Monday, 29 April 2013

In Defence of the Desktop Computer

I believe the invention of the desktop computer to be one of the greatest things to happen last century. Of course it was miniaturisation that allowed for computers small enough to fit on a desk. This meant that everyone who could afford a computer could have one.

Over the years they have become an amazing multimedia platform. The sum total of humanity's knowledge is now at your fingertips. The number of things desktop computers can do is so limitless I couldn't hope to list them all here.

Now that same miniaturisation has created incredibly powerful handheld computers the mobile phone and the tablet PC. Some media commentators have been so bold as to label the desktop computer as obsolete.

Despite what some people say the desktop is not obsolete nor is it an endangered species. I do not believe it will be an endangered species for many many years. The mobile phone or the tablet will never replace the desktop computer - simply because they can't. Mobile phones are too small - creating anything larger than a text message will lead to sore thumbs. Trying to type on a tablet faces similar difficulties. Even laptops can be difficult to use over long periods of time. The best computing experience comes from sitting in front of a desktop computer. I can't imagine playing the game Bioshock Infinite on anything other than my desktop PC. The large high-resolution screen and the mouse are a must with some games. Game consoles come a close second in my opinion.

Some people plug their laptops into external screens, mouses and keyboards. You are also starting to see mobile phones and tablets that do a similar thing. I believe this will be the future with your everyday device transforming into a desktop.

I also believe the desktop computer we know and love will exist for many years. The PC is endlessly modifiable and upgradeable. It is great being able to insert extra hard disks or a new graphics card when something faster or better becomes available.

Announcing the death or obsolescence of the desktop PC flies in the face of technological history. The car did not result in the extinction of the horse. The phone did not replace the letter (although e-mail did). Video did not kill the radio or the movie cinema.

This is because they are different, if related, technologies. Mobile phones make great phones, are great to play small games on or take photos quickly and they fit in your pocket. Tablets are great for surfing the Internet or for reading while curled up on a beanbag. But if you want to do some serious computing don't go past the desktop computer.

1 comment:

  1. I was at a mobility summit recently talking to an analyst from IDC. It was interesting the see the forecasts for PC vs Tablet vs Smartphone sales in the next 5 years. PC to drop 7% in the next 24 months then effectively not move an inch staying at the same rate year on year until 2016.

    I think you're right though about the evolution of the desktop. It most certainly is not dead, it's just got a more niche role to play in our computing lives moving forward.