The death of the desktop

The idea that the days of the desktop PC might be numbered is hardly going to come as a surprise to anyone, as I know I am not the first to make the statement.

However, as many still use desktops, it is worth putting the statement into perspective.

For a start, the bells might be sounding, but the demise is a way off yet. Desktops have their uses and the new technology will not eradicate them overnight.

So, if the statement is true, what are the reasons?

–           Improved performance and reducing cost of laptops

–           Increased use of smaller mobile devices, especially by younger generations

–           The cloud making less demand on PC’s

–           Changes in the way people are working

Technology

Laptops are lighter and faster, with more capacity and capability – where previously they did not match desktop capabilities, now they do comfortably. Also, as with much technology, costs have come down which makes them much more competitive. But even laptops are going to be competing aginst the smaller devices.

The super mobility and interactivity of tablets and phones coupled with their compatibility with apps and social media make them easily the most popular devices among the young. For business, cloud technology makes them equally attractive. The world is mobile.

Social behaviour

The workforce is going mobile. No longer tied to the 9-5, we want to be free to better balance our lives: work, family and social.

Flexible work practices have been around for a while, shored up by increasing legislation to protect the workforce. And there has always been a mobile workforce, but now it is easier for them to keep in touch.

Companies have realised that if their building is not fully occupied, they don’t need such a big building. This financial imperative has lead to many organisations experimenting with flexible working to save money.

What ties it all together is the technology. Dropbox, Google chat and docs, Skype, Twitter et al mean we are not tied to a desk or a time to work.

As if to prove the point

Recent projects at a business centre in Bristol illustrate this perfectly. I have installed routers and network systems with remote solutions for two different clients at the centre.

They all have laptops or tablets; work from home as well as the office or on the move and expect to be able to sit down and work anywhere. Unfortunately, this had not been possible because they were connected by Ethernet with static IP address, which they had to change to work at the office and reverse when they got back home.

The centre realised this was a problem and provided wireless routers. Once I had set them up, there was no problem – the devices pick up whatever wireless signal is available.

So is this the end?

When Microsoft spends a lot of time and money to make a dying device more like the devices that are superseding it, you know the writing is on the wall; perhaps to make a PC more like a mobile device is to miss the point. In fact, Windows 8 may have helped the decline as it has lost some familiar features like the Start button and added touch screen technology that makes a PC very expensive.

A few figures: according to International Data Corp, this year ‘first quarter global computer shipments dropped 14% from the previous year’; IDC also state that this represents the fourth consecutive quarter of year on year decline; by contrast, over the last 11 quarters, Apple has sold 121m Ipads*.

*Source: Forbes article 11/4/13; ‘The death of the PC has not been exaggerated’.

However, as I said – no need to panic just yet. Old habits die hard and there are enough around keep them going for a while yet. On top of which, there will be instances where you need servers. Even with cloud, there will be times when a hybrid set-up works best.

No hurry, but when you are next looking to upgrade your PC you might want to think about going mobile.

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