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The Desktop -- Time to Start Saying Goodbye? 547

Posted by Zonk
from the still-looking-for-a-headware-implant dept.
Lucas123 writes "Robert Scheier at Computerworld writes that while worldwide PC shipments are expected to grow 12.2% this year, portable PC volumes are expected to grow 28% and will make up more than half of all PC shipments in the U.S. this quarter. Notebooks will dominate the worldwide PC marketplace by 2010. 'One researcher predicts it will be five to seven years before only the "die-hard" desktop users are left.'"
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The Desktop -- Time to Start Saying Goodbye?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:42PM (#19930437)
    when you pry it from my fat, cheetos encrusted dead fingers.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:06PM (#19930871) Homepage Journal

      The prediction overlooks far too many inconveniences that technology hasn't yet resolved.

      The need to regularly plug in the laptop. Poor battery lifetime and recharge cycle performance (but see ultracapacitors [ideaspike.com] for the impending doom of the battery industry.) The need to plug in various I/O devices (hard drives, scanners, various others for various needs.) The wearing out of laptop clamshell hinges. The low quality of laptop keyboards as compared to the awesome stand-alone keyboards available. The need for mice and drawing pads. The limited screen size of a laptop (you can of course make an ultra-large screen laptop, but then it doesn't fit in your lap very well.) The room inside a desktop for various hardware add-ons, such as PCI bus hardware, or highly accelerated graphics engines. Room for multiple drives.

      A few of these things - such as connectivity, which will probably go entirely wireless - will resolve themselves as technology advances. Most will not. So as an IMHO, but one with a lot of data behind it, I call nonsense on the entire proposition.

      • Not only that, but the advent of the smart phone, coupled with things like paper-thin displays, roll-up (or even holographic) keyboards means that we're going to see the demise of the laptop soon IMO.
        • by packeteer (566398) <packeteer@subdim ... ion.com minus pi> on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:04PM (#19931783)
          I think the laptop will no longer be the most common mobile device but it will still have a place. People that actually travel or commute with their laptops will surely want to replace them with a more mobile smart phone/PC. My brother got an iPhone on day 1 and he says he already doesn't bring his laptop home from work with him anymore, he can just carry his iPhone.

          On the other hand my friend is not a computer power user; she only uses her laptop on the desk or in her lap on the couch. I think a lot of laptops being sold are merely desktop replacements. There is no reason for someone who only wants to do email/web/schoolwork to buy a full on desktop computer. I would bet money that most laptops being sold today are going to people who are not transporting them very far.

          While my brother uses an iPhone and my friend uses a laptop I don't think I will give up my desktop anytime soon. Although i own a nice laptop i never use it, it sits in my closet. My desktop has a 21" CRT, 3 hard drives, and a real mouse and kayboard with a huge mouse pad (for gaming). I have played several video games competitively (you might have heard of the WoW guild was in) and a laptop just wouldn't have worked. Now that I don't play any video games anymore i still like my desktop. The huge screen is good for browsing and the mouse is much more accurate than a touch pad.

          The article mentioned that die hard desktop users will always be on the desktop. That is of course correct but I think there are many benefits to doing normal stuff on a desktop too.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ngarrang (1023425)

            I would bet money that most laptops being sold today are going to people who are not transporting them very far.

            And you would win that bet in my household. We switched to laptops due to space concerns. The old computer room is being turned into a baby room for Baby #2 (shipping date December 3rd). What to do? Buy a laptop, retire the old desktop. Kitchen table now becomes the computer desk. The desktop case will always have a place as long there are applications that use plug-in controller cards. I don't know some industries, but the heavy equipment field for manufacturing is stick in the 9-pin serial world,

            • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:50PM (#19932457)

              I don't know some industries, but the heavy equipment field for manufacturing is stick in the 9-pin serial world, or worse, a proprietary serial card that uses a "special" DB-25-like cable.
              I remember installing a psychological-testing device about 2 years ago that not only was 9-pin serial, but was also still an *MS-DOS* application.

              These days I work in government, and we install a lot of specialty/niche software (have to go through RFP and bidding process, etc), and it AMAZES me how crappy and outdated this stuff is. Microsoft Office? OpenOffice? Any Adobe product? All are polished beyond belief compared to this stuff, and these programs we pay anywhere from $100k to $1m for. The latest one (a $300k purchase) is literally a 10-15 year old application written in Visual Basic. Nothing about it is intuitive. You search through these mile long menus to find this vaguely named option that you just have to know is there, only to bring up yet another unintuitive screen with a lot of non-descriptive labels. And then these things require INSANE workarounds to install on a system, and often crash just as often as first draft open source project. Of course if I were to find an open source program that did this same thing it wouldn't get a second look, because it's "unsupported", and the pay-product is "enterprise grade software" (which means it's expensive, but doesn't reflect in any way how well it works). It's my complete belief that once you get past the $5-10k price range, the price and quality of a software product are inversely proportional.
              • by Paradox (13555) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:55PM (#19933835) Homepage Journal
                I worked for Lockheed Martin for 2 years, and I had to fight with all my spare time to keep them from doing that to the app I worked on.

                How does it happen?

                1. Every "senior" decision maker is a relic, or is emulating a relic to get ahead.
                2. Specs can be laid out YEARS in advance, turning a good application prototype into a slurry of good ideas melded to meet forgotten and often uninformed requirements.
                3. Any interface difficulty can be addressed through enough training! But the truth is planned training is often the first thing cut from budgets.
                4. Aesthetics and interface design are considered "premium" functionality, because most dev hauses have poor testing strategies (which are separate from QA). Just getting the product stable can be a major challenge.

                Or so my experience suggests...
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                I must admit I've worked on a few. One was 1 mill with all of the options. It was originally written in HP basic in the late seventies. It had been written by an engineer who had a basic grasp of writing code. He didn't like to have code that wasn't used a couple of times. So to support that noble goal, there was a liberal usage of goto's. Apparently it did things that no one else knew how to do, so it was worth it to the engineering depts of some large companies.

                I removed the goto's one summer and turned i
          • by tirefire (724526) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:09PM (#19932737)

            There is no reason for someone who only wants to do email/web/schoolwork to buy a full on desktop computer. I would bet money that most laptops being sold today are going to people who are not transporting them very far.
            You have just made an excellent case for why these people should not buy laptops. Desktops are way cheaper to purchase and own than laptops. You never have to replace batteries (short of a CMOS), and if you want to upgrade them a few years later, it's easy and cheap. Laptops, with their soldered-in processors and graphics chips, turn into paperweights within a few years. Laptops sacrifice everything for mobility. If all you want is email/web/schoolwork, a $300 beige box is the ticket for you.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Maybe, but then you can also get a $400 laptop that will do the basic web/email/schoolwork thing. And who, apart from us geeks, ever cracks the case on a store-bought desktop PC anyway? Most clueless PC users I've ever known just buy a new box every 2 years or so instead of upgrading, because avoiding the hassle of upgrading is worth the extra $100 or so. With every peripheral out there either USB or wireless (or both!), it makes no sense to even have PCI slots in bargain-basement brand-name PCs. When you a
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ucblockhead (63650)
              Sure, 20 feet isn't far, but if you want to check your email while sitting in front of the TV, it's 20 important feet.

              When my wife got an iBook her computer usage went up by a factor of four simply because she didn't have to sit in the den to use it. She never takes it out of the house.
            • by Khyber (864651)
              Almost every laptop I've ever worked on, from my Compaq LTE Elite 4/50CX to HP dv9000s, all have had removable processors. Some laptops now ship with the ability to swap graphics cards (HP nx9420/9440 and some Dell models) and that will be a norm soon enough. RAM's always been upgradable, and the wireless in many notebooks is one of two slot factors, and easily accessible in most cases. Laptops will eventually be as easy to upgrade as desktop systems, from what I've seen in my own work experience. The najor
      • by timster (32400) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:16PM (#19931041)
        I'm sure you can think of some better reasons, but most of the ones you've given aren't any good. Desktops have to be plugged in all the time anyway, so it's not as if limited laptop battery life can be held as a point for desktops. I/O devices plug in to laptops just as well as they do to desktops, now that we use standard connectors for peripherals (USB/Firewire). I've never seen a clamshell hinge wear out, though I'm sure it's possible. You can plug a desktop keyboard into a laptop when it's at your desk, and lots of people do. Same with monitors or whatever else.

        The reason laptops are starting to outsell desktops is simply that the cost premium has all but disappeared. So people tend to prefer the mobility (even if they don't always use it) over the ability to add internal drives or peripherals (which they certainly never use).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          ve never seen a clamshell hinge wear out, though I'm sure it's possible.

          Are you kidding? Every laptop I've ever owned has had hinges that got weaker over the years. On my backup laptop, had to replace one of the hinges two years ago because it sheared off (while on vacation in Italy). The other hinge has a weak clutch, so at significant angles, the screen falls open or shut on its own. I really should replace it, but I can't easily justify dropping another $50 on a backup laptop built back in 2000.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dal20402 (895630) *

            That's where Apple's single, large hinge proves useful. Much, much harder to wear out or break (although my ever-clever gf managed to break one by repeatedly picking a MacBook up by its screen). Through three PowerBooks and a MacBook Pro, used every day for hours, I've never managed to break or weaken a hinge.

            The flip side is that with its unique hinge Apple can't put any ports on the back of the laptop, making a sensible docking station a near-impossibility.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)
          Laptops tend to cook themselves and have limited cooling options. This limits what heavy processing you can do on a laptop since it will throttle itself down to keep from burning itself up. The small spaces don't help. Adding extra ram or storage space to an existing laptop can make the problem worse. A laptop trying to cool itself will probably be a noisy nuissance. Some of the noise reducing options available for a desktop machine won't be available to the laptop.

          I
        • by Inoshiro (71693) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:01PM (#19932615) Homepage
          "The reason laptops are starting to outsell desktops is simply that the cost premium has all but disappeared."

          If I were to sell my MacBook Pro to get the latest model (gaining me an upgrade from an ATI X1600 128mb to an nVidia 8600M 256mb, a newer chipset, a 2.4Ghz CPU from a 2.16Ghz CPU, and an LED backlit display), it would cost more than a recent desktop upgrade I did. This desktop upgrade was roughly $800, and got me a 2.4Ghz AMD X2 CPU (vs. a 2.0Ghz X2), a 256mb nVidia 8600GTS (vs a 128mb 6800), 4gb of RAM (vs 2gb of RAM), and a much better motherboard (an Asus M2N-Sli deluxe).

          The thing is, I got to keep all the old parts of my computer as well (allowing me to trickle them down to other machines) -- unlike the laptop situation, where I have to roll along the money by selling the old one to pay the majority of the difference on the new one.

          My entire desktop setup, with 24" monitor, 5.1 speakers, and a local storage of 1tb of HD space cost $500 less than my MacBook Pro (which has a much smaller monitor, crappier video card, 1/5th the HD space, slower CPU, less RAM, etc). MacBook Pros, given their specs, are within $200 of similarly equipped Dell and other name-brand laptops. No-name laptops tend to have the kind of parts I wouldn't buy (Via Unichrome chipsets, for example), so aren't in consideration.

          The funny thing is that a 17 or 20" laptop has an even larger price premium -- I could easily have a 30" monitor with my setup for the same price as one of those laptops.

          Name for me 1 laptop that I could buy for less than $800 CAD that would let me play Oblivion at 1920x1200 45fps with all the settings turned up. My desktop rig can do that.

          This price premium you speak of seems alive and well to me!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KC7GR (473279)
          "I'm sure you can think of some better reasons, but most of the ones you've given aren't any good..."

          I beg to differ. They are excellent reasons. In fact, I don't believe either one is going to "kill" the other. Both have a permanent place in the computing world.

          There are numerous applications, particularly in the 'specialized' arena, where laptops are more of a pain in the tailfeathers than an asset. One big area is the programming of land/mobile 2-way radio equipment. I've had the software for such simply
      • other concerns (Score:3, Informative)

        by GlL (618007)
        Keep that laptop off your lap. http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,118884-page,1/a r ticle.html [pcworld.com] Laptops may be the perfect gift for those id10t users who should have a little chlorine thrown in their gene pool. However until they fix the Darwin Award Winner generation issue, I think the popularity of laptops will be... muted. The other issue is the ergonomic nightmare that is the modern laptop. http://web.mit.edu/atic/www/disabilities/rsi/lapto pergo.html [mit.edu] Add-on devices for ergonomics defeat the portability p
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JanneM (7445)
        Many posters seem to miss a factor here: When laptops replace desktops for people, they aren't primarily bought for the ability to work untethered, "on your lap". They are used as desktops - small, light, quiet, stylish desktops that draw little power and that can quickly and easily be folded up out of sight if you have company, or if the kitchen table is the family work area and you need to clear up the table for dinner.

        The need to regularly plug in the laptop.

        As opposed to the desktop?

        Poor battery lifetim
    • by Paracelcus (151056) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:09PM (#19930893) Journal
      Rah!
      I can barely see the print on most laptop screens (even the biggest ones) and I've looked!
      My laptop is 11 years old and has been used rarely if at all.
      I have three desktops, all built by me from parts obtained from Fry's, Ebay and pulls.

      I don't like laptops (grimace)!
      I HATE laptops (cough)
      Piss on laptops!
      Stomp on laptops!
      Chew on laptops?
      It's almost time for my afernoon pills.
    • by MoxFulder (159829) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:34PM (#19932193) Homepage
      Just because desktop sales have leveled off doesn't mean they're going away. Sheesh! Okay, so everyone who needs and wants a desktop has one today. That's why sales are leveling off! It doesn't mean we no longer want them or need them!!! (By comparison, I doubt toothbrush sales have experienced phenomenal growth in the last few years... but that doesn't mean people don't need or won't buy toothbrushes anymore.)

      There are many cool and exciting new uses for laptops/PDAs/tablets, but desktops have many uses as well. For example, most computer users have a desk at home or work where they get a lot of work done: there's no need to have that computer be mobile, and desktops are CHEAPER and MORE UPGRADABLE and MORE RELIABLE.

      Upgradibility in particular is a huge issue for power users and hardware enthusiasts:
      • Upgrade speed: With the nicely designed OEM case of my Acer minitower, I can have the case open in less than 15 seconds. I can replace an expansion card in about 30 more seconds. I can replace a RAM stick in about 30 seconds. I can add a new SATA hard drive in a couple minutes. I can replace the processor in 3-5 minutes. The power supply in 5-10 minutes maybe. I can do a whole mobo swap in probably 10-20 minutes. And I don't need any tools.
        By contrast, with my laptop, it takes maybe 5 minutes to replace the hard drive, and I have to mess with a bunch of fiddly little screws. To replace the RAM or optical drive I have to remove several panels and it probably takes 10-15 minutes. Replacing a MiniPCI wifi card is a huge pain and probably takes at least half an hour. And everything else simply can't be upgraded.
      • Upgrade cost: Desktop computer motherboards, drives, expansion cards, power supplies, cases mostly use standard form factors and connectors. I can mix and match parts to my heart's content. Not so with the laptop! The hard disk is a standard FF, the optical drive is sorta standard, the miniPCI wireless card is sorta standard... and that's it. Good luck replacing the graphics card on your laptop, or the RAM on some models, or the processor, or the motherboard.
      • Upgrade options: You can upgrade everything on a desktop. You can't easily upgrade anything but the HDD and RAM on most laptops, doing anything more requires tiny screwdrivers, a lot of patience, and the knowledge that you can easily hose your motherboard and have to replace the whole thing. And if you need specialty expansion cards for things like GPS or data acquisition, your only option is an external device--with lower performance, more clutter, and often more limited selection.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flappinbooger (574405)
      I would have to agree with you, except .... I don't see it.

      I do everything at work on my work laptop. 3D cad, 2D cad, video editing, graphics, etc. Slap enough ram into a decent dual core laptop and it'll do just fine.

      What, you say? A laptop can't possibly do what a real desktop would do? External 2nd monitor for that big workstation feel. An ESATA PCMCIA card for tons of real HD storage. Gigabit LAN. USB 2.0. Firewire. Internal 7200 rpm drive.

      Seriously, you can have it both ways. Work with a
  • by Romwell (873455) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:43PM (#19930449)
    1. Cost 2. Upgrades
    • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:58PM (#19930729)

      1. Cost
      In TFA, they point out that fewer and fewer consumers mind the $100-$200 premium for a laptop with comparable specs.

      2. Upgrades
      People who upgrade critical components like motherboards, cpus, and graphics cards are already very much in the "die-hard" category. Normal consumers never upgrade those things except by replacing the machine. For almost everything else, USB and Firewire suffice. (The exception being, of course, RAM. But most laptops produced in the past 10 years have had upgradeable RAM).

      It seems to me that the only people who will stay firmly in the "desktop" category are people who by definition don't need the mobility. They are the people running computer labs, servers, and office computing systems. I expect even the high-end professional users to migrate to laptops except when laptops don't offer enough raw performance at any cost.

      The interesting thing to note is that, from a technological perspective, desktop vs. laptop doesn't matter anyways. So much of the desktop market it migrating to iMac-like all-in-ones and other small enclosures that they will pretty much all be using laptop chips, too.
      • indeed, the premium for a notebook with comparable specs is probably not considered such when portability is taken into account.
    • Indeed. I'm sure that if you look at the shipment and sales of individual components such as motherboards, memory, video cards, and CPUs the sales figures have changed little. The "Die hard" desktop users will be anyone who knows how to upgrade and maintain a desktop because they cost a significant portion less. Who really needs a new Chassis, Power supply, sound card, (CD/DVD) (rom/burner) or network card every time they upgrade if the one they had before is more than sufficient.
    • by jbrader (697703)
      Who is to say that as laptops become more and more popular the market won't standardize on different form factors thereby making upgrades more feasible? As to cost, as sales of nearly anything increase cost tends to decrease.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Most people don't do after-market upgrades. For businesses, it's often quicker/cheaper to replace the machines every 3 years, and for home customers, they often use it until it breaks, especially since most of them would have to pay Geek Squad $200 to add the extra RAM or HDD. At that price, the new $600 machine from $OEM looks tempting. I'm not saying upgrading is bad or that no-one does it, I'm saying that the percentage of people who do it is relatively low (less than 1/3 of all PC owners)

      Price-wise,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Prof.Phreak (584152)
      The desktops are being replaced by laptops...and laptops are being replaced by phones/pda. So in 10 years, the only computing device anyone will own will be a phone.

      (and yes, I'm kidding....maybe).
  • Ah, I see. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:43PM (#19930451)
    So does that mean that this time it's PC gaming that will die out and not console gaming?
  • by chipotlehero (982154) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:43PM (#19930455)
    I don't think its really a black and white comparison. Obviously desktops have advantages and laptops have advantages. You dont want to lug around a 22 inch screen on your laptop but for your desktop, you want that. You're not going to get the latest and greatest hardware on a laptop, but you can on a desktop. Laptops are portable and good enough for most people, but a bit pricier than desktops.

    It's a different tool for a different job kind of thing, the summary makes it seem simpler than that.
    • by Bin Naden (910327)
      I feel that the biggest disadvantage of a desktop is the number of wires as well as the size of the box. If desktops are to compete with laptops, perhaps reducing the component sizes and decreasing power so that they can fit in slick thin boxes is what the desktop market needs to be revitalized. A lot of people choose desktop replacement laptops instead of desktops for this precise reason.
      In any case, the PC will always remain in existence if only to be a server.
      • by Knara (9377)
        Number of wires? WiFi + Bluetooth/whatever results in the only cords remaining being thepower cord and whatever usb/firewire cables you use for external drives, printers, etc (and many printers can hook up to wifi ap's). As for "box size", it's entirely variable and selectable on the part of the purchaser at this point (both the retail purchaser and the homebrew builder). No longer is the old AT-style mega-desktop or bigass tower the norm for home machines. So... wires and box size?
  • So by then I won't be such a pain to upgrade the hardware on a laptop right? I'll be able to pick my hardware in the same way that I can pick my hardware for a PC.
    • True--but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ahnteis (746045) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:51PM (#19930605)
      What percentage of PC users EVER upgrade their hardware? I prefer a desktop for the ability to upgrade parts, and (currently) for the price. But the majority of people? Never gonna worry about it.

      I'd say desktops are likely to be more limited to high-end users in the future. (As laptop prices continue to fall.)
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:45PM (#19930479) Journal

    I guess we can bury the desktop along with the mainframes which have "disappeared".

    Ain't going to happen. Laptops have charged into the fray because they've finally become price and performance competitive. They're not desktops, and they're not the same things.

    Ten years ago I owned 2 desktops, and 1 laptop. Today I own 4 laptops and 3 desktops. They're all heavily used, but for home use doing heavy duty, big screen, heads down coding and computer work, it's always going to be the desktop that makes the most sense.

    The percentages may change as laptops finally "emerge", but desktops, IMO, will stay.

    • Why the hell would you ever need 4 laptops? You'd need Popeye arms to carry more than two.

      More than one or maybe two laptops makes no sense to me. They have a much higher failure rate than PCs, they cost more for less performance, and they're far more likely to be stolen or misplaced.
    • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:15PM (#19931019) Homepage Journal

      I do coding on a laptop, but I hook it up to an external 23" screen. The bonus is that I can use my laptop's screen to show my email and IMs so I'm switching between windows less frequently. And if I have to do coding from some other location, I've got my workstation with me.

      The real advantage that desktops have, for me, is that they're upgradeable and have a higher top end. You can throw a couple more drives in them and use sophisticated cooling techniques to get really fast processors, so you're right that they'll always have their place.

      But for the vast majority of people a laptop is a great solution. Some friends of mine bought a laptop and a wireless router and are thrilled to be able to actually sit in their living room or bedroom and be on their computer, rather than going upstairs and sitting alone in a room without a TV. As usual, this is the kind of technology decision that's not cut and dried. But the trend of laptops over desktops is there.

  • Games are about it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296)
    The only thing I can think of needing a desktop for is to play games. Video cards for laptops are usually under powered, mostly because of heat, space, and power issues of "real" cards.

    For most everything else, my two year-old $400 Dell laptop works fine. It plays movies, browses the web, and runs productivity applications without a problem.
    • I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:00PM (#19930751) Journal
      It'd be a bitch to try and install two or three PCI tuner cards in one for a mythtv setup, and pretty few laptops come with digital audio out, much less HDMI ports.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by slughead (592713)
        It'd be a bitch to try and install two or three PCI tuner cards in one for a mythtv setup, and pretty few laptops come with digital audio out, much less HDMI ports.

        You know HDMI is exactly the same as DVI except HDMI has audio and no VGA.

        You can buy a cable online for $10 with DVI at one end and HDMI on the other.

        As far as digital audio.. yeah, you're on your own.
    • When your LANparty opponents frags you for the 7th time in a row, you'll THROW your laptop at him/her/it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MontyApollo (849862)
      Does it have a 22" (or even larger) wide screen and a full size keyboard? Can you upgrade/repair it yourself?

      Desktops always just feel a lot faster to me. Maybe it has changed lately, but the harddrives used to always be painfully slow in laptops. I had a laptop that I thought was fine, but once I started using a new desktop with 22" widescreen and 10,000rpm hardrives, the laptop is a painful experience.

  • by sgant (178166) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:45PM (#19930487) Homepage Journal
    If and when a laptop can get a nice big 24" screen or larger, can have ultra fast, high capacity hard drives with kick-ass 3D graphics and components I can upgrade...then I'll get one. I don't see that happening in the next 5 to 7 years.
    • A lot of us laptop users have a large, 24" external screen we use while sitting at a desk. The 3D graphics cards aren't that bad, and they aren't a generation behind any longer. The biggest problem with laptops is the IO speed. However, the ability to take the computer home or on trips and still be able to work or play games is totally worth the performance loss.
  • by McFly777 (23881) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:45PM (#19930489) Homepage
    The big problem I see with this will be if lack of demand means that it will become more difficult to "build your own" to get a box with the specs you really want.

    But even in my own experience, I find myself looking more at the ads for the latest laptop, rather than reading the specs on the motherboards.

    I do have fond memories of browsing computer shopper (back when it was large format and over 1 inch thick).

  • by danbert8 (1024253) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:46PM (#19930493)
    People predicted that offices would go paperless, and that cars would fly too. But the reality is, if you don't need the portability, why spend the extra money to get a laptop? Plus desktops will always have greater power, easier upgrades, standard hardware, and more perhiperals.
  • by presidentbeef (779674) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:46PM (#19930503) Homepage Journal
    the year of Linux on the...laptop?

  • Laptops don't have a monitor at eye height, or a decent keyboard. They're limited by their geometry.

    We may see the desktop computer disappear into the monitor, though.

  • by Gertlex (722812) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:47PM (#19930519)
    What about university (and other similar instituitions) provided computers with a plethora of licensed software on them... Especially for CAD and graphics, the desktop wins hands down in cost, and probably will continue to have such an advantage.

    Though it would be neat to see a system of renting out laptops with that sort of software. The logistics of such an approach aren't something I'd want to manage, personally though. :)

    Another thought is the extent to which external monitors (and keyboards) will be used. Dell does have that rather new "laptop" model with the 19" screen that can act like a separate monitor. The keyboard detaches and uses bluetooth.
    • What about university (and other similar instituitions) provided computers with a plethora of licensed software on them...

      That's easy: You get a big beefy server, let's call it a main frame, on the back end. In the lab is a cheap little thin client which has no data of it's own and is easily replaceable.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?
  • I think that's a bit premature. I see lots of nice new laptops coming through where I work, and I've never once felt the need to replace my desktop with one...It's a performance hit, it's a usability hit, it's a hit in screen size...The work I do doesn't benefit from working in a coffeeshop.

    I have a laptop. I use it every few months. I'll get a new one when it dies, and I happen to notice because I need to use it. One of my desktops on the other hand, I'd notice if it died within hours, and I'd either fix i
  • Just as I'm sure that by 2008 there will be no desktop applications or OSes left, as we will all be using distributed apps from teh interweb. Well, that's what some Very Smart People said in 2001.

    Another day, another ridiculous prediction.

  • Almost there... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:49PM (#19930575) Homepage
    Even though I'm a Linux guy, the closest I've seen to a possible laptop that could replace my desktop and be feasible is the latest Macbook Pro. DX10 graphics card, plenty of RAM, solid speed, LED LCD, good battery life, Superdrive, and big hard drive.

    Once I see and read the reviews of the next OS X it may be time to make that jump to all laptop.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Time to Start Saying Goodbye
    I didn't realize it was a multi step process. Oh well, here we go:

    Preparing to say goodbye ...
    Saying goodbye commencing ...
    Saying goodbye complete.
  • One researcher predicts it will be five to seven years before only the "die-hard" desktop users are left.

    I don't know about everyone else, but I'm not too keen on using a microscope and optical tweezers every time I want to upgrade my PC. Everything is too small and packed in too tightly in Notebooks. Another issue is that with a PC you can easily upgrade your monitor and perhaps sell the old one. With a Notebook you are stuck with the one it came with. A lot of the time we have so much paraphernalia around our PCs, like graphics tablets, USB hard drives etc that portable PCs aren't so portable anyway.

  • Hmm... maybe people will have *gasp* a desktop and a notebook?!? Desktops still have many big advantages over notebooks; mainly, you aren't tied to a particular screen or keyboard. There are two good reasons why notebook sales (especially in terms of % of computers sold) are growing--the PCs people bought in the last few years are still "good enough" and don't need to be replaced just yet, and notebook prices continue to drop, becoming more and more attractive with each passing month--but that doesn't neces
  • Die-Hard (Score:3, Informative)

    by krgallagher (743575) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:55PM (#19930679) Homepage
    "One researcher predicts it will be five to seven years before only the "die-hard" desktop users are left."

    I'm not sure I agree. I have two desktops at home as well as my laptop. I am a gamer, and when I play I use my workstation. It has better graphics, more memory, better sound, and bigger hard drives. Also, because I build my own systems, I do not have to pay what I do for a laptop. I also do not have to pay it all at once. I am in a constant upgrade cycle using towers that I originally purchased around 2002. Because I do not have to replace everything at once, it is less of a financial burden to keep the machine up to near cutting edge.

    OK, maybe I am just one of those "die-hard" desktop users.

  • Well, for me - I still have a desktop at home that was essentially bought in 1998 (1,2 GHz Celeron). It works for me for everything (including World of Warcraft). At work I have a dual-processor Athlon (1 GHz), bought at 2001. It still works for me - does everything I need it to do at work (ie. Wireshark, SSH, browsing, e-mail, office and some custom network analyzing applications).

    Why I haven't upgraded is 1) these computers still do everything for me. In 2001 I purposefully specced my work-desktop to have
    • Laptops are just as durable as PCs...More durable, actually. If you set your laptop on a desk and never moved it, it'd last quite a long time, whereas if you lugged your pc with you everywhere, used it to hold elevator doors open, beat down muggers, etc, it would have a 15% per year failure rate too.
  • Is the unreliability of the laptop. They remain the only thing (in my experience) that it is probably worth spending the extra money to purchase the extended warranty. I have yet to see one perform reliably over a 3-5 year period without need of repair.

    The one question that the article needed to ask was how many people who buy a laptop don't already have a desktop in use? I suspect that number is minimal as well.
  • Quite doubtful (Score:5, Informative)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:56PM (#19930705)
    1. Cost. Laptops cost almost twice what comparable desktop systems cost. This gap could close when flat displays become cheaper and production numbers increase considerably.

    2. Upgrades. Upgrading a laptop means currently that you have to throw out the old one and buy a new one. This, too, could be seen as a minor problem, with the Joe Average User buying a new computer every few years rather than doing midlife upgrades and laptops that come across as "barebones" with interchangeable parts.

    3. Vendor lock-in. Even if upgrading is possible, you often need very specific Dell/IBM/Toshiba-only parts that fit only in this brand of laptop, often also only in this series (anyone who ever wanted to up their ram in the IBM notebooks knows what I'm talking about). This is unlikely to change, since companies DO want you to be locked in. I highly doubt they'll agree to a standard.

    4. Heat. The most advanced and fastest CPUs and even more GPUs produce an incredible amount of waste heat that a notebook cannot sensibly get rid of. Usually you do get a "notebook" version of those chips, but they are usually either slower or a generation behind, when more advanced production processes allow the same speed with less heat.

    5. Displays. Notebooks are supposed to be small, displays can't be large enough. Unless we find a way to "fold" displays, people who want more than a 17" display will not enjoy the notebook experience. Either that or they'll grumble when they get to haul around a notebook that can house a 20" display...

    5. Space. Notebooks only have so much space, unless you increase their size to inane proportions. This is most noticable for HDDs, which are hard if not impossible to upgrade, and even current notebooks hardly come with more than 200GB of storage space, something that is allright for travels, but I doubt it would make them popular with people who have a need for a lot of storage.

    6. Defects. When a part of the notebook fails, you have to send it in for repairs. No user serviceable parts inside (with most models at least). When the graphics card in the desktop fails, rip it out and replace it.

    The list goes on. While notebook use will certainly increase over the next years (points 1 and 2 can pretty easily be taken care of, and will), I do not see them as the all powerful replacement of desktops. They might have their place in work environments, especially when mobility is an issue, but in the private sector (and especially amongst hardcore gamers, video/audio junkies and graphics artists) the desktop will most likely survive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Steve525 (236741)
      1) I haven't priced computers lately so I don't know if you 2x estimate is fair. I guess the real point, though, for most people is do you need a comparable laptop, or is it worth sacrificing performance for convenience?

      2) How many people (other than geeks like us) upgrade their computers, beyond memory and maybe harddrives. As the other reply said, most laptops can easily have their memory upgrade, and HDDs can sometimes be upgraded easily, too.

      3) See #2. Vendor lock-in isn't important, so most people a
  • Not when cost are still much higher and space is limited. The heat and smaller space in a laptop keeps high video cards, and fast hard disks out of them also when $1000+ $1500 even some $2000 ones have on board video that too is a trun off as well even more so with windows vista and laptop ram costs much more then desktop ram and most systems only have 2 slots.
  • At Home its all about the Desktop since I maintain the hardware and I have to pay the costs of the machine (Desktop hardware is comparitively cheaper and more powerful). This is mostly to support my gaming habit I upgrade the machine every few years in a major over haul it might get one small componet add or swap a year in between overhauls.

    At Work My primary machine is a laptop, I have a desktop as well but its only used for very specialized tasks. The Company pays for all the hardware and except for hard
  • Are almost as accurate as those of scienticians
  • And servers won't be going away....
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:01PM (#19930789) Homepage

    These same "researchers" predicted that computers would make paper disappear from the office. Today offices deal with more paper than ever because electronic documents just don't do the job.

    Laptops are popular with businesses because they can do double duty: plug into a docking station with a fixed monitor and keyboard for desktop use, but allow employees to take it home to do work after hours or on weekends. At the same time, though, those laptops are no end of hassle when dealing with the corporate network. Desktops, being nailed down to just one network, can just be configured and you're set. The laptops have to be able to deal with being on insecure outside networks, and the extra software to handle that is just a nightmare when they're attached to the corporate network. Not to mention that almost all of them currently are infected with several viruses and they're spreading them to the company net. The desktops aren't nearly as much of a problem in this regard. Business likes the cost savings, but a lot of people where I work are opting to keep their desktop boxes and use their own laptops instead of having the company give them a laptop (and take away their nice reliable desktop machine).

    Then of course there's gaming. Very few laptops compare well to a desktop box when it comes to gaming performance. Gaming hardware eats too much power and throws off too much heat, and gamers don't like sacrificing performance.

    My sense is that desktop PC shipments are dropping not because of any lack of demand for desktops. It's more that most people are satisfied with the box they've got now and are just upgrading components for a couple hundred dollars rather than buying a whole new system, and that people are going to white-box builders locally rather than buying from the big-name vendors. I know I can find higher-spec systems locally for better prices than I can find at Dell or the like. I mean, I built one for my niece earlier this year with hardware the equal of Dell's best gaming box but a cost around that of their mid-range non-gaming boxes. I've had to decline 4 requests to build systems since then, and pointed all 4 to local shops. I'm not surprised to see the big names seeing a drop-off in shipments.

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:05PM (#19930837) Journal
    I call bullshit.

    Receptionists, shipping clerks, call center reps, cashiers, nurses, and most day-to-day office workers don't need the portability and form factor of a laptop. Furthermore, it's a lot more likely that a company will let a new hire or someone who has dealing with the public at the system use a desktop that's cumbersome to unhook and carry out the door than a machine designed for that purpose. People might not be any more likely to steal a laptop than a desktop in principle, but making it easier for, say, the guys who visit the Public Aid office to get in and out with them isn't necessarily a good idea.

    Desktops are a lot cheaper to design and build for the budget role, and are more easily customizable for all the myriad business machines out there that require computer control. USB and Firewire are great, but they're still not as flexible as PCI and PCI Express. Extra drive bays make it much easier for IT to add storage or unusual hardware (ZIP, HD-DVD, some new memory card reader) that would have to be a separately inventoried if it was an external add-on for a laptop.

    A desktop can easily be expanded into a cheap, low-end server. Most laptops don't meet this criterion very well. Memory limits asre often lower, the memory is more expensive, and you only get one hard drive in 99.8% of models out there. Lots of small businesses or working groups in larger ones tend to turn an old PC into an impromptu server for a while until the budget allows a proper server.

    There might be some split into laptops for the masses, workstations for high-end work, and servers for rack-mount applications, but you can be sure lots of businesses will the just buy workstation or server machines as desktops. As long as the business world demands the mini tower, it'll be available for you to buy from Dell and HP. The enthusiast sites will probably still offer them long after that.

    Besides, when has "lower growth" ever meant "decline in number"? Last I checked, growth meant more units sold, period. Less of an increase than last year, maybe, but still an increase. What if one day the market saturates and everyone only buys replacement systems? Will all the suppliers of hardware close and not bother?
  • Well, more laptops might be sold, but more are discarded:
    • Easier to steal;
    • Easier to lose;
    • Easier to break;
    • Quickly obsolete (high-end laptops are too expensive, thus people buy less powerful machines);
    • Not-so-easy to upgrade, sometimes it's better to just buy another one instead of trying to add peripherals/memory.

    That more and more portable music players are sold does not mean that home stereos are on the way out!

  • by syukton (256348) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:15PM (#19931015)
    The reason I like my desktop (computer) is because of the amount of desktop (display area) real estate I have. I have a 24" wide screen LCD as my center screen, flanked by a pair of 20" widescreens. I will eventually upgrade to all 24" panels. Show me a laptop that even comes close to competing with that (while still being "portable") and I'll consider this "it's the end of the desktop!" notion to be valid. There's only two ways I can think of this happening, moving forward. Option one is that my laptop will have a built-in projector that can display the ginormous desktop I desire. Option two is a HUD that projects said desktop directly onto my retina. I would surely welcome either option, but neither is really technologically nor financially feasible right now nor do I see them being so within the projected 5-7 year timeframe.

    Also, as others have mentioned, I can get superior graphics performance from a desktop because it's easier to manage thermal output and you can therefore utilize video processors which have greater thermal emissions. "Graphics performance" isn't limited to games here, either; I enjoy being able to do high-polygon work in SketchUp with 4x anti-aliasing turned on.

    The cause I see for the spike in laptop purchases is twofold. One, more people are buying them because they're affordable. Two, they're replaced more frequently than desktop PCs because they are abused (and therefore broken) more frequently than desktop PCs. I don't drop my desktop on the floor regularly, but everyone has been known to drop their laptop bag now and again without thinking. I don't have a tendancy to block the air vents on my desktop, but laptop air vents are often placed in very inconvenient locations. etc, etc. These two aspects are related, really. The drop in the price of laptops is mostly due to them being made more cheaply (not a "more bang for your buck" cheap, but a "lower quality" cheap) and therefore more prone to failure when mistreated/misused. I think that people are replacing laptops on a more frequent cycle than desktops, and that's why we're seeing this surge in laptop purchases.
  • Not dead yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:23PM (#19931157) Homepage Journal

    "while worldwide PC shipments are expected to grow 12.2% this year, portable PC volumes are expected to grow 28% and will make up more than half of all PC shipments in the U.S. this quarter."

    Well, I'd wait untill desktop shipments start to reduce until I call it dead.

    It's not quite sane to call dead something that is growing 12% a year.

  • by dlenmn (145080) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:39PM (#19931419) Homepage
    A lot of people are talking about how laptops are slower/more expensive/have smaller screens, and those are all true, but those aren't -- IMHO -- the main problems with laptops.

    When I went off to college I got a laptop -- before that I had always used a desktop. It was pretty nice being able carry my computer (life) around with me. Then I slipped while going down some stairs, my laptop took a spill, and the hard drive went into a death spiral. I was able to get the data off it (and I had an older backup) but it made me realize that it probably wasn't a great idea to have such a vulnerable device for my main box. Now I have a desktop with a RAID sitting in my room. It's not going to get dropped or stolen. If I need something on it, I can ssh in. I still find my laptop very useful, but not as my main computer.
  • by plusser (685253) on Friday July 20, 2007 @03:54PM (#19931629)
    I have come to the conclusion that today there are very few reason for a desktop.

    1. Cost - but most cheap desktops are rubbish
    2. Screen Size - but then most laptops allow you to run dual screens. I only use a laptop at the moment at home and believe me I love using two screens. Try this on many desktop Pcs without buying a new graphics card, unless you have an Apple that is.
    3. Lack of internal upgrades - but most new desktops have smaller chassis and after a few months it will still become difficult to upgrade without changing the motherboard, essentially replacing the whole computer.
    4. 3D video cards - My laptop has a reasonable video card ofr the day (it is two years old). It will not play the latest games, but then if I wanted to play games I would by an XBOX360/PS3/WII because I wouldn't have so many constant you need to upgrade issues and the basic hardware is soo much cheap.
    5. The old chassis form factor is too big for the modern office.

    The advantage of a laptop is a computer that takes up less space. The problem is that most of them are not very portable.

    The problem will be is that the latest PDAs and Smartphones (iPhone included) that have wifi and standard web browser can easily be used to virtually control a desktop or laptop using remote desktop software, some of which is free. On this basis, I think that the large laptop will become obsolete in the next few years, to be replaced by small form desktops and larger screen PDAs.

    Apple are well ahead with the MINI, IPhone and IMAC.
  • No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gelfling (6534) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:06PM (#19931803) Homepage Journal
    Most people with a home computer rarely have a desire to power down and go to Border's Books or the Bagel shop to do exactly the same thing.

    Gamerz are still Gamerz and they only want the fastest biggest gear.

    Laptops still have a 2x price premium for the same performance of the corresponding desktop.

    Cheap laptops are much lower end machines than cheap desktops.

    Desktops are upgradeable, laptops are not.

    People like larger screens than the usual 15.4" laptop screen. And 17-19" monitors are pretty cheap.

    But I will give you this - what the home user needs is a much smaller machine, like an all in one form factor of an iMac or miniMac or an ITX form factor, small fanless design with enough power to make it cost effective.
  • by dbc (135354) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:13PM (#19931879)
    (Or square meter, in some countries :)

    In the 35 years that I have been a computer professional, I've observed that the form factors change very little. The computing power and storage available per square foot has gone up radically, and some new form factors have emerged -- lap top, palm top -- but the fact remains that, by and large, the "square foot" categories remain the same.

    1975: Pheasant Under Glass computer rooms.
    2007: Lights out server room.

    1975: PDP-11/35
    2007: Single rack departmental server stack.

    1975: 24x80 "glass teletype" time shared VAX.
    2007: desktop

    1975: first "lugables" on the drawing board.
    2007: lap top.

    1975: HP-55 calculator
    2007: Palm (or whatever they call themselves today).

    The desktop will not die until the desk dies. It may change form, as the mainframe has been largely replaced by racked up servers, but the *footprint* still exists.

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