in the world don’t care about edit music or rendering graphics, they want something that just works for apps, music, videos and web surfing. 13.9 percent decrease in PC this past quarter… Windows 8 may not be helping but it is not the root cause. People want the convenience of a tablet at a lower price point. I wouldn’t be so certain that there will be a PC revival. While you may lament at the masses indifference to powerful PCs, it may be time to accept that change is coming whether you like it or not
For me, they’d have to buld a tablet with all the memory and function of a desk top, along with a slide out keyboard like my Droid 4
I’ll clarify what is happening.. I think PCs are expensive compared to mobile devices.. Instead of buying a PC which is about 1000$, you buy mobile devices which are a lot cheaper. Today we can buy 2-3 mobile devices for 1000$(1-2 tablets, 1 phone) as Google has proven recently. Anyway, who needs the power of PCs? Gamers, businessmen and other people working with digital data. For the rest there are tablets and smartphones which complete the basic tasks brilliantly..
i have put off getting a new laptop as i went for an asus tf201, ( a few months before the TF300 and 700′s came out, and are now cheaper 6than my 64gb TF201 with kboard dock, Trouble is, yep its all apps, great for web surfing and social sites etc, but try doing real work, doc editing, photoshop, graphics and website design yep, adobe have made all their software available on cloud accounts, but i like to have my own stuff on my own local stoarage, so a new ultrabook, laptop is not far away, i prefer this witha external Hard drive to a PC, i can work anywhre in my home….
btw, i dont know about other android devices, but i have 64gb local, 64gb sd card, and a usb port so storage space is not really the issue, smartphones and tablets are great portable keep up with the latest info machines, but to do real work you need a PC and/ or laptop.
Decline in PC sales is mainly due to lots of new, high-powered tablets being available for what the majority of people use their PCs for. Another factor that gets less attention is the proliferation of media devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Boxee Box, as well as smart TVs. You don’t need a PC to watch Netflix or Hulu anymore. I have a 2 Roku players, an Asus TF300 tablet, and a smartphone that have completely replaced me watching streaming services from my PC.
However, when it comes to the graphic/web design projects that I need to complete, nothing is going to replace a PC. For one, screen real estate is important. The tablet version of Photoshop is really cool and has a lot of great features, but it can’t beat a 24″ HD screen and an i7 processor with the full version of Adobe Creative Suite. The moment they create a fully-powered PC (i7, 12-16 GB RAM, 1-2 TB HD, etc) in a 10-12″ tablet format that runs Android when used as a tablet and then switches to Windows when docked to a keyboard or desktop docking station that I can connect an external display to, I’ll be the first in line to buy it
There will be terminal workstation solutions: Netcomputer+Screens+Keyboard. But no full-blown PC. By increased network performance more and more hardware becomes disintegrated, and your videos too will be in a cloud, maybe they are stored there in realtime while recording. Video editing etc will be done through a internet service.
Technically i see no valid points in this article. But politically, what it missed totally, there maybe some. For example, there could be a consumer niche, who still wants to have full control over its computing.
I totally respect that desktop/laptop computers will be around for quite some time but I think what was meant by the ”post-PC era” was not a complete death of PCs, but rather that PCs would not be the go-to option for the majority of average consumers. By this definition, I absolutely think we are at the start of a ”post-PC era”. For many many consumers (ie ” the majority of average consumers ”), all the things they use a laptop/desktop for, like YouTube, Facebook, Web browsing, Hulu, etc, is being accomplished by tablets and smartphones instead. This doesn’t mean that a tablet can do everything a desktop computer can, but for most people, the way they use computers does not include 3d rendering or heavy video editing, so a tablet is more than sufficient. For myself, occasionally I will do video editing, so I’ll pull out my laptop for that, but for anything else, I find that my Nexus 10 is the go-to option. I probably only get on my laptop once a week these days but I use my tablet every day. I think this is a very common phenomenon for most people out there. So, in my opinion, the post-PC era has begun. It does not mean that no one will ever use PCs, it just means that we are using them less and mainly for only a handful of applications. The focus is shifting away from desktops/laptops and the tablet is becoming the go-to form of computing.
I used to need a new PC every two or three years to keep up now I can last four to six years with one. So with my extra chunk of change in the middle I got myself a tablet, but my next big tech purchase will be a PC again.
Here is my assessment
1. PC 2TB Hard Drive vs IPAD 32GB Hard Drive
Winner = PC
2. PC 3GB Video Card vs IPAD 512MB on board Video
Winner = PC
3. PC Internet Hard Wired Internet vs IPAD Wireless Internet
Winner = PC
4. PC Gaming vs IPAD Gaming
Winner = PC
5. PC theft vs IPAD theft
Winner = PC
Imagine if you had to choose between a desktop and a tablet, and they both had the same performance. Would you really choose the desktop? At the time i bought my laptop, it was as good as a same priced desktop from one year ago. It can run anything i throw at it with reasonable performance and it’s also very convenient ( i can take it anywhere, i can use it anywhere), and i don’t restrict myself to the “computer room”. But it has it’s problems: i have to wait one-two minutes to start it, the batery drains really fast, it doesn’t have notifications, or an easy way to install stuff. Also, it overheats and it’s heavy to carry around for extended periods of time. But i don’t think i would go back to a desktop for anything other than gaming. And i develop games in Unity and edit stuff in photoshop. Most people i know use their laptops as primary computing devices, and they are working as programmers and IT professionals. As laptops took the place of the desktops (in homes), i think it’s reasonable to asume that tablets will take the place of laptops. Or who knows, maybe foldable smartphones will fit that role. And we should be glad, not long ago a computer was the size of room. The desktop isn’t going anywhere for the forseable future, but less and less people will need it.