Why the desktop computer is becoming obsolete

Business2.0 have a great article on their site, “Why the desktop is dying”.

Unless you stop to think about it, everything seems rosy in the land of the desktop computer. But what about the increasing number of PDAs and smart-phones that people carry with them and use on a daily basis? Why are they popular? Because people want to take their data and their wireless data access with them where ever they go, and not be chained to the desk in one location.

The article also mentions that laptop PCs outsold desktops in 4Q 2004. Will there be a convergence of handheld devices and PDA type devices? Time will tell, but I bet as technology becomes smaller, PDAs will become more laptop like. This has already been demonstrated by Windows CE Handheld PC type devices, which I think in many cases have been ahead of their time and have not yet found the market they are looking for. But when it becomes possible to do everything I can on my laptop on my Handheld PC which measures 7″ by 3″ and weighs less than 1lb instead of toting my 10lb desktop relacement laptop with me (and note the name “desktop replacement” already in use), then I think more people will opt for the smaller and lighter footprint. Even on the Windows CE Handheld PCs available today (HP Jornadas can be picked up secondhand on eBay for around $100) I can do basic office work, type notes, work on spreadsheets and Powerpoints, check my email as well as more basic tasks like manage my todo lists etc. OK so if I’m doing fullscale software development then maybe my Jornada is not going to be much use right now, but wait another a couple of years and lets see.

The article also mentions the growing trend of everything becoming available on the web – the author mentions he can type a calulation into Google and have it computed by a remote site faster than the same task on his Mac – what is wrong with this picture?! So is desktop computing power going to become obsolete too?

Lets thinks about that last statement in the context of the type of desktop computer available on the market today and the common usage for most home users. A middle of the range spec may include a Pentium4 2.4Ghz processor with 256Mb (or more RAM). This somewhat bothers me, because what does the average home user do with this huge amount of number crunching power? They browse the web, write a few emails, and maybe type and print a letter to the bank manager once in a while. Do you need a 2.4Ghz PC to accomplish these tasks? Of course not. But of course the PC manufacturers would like you to believe so, so they can get you to upgrade as your PC becomes obsolete once a year. If they can’t make you believe you need to upgrade now that their market is saturated with their products, then their market has evaporated and they need to look for other opportunities.

Which brings us to the point made in the article about the PC manufacturers changing their emphasis on the PC business – IBM are selling their PC manufacturing business to a company in China. HP has annouced it is no longer going to chase market share in the PC sector but instead focus on profits (translates as make PCs from cheaper, inferior components and still sell at the same price as your competitors).

So is the PC industry about to go through a major change? I beleive so. The market is saturated, people upgrade less,, and the only compelling reason left to upgrade is that Microsoft keeps releasing increasingly more bloated resource hungry software which means you have to buy a faster PC. Otherwise is that new 4Ghz processor going to help me type letters to the newspaper editor faster? Of course not.

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