Linked by kloty on Tue 6th Apr 2010 21:22 UTC
Editorial A few years ago I wrote on OSNews several articles (1,2) about workstations. After three years I had to stop, because there were no workstations left on the market, they became legacy and were not sold any more. Now with the rise of mobile devices with touchscreen and wireless network connectivity virtually everywhere, the question becomes valid, what will happen with the desktop computers, are they still needed, or will they follow the workstations on their way to computer museums?
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For many years, we will still not have fast enough technology in such small devices for that kind of use. For the foreseeable future, it will still need to be much larger, to dissipate more peak power.

But...the desktop is most certainly becoming a kind of legacy device.

In the old days, you added a card for storage. You added a card for serial ports. You added a card for video--or maybe two. You added a card for sound--or maybe two. You added a card for a network interface, and/or a modem. You added a card for freaking CPU cache memory. By the time a PC could do cool stuff, the inside was a nest of ribbon cables.

Then, you added a card for video and sound, because integrated sucked. Everything else was in there by default, and worked (say, Intel 440 series, and AMD 750 series chipsets and newer, for the 'works' part). Now you add a card for sound if you're out for high quality, and a video card for high performance. But, many games today do just fine with AMD and nVidia's already happening...

I don't see how the desktop will disappear w/o us becoming far more inefficient, and generally making medical and chiropractic doctors tons more money to deal with our problems caused by these poorly-laid-out devices. I like my notebook and all, but even as an old Thinkpad, its keyboard pales to a real one, a real mouse is better, and a bigger display is better. It's also nice not having the main portion of the computer right where it is easy to spill things on.

But, a nettop-like everything-soldered-in device, with plenty of power, at a decent price, with multiple display outputs (and/or the ability to have many GB/s links outside of it, for added video capability), and plenty of ports to hook other things up to...well, big vendors are already this close || to selling those boxes en masse (look at the low-end PCs, low-end corporate workstations, and HTPCs). With powerful x86 SoCs already on the horizon, I don't see how we can't be going in that direction.

The thing about portable devices is that they are just not ergonomic. They fit niches, and work well, because you can't take a desk, chair, mouse and keyboard with you, and since they to have it work with a battery, it either becomes oddly shaped like a laptop, or reduces multitaking ability like a cell phone, and still doesn't have the necessary processing power for some of us (and the needed processing power grows, you know).

Just like how computers were going to replace paper, mobile devices will not replace a good place to sit down and use a keyboard, with a display a few feet away from it, and a mouse/trackball/whatever a few feet away from a display, yet without the main body of the machine being in the way of either, as will be the case when trying that on any notebook with a big display.

The desktop as a highly-customizable box I think will go away as soon as what are typically added today can be integrated, as has been happening for ages. The desktop as a station to sit down at to use it, though, hit a good compromise many years ago, taking over the centuries-old desk, that took over the millenia-old desk-like tables, and is only going away for people that don't like using desks to begin with.

Those of us that like desks will continue to add functionality to our desktop computers with all of this newfangled network-enabled technology, not replace them. But, they are already not at the forefront of computer technology; merely a good place to dump performance-related R&D improvements by x86 chip companies. Us power users have been doing most of the things that are supposed to kill off desktops...with desktops, years before most people start doing them with notebooks and phones (or, some people did, and annoyed the mobile communications companies in doing so...). We'll keep on using them, as will many many others.

People for whom it would have previously been too much work for, is where the appliances and mobiles really come into play. Those who would have loved to get rid of their desktop computers prior to notebooks being good enough, and for whom a media center was a great idea that never worked for them, and so on.

Edited 2010-04-11 08:01 UTC

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