Is the Desktop Really Dead?

Posted by David A. Grant | Articles

computer-158675_640-300x245Anyone mindful of technology news has no doubt heard the incessant drumbeat that the desktop is dead.  From airports to the local grocery store, tablets seem to be everywhere. Android tablet sales alone grew by over 160% just last year. (Data source: The NPD Group)

But does this really mean that the Age of the Desktop is dead?

Not even close – and here’s why.  Today we live in a tech-centric world that is more multi-platform than at any other time since the dawn of the technology age.  As technology gained its foothold and the era drove hardware into American homes, portable computing was not even on the radar screen of most consumers – business and retail alike.

Fast forward to 2014 and it’s clear how much the tech-landscape has changed and evolved. According to Gartner Group data, Worldwide PC sales totaled in excess of 76 million units for the first quarter of 2014. This represents only a 1.7% decrease in PC sales compared to the year prior. A 1.7% decrease is hardly worth joining the ranks of those touting the PC is dead.

In April of this year, XP support drew its last breath, casting millions of users into the realm of unsupported PC’s.  As XP migration continues through the remainder of this year, demand for PC’s will not wane as predicted by some.  Those millions of unsupported PC’s will been to be replaced.

Hardware diversity is quickly defining the “new normal” for consumers and businesses alike. But diversity is just that- a diverse and varied number of computing platform options – many with quite specific limitations. Sure, you can add a keyboard to a tablet providing the tablet is Bluetooth enabled. But if your specific tablet is not, you are out of luck.

Smaller Form Factors Have Limits

Hard-core gamers have recognized for years that desktops allow for more memory and power in one device.  The actual size of the desktop allows end users to upgrade memory and additional drives with ease. A similar hardware upgrade path is simply not possible with today’s smaller form-factor portable devices.

Email management is also a critical point to be considered with display-based touch keyboards being acceptable, but not always the number one choice by many users, especially older users. We all know that webmail is the toad warrior’s best friend, but a webmail interface is not as robust or convenient as a fully featured mail client application.

One thing is certain – technology will continue to change. What is current today will obsolesce within a couple of years. Users will age and manufacturers will continue to EOL hardware.

But the desktop? The desktop is the foundation on which today’s entire PC industry was built upon. And while there will be the natural ebb and flow of hardware based on user preferences and manufacturers advertising, I wouldn’t bet on the death of the desktop. Not yet, at least.


About David A. Grant

Technology writer David A. Grant has been watching the tech landscape change and evolve since its inception. Back in the day when RAM wholesaled at a dollar per megabyte, and an 8GB hard drive was considered overkill, David was turning screws in a DEC Alpha Linux shop in southern New Hampshire, grateful that Al Gore had invented the Internet as we know it. He continues to watch and report on industry trends and changes.