Weekend Open Forum: Desktops doomed to irrelevancy?

By on March 5, 2010, 8:00 PM
There's no denying the current trend towards mobile computing. As more efficient CPUs and GPUs become available and storage densities increase, laptops have become a viable replacement to desktops for everyday computing tasks, while smartphones are often lifesavers when on the go. But will these rapid advances in the mobile space be enough to make desktop computers as we know them "irrelevant" in just three years?


That's what a Google executive recently told a baffled audience at the Digital Landscapes conference this week. Granted, he might have been fishing for headlines there with such radical thinking, or perhaps got carried away by Google's ambitions of centering on the cloud going forward. Put into the right context he actually made some potentially valid points, like the need to sharpen up results for mobile devices where there's limited multi-tasking and screen real state -- Google has to get the information people need out in one click (or tap) rather than a few.

Given how ubiquitous and connected these devices have become it's clear why Google is making mobile its number one concern. But the fact remains that there are still many limitations with portable computing, and so much more stuff being done almost exclusively on desktops today, that sentencing them to irrelevancy in such a short timeframe seems ridiculous to say the least.

With the current trends in mind however would you agree that the mobile internet is set to make your trusty desktop PC irrelevant, perhaps not in three years, but in ten or fifteen? Has your mobile phone or laptop already replaced it in any aspects? Discuss.




User Comments: 164

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UT66 said:

Short answer? no.

Long answer? nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
oooooooooooooooo

yorro said:

Heavy performance computing will never go away. Desktop might be reduced but it won't die.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Couldn't have said it any better myself UT66.

princeton princeton said:

+1. You go put 2 HD 5970 cards and a 6 core i7 when it comes out into your laptop then come talk to me.

Guest said:

Desktops being replaced in 3 years? Science fiction.

In 10-15 years? Probably, if all portability vs screen size issues have meanwhile been addressed by some new (r)evolutionary technology.

flukeh said:

I don't think it will happen that quickly, the technology cannot be made and accepted into the mainstream market just like that. I'd like to see something like these bloombox chips integrated into laptops.

eafshar said:

i can see desktops fading out over 10-20 years but 3? no. people who want higher speeds will stay with desktops as there will always be desktop alternatives which performs faster than laptops and such since there would not be compression factor.

Guest said:

Gamer and computer enthusiast will always want to customize and build their own monster gaming machines - that will never go away. You can't customize a laptop like that do to no standards in form factor. Also mobile devices take more beatings physically and heat wise while on the go and need replacing sooner than desktops. You can't replace a laptop at the same prices as you can with a custom built desktop.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Desktops gone in 3 years? That's a ridiculous statement obviously intended to generate more Google headlines. Until portables can handle the power required to handle the most sophisticated architecture, engineering and video/photo apps, it ain't going to happen. Portables aren't even remotely close to managing those types of apps.

Then you have the power users and PC hobbyists (like me) who are into top-tier PC gaming and multi-tasking which again not even the most powerful laptop out right now could possibly handle.

Until they get GPU's, processors and RAM the size of a nickel and generating zero heat, you won't see desktops leave our world for quite a while.

skitzo_zac skitzo_zac, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Laptops and Smart phones will take over a lot of functions like social networking, IM and general browsing probably I would say.

But for enthusiasts and power users the desktop will reign supreme. The desktop just gives you the power and customizability to do so much more than on a laptop or mobile. Video editing and gaming on up to 6 displays with eyefinity. 6 core CPUs (soon) Radeom 5XXX and Fermi, these are the things that wil keep me on the desktop for a long time.

seefizzle said:

I just recently got a "smartphone". I have never owned one up until now. All I have ever wanted my phone to do was make calls. But now I have so many people that text me regularly, that I wanted to upgrade to something with a qwerty keyboard. I got the Pro Touch 2 by HTC. It's a straight phone, and has decent capabilities.

Here's the deal though, if I have to do anything substantial I am going to do it on a computer. Yea, it's nice to access the web on the go, but I don't want to squint at a tiny screen zooming in and out trying to see everything.

When they make a phone that is as powerful as my quad core computer that can zip around the internet on 16meg speed, then I'll think about the death of desktops. Until then, blow me.

Deso said:

I would say Laptop's are more threatened by the new smaller hand held devices as they have more in common as far as common usage such as portability and so on.....

elroacho72 said:

Maybe... I think ghost computing is more or else the future . I think you will travel with your desktop with you it will be a host of different dices depending on the environment the user is in.If that makes since?

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

With current computer architecture, desktops will always be simpler, more easily upgraded, and faster for their price, so I doubt we will see them beaten out by laptops in the high performance market any time soon. Not to mention, people tend to like their 22 and more inch screens more than they would like a 17" laptop LCD. Yes you could always plug your laptop into your monitor, but at that point the line between desktop and laptop becomes hazy.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

I can see the desktop becoming more and more integrated into our homes but not replaced by a smart phone.

nokayapmat said:

no, desktops are not doomed...

the arrival of more user-friendly small devices on the go will not kill the desktops...

it will always be based on personal preference...

my personal choice:

a truly "mobile" laptop sized 14"-16"...anything larger is no longer portable...

a desktop monitor sized 20"-24"...

a lcd/led tv sized 32"-46", anything larger will blind me and rob my pocket dry...

a 3g-capable mobile phone for short internet access on the go (and for calls/sms, too!)...

Zenphic said:

Desktops will get smaller, but they're here to say. I can't wait to see more mini-ITX systems in the future.

Clrabbit said:

Doomed that's funny, They day a mobile device can do what I do on a desktop, is the day I need a more powerful desktop.

CodePhoeniX said:

Businesses seem to like desktops, and they don't seem to like change. (unless the change is that they make more money :P )

Timonius Timonius said:

If anything the desktop will evolve into a personal home server.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't think desktops are going anywhere anytime soon, despite all the improvements/ advancements, notebooks/mobile platforms perform just about 'alright'; e.g. I have a reasonably decent notebooks; but when I am at home, I avoid using it, because desktop still offer far superior performance than notebooks at any given price point. Sometimes, as you rightfully pointed out in your news-bit, Google people hurl out lots of stupidity; not something you'd expect from them usually.

Guest said:

I recently got a droid(the phone pictured) and am loving it.

However, I can see what google is saying. Most people don't need the full power of a desktop PC. Really only gamers, some fields of engineering, modellers, media editors and programmers need that kind of power.

For pretty much everyone else though, a laptop or a netbook works great as their main PC.

MarkHughes said:

I have recently done away with using a desktop in favour of a laptop, Its a Dell XPSM1730 and it does everything I need as well as being portable. Where I work (An international software company) the majority of people use laptops + docking stations too.

There will still be a place for desktops as Timonius says for home servers and for cutting edge games performance, But I can definitely see them fading though I doubt they will ever go away...

ravisunny2 ravisunny2, TS Ambassador, said:

Actually the Google guy could be right, but it seems like tall order.

Remember the days of the mainframes and dumb monitors ?

There will always be some apps where the DT/Mini will remain the better option (e.g. process control), but for the most part, regular work such as messaging, browsing and playing games could be done on relatively dumb devices.

What would be required are

1. Cheap and high bandwidth networking

2. Cheap and compact GPU and SSDs

But, the screen size will be a problem. Scrolling on a hand sized screen, no matter how smart the technology, is going to be the major turnoff.

Any chance of a cheap holographic screen in the near future ?

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I agree with the guest above. Notebooks already sell more than desktops, and smaller devices are becoming more competent in giving people what they want. When it comes to gaming, the majority of game buyers are on consoles anyway, and thanks to the cloud these devices could also become PC replacements in other ways. Within 3 years the cloud will also provide a decent gaming experience, so people who want to play the latest PC games without having to pay for the hardware will be able to do so (although they'll require a very fast internet connection).

It's an interesting prediction, though, and since 3 years is not too far off, it's worth remembering it and checking whether it comes true.

cyrusjumpjet cyrusjumpjet said:

Portability is increasingly attractive and very realistic in recent days, but I don't think the desktop will go away for a while.

Personally, I enjoy coming home to a media station with a big monitor, speakers, and full keyboard without sacrificing anything for the sake of "space" or portability. Laptops are great but I love my desktop.

eltigre4jc said:

of course desktop's wont dissapear...there are many thing that can't be done with laptop/smartphones....let's think how the desktop parts get better and better and what power do rthey have...

buendia said:

PC offers higher computing power than most of other devices out there, so it very unlikely it will die (definitely not in the given time time frame).

kazarm said:

Laptops will take a bigger and bigger market share, but stationary computers will not disappear in many years.

If you want bigger screens and keyboards and do not need the mobility you will be better off with a stationary. A laptop with a docking station is more expensive

davimous said:

There is something about a desktop that feels so much like home. I love my laptop and Ipod but sitting down in my nice chair with my speakers all set up and ready to use is priceless.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

While smartphones and netbooks, etc. are becoming more popular, there is a serious limitation - their physical size. As far as I know humans are not evolving so fast that we are going to get hawklike vision in the next 3 years, so we will still be squinting at a small smartphone or netbook screen.

Portability is great, but in the end most people work at the same desk and go home to the same house every day so having a big screen and a powerful computer is still preferred. I can imagine smaller form factors becoming a lot more popular though.

nazartp said:

Desktops disappearing in 3 years - no. Laptops or other mobile devices taking, I'd say, about 60-80 percent share of computer base in the next 5-10 years - quite likely. I think most of us agree on the main points. Stationary computers will be used by people who prefer to customize their computers and/or that need significant computing power. Most of other tasks are better suited for laptops. With prices of laptops going down so much in recent years they became a viable alternative even to cheap desktops.

To give an example, my computer-illiterate friend just bought himself a brand new laptop for $300. Pretty slow, but can play DVDs, browse the net and has built-in camera for Skype. After uninstalling all the garbage it came with, it is not snappy but serviceable. When I asked my buddy why he went for laptop, he said that (1) he's sharing network connection with his neighbor and wants the ability to move where the signal is better; (2) wants to hide his computer from his kids, otherwise they will break it; and (3) wants to be able to bring it over to me so I can teach him to use computer.

Ritwik7 Ritwik7, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"Doomed to irrelevancy" - Impossible.

When it comes to high performance computing and gaming the desktop has no substitute. The biggest advantage being the upgradability factor.

In the workplace though, one might expect to go the laptop way.

nazartp said:

Desktops disappearing in 3 years - no. Laptops or other mobile devices taking, I'd say, about 60-80 percent share of computer base in the next 5-10 years - quite likely. I think most of us agree on the main points. Stationary computers will be used by people who prefer to customize their computers and/or that need significant computing power. Most of other tasks are better suited for laptops. With prices of laptops going down so much in recent years they became a viable alternative even to cheap desktops.

To give an example, my computer-illiterate friend just bought himself a brand new laptop for $300. Pretty slow, but can play DVDs, browse the net and has built-in camera for Skype. After uninstalling all the garbage it came with, it is not snappy but serviceable. When I asked my buddy why he went for laptop, he said that (1) he's sharing network connection with his neighbor and wants the ability to move where the signal is better; (2) wants to hide his computer from his kids, otherwise they will break it; and (3) wants to be able to bring it over to me so I can teach him to use computer.

Puiu Puiu said:

Maybe in 10-20 years when mobile devices will be powerful enough to satisfy everyone. I don't believe we'll use our mobile phone to play crysis anytime soon.

We need a good solution for a big screen for mobile devices. Like a that you fold or a similar tech that allows you to increase/decrease the size of the screen without having to change the size of the entire device (think digital newspapers).

Recipe7 Recipe7 said:

If they can create gaming laptops which are up to par with gaming desktops, maybe.

But many, including me, hate playing on a keyboard which is inches away from a screen.

LGraves said:

Agreeing with recipe7. I guess this Google guy forgot about gaming.

ken777 said:

I guess you could say desktops will become irrelevant in 3 years if you think 30-40% share of the PC market is "irrelevant." Laptops and other mobile devices will be good enough for the vast majority of users, but for anyone who needs/wants the highest performance or best performance/dollar, the desktop is still unbeatable. Maybe some day laptops will become so ridiculously powerful that desktops will become the new mainframe, but that's not happening in the next few years.

Guest said:

until the PC Gaming industry goes out of the door completely, desktops will never be anywhere close to being "irrelevant". Games on high end PCs will ALWAYS look and run better than the same game on consoles. Even then, there will be the loyal few (such as myself) that will do our best to keep desktop PCs alive and kicking ^.^

DarKSeeD DarKSeeD said:

That's plain "Are PC gamers a dying breed?"!

I think desktops will be here for at least another 10 years. Simply there is still not enough power to keep mobile devices going on for a number of days without an extra battery or so.

The CPU and GPU may be more efficient but not energy efficient.

How many of you use a typical mobile device for 3 or 4 days without recharging it? Doing the usual stuff: call, text message, web, picture - just to name a few.

Besides that not many companies will afford to switch from the desktops to mobile devices.

vegasrez said:

I agree at least until they can put full power computing and graphics into a mobile device which is probably quite some time in the future.

mrtraver said:

Rrrriiiigghhhttttt....

And 640K is enough memory for anyone.

And PC gaming is dead. (Well, OK, Ubisoft and Activision are actively working on that one.)

And Larabee will kill ATI and Nvidia.

And the sky is falling.

Chazz said:

3 years is way too soon. You'd have to be retarded to suggest something like that. Google really wants this cloud computing thing to be mainstream. They are working their asses off to host our files on their servers. It makes me question their motive.

Punkid said:

yea princeton said it right, putting 2 5970s and an i7 in a laptop.....

Kovach said:

NO, I don't think so that mobile devices, like laptop will replace desktop versions. There are a lot of factors and limitations that are always there in mobile, you can't avoid it. the fact is, that the mobile systems are growing very well (in way of performance)but at the other hand, desktop components will be there always, better and with much more performance than ever before.

Guest said:

I used to have a gaming laptop. It already had an anemic (8600mgt) video back then.

Now after the bloody LCD didn't work and cost to fix approached 1/2 of a new desktop, I decided to go back to desktop.

I'll prolly get a netbook if I need to be mobile, but desktops are SO much easier to upgrade and fix.

You only realize this after (like I) spent over $1400.00 to buy a gaming laptop with anemic video card, when I could have built 2 gaming desktops and be future proof.

Ahh well.

timeless52 said:

Until I can go out and custom build a notebook just like I did with my desktop, I don't see them going away any time soon. The biggest problem I have current notebooks is the lack of multiple DVI or HDMI ports.

levar said:

there's no way desktops will be doomed USB 3.0, new version of SATA, SSDs heading on there way into desktop, 64-bit this is just the beginning of desktop getting ready to show just how far they can grow there's still a long way to even think about desktops going away, there's till Windows 8, 9 we still have to wait for, there are still companies using desktops though right now I work in a company as a student and when ever I go to work hardly none of the employess are working at work most work at home either on there laptop or blackberry, there's maybe some aspects of how you use mobile & desktops. But, there's no way in hell desktops will become irrelevant.

shoeseat said:

i agree with google executive but he missed '0' after '3'.

supyo said:

mobile computing has come a long way but still can't hold a candle to a high powered desktop.

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