The PC is not over; it’s just changing very, very slowly
For the past year, I’ve been reading numerous opinions of how the PC is over. My first PC experience was well over twenty-five years ago so today I find the supposed demise of the PC extremely hyperbolic. I find tablets and smartphones as specialized extensions of PCs so you’ll excuse me if I don’t buy the hype.
Of course what no one clarifies what the PC is exactly. Is it the keyboard and mouse? Is it the form factor (size and portability)? Is the inability to touch the screen what separates PCs from everything else? Are the components (CPU, GPU, RAM, etc.) the key difference? What exactly defines the PC?
For the time being, I’m saying form factor is the one defining attribute which separates desktop PCs from everything else. Tablets and smartphones are always trying to cleverly implement capabilities from the PC but as of now, the PC still wins with a keyboard, mouse and whatever monitor is attached.
While tablets, smartphones and ARM-based computers are definitely useful in specific use cases given their size, processing power and energy efficiency, I could see ARM-based CPUs working their way onto the desktop. ARM is already working it’s way into the server market enhancing the speculative demise of the x86 CPU. Instruction set architecture may change with the times but all that’s changed is the technology, not how it’s being used.
The PC desktop itself will never completely go away. It will, of course, transform over time. But as the primary use of creating, manipulating and interacting with content, I can’t see it becoming a relic. How we interact with desktops today may become relic-like in the future, but that’s not to say we won’t have something similar to today’s desktop.
The growth within the smartphone and tablet industries has been undeniably tremendous, but keep in mind that those devices are still relatively new and the technology behind them is still in it’s infancy. It’s easy to forget that smartphones are always replaced within two years (or sooner) and in addition to tablet manufacturers upgrading their product lines on a yearly basis, it’s clear that the opportunity for purchasing non-desktop PC devices is far greater in comparison to desktops.
I can’t help but wonder if all this “end of the PC” talk is similar to the whole “netbook” phase the world went through years ago. On the surface of today’s market and trends, the desktop PCs future is gloomy, but it’s maturity and productive utility within both the consumer and enterprise market make it a far larger beast to overthrow. The desktop PC (in whatever form it may be) will be with us for a while as it is going somewhere, it’s just going a lot slower in comparison to everything else.