Editorial: The indefatigable PC

By Jos ยท 17 replies
Oct 25, 2016
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  1. By all rights, it should be dead by now. I mean, really. A market based on a tech product that first came to market over 35 years go? And yet, here we stand in the waning days of October 2016 and the biggest news expected to come out of the tech industry this week are PC announcements from two of the largest companies in the world: Apple and Microsoft. It’s like we’re in some kind of a weird time warp. (Of course, the Cubs are poised to win their first World Series in over 100 years, so who knows?)

    The development must be particularly surprising to those who bought into the whole “PC is dead” school of thought. According to the proselytizers of this movement, tablets should have clearly taken over the world by now. But that sure didn’t happen. While PC shipments have certainly taken their lumps, tablets never reached anything close to PCs from a shipments perspective. In fact, tablet shipments have now been declining for over 3 years.

    After tablets, smartwatches were supposed to be the next generation personal computing device. Recent shipment data from IDC, however, suggests that smartwatches are in for an even worse fate than tablets. A little more than a year-and-a-half after being widely introduced to the market, smartwatch shipments are tanking. Not exactly a good sign for what was supposed to be the “next big thing.”

    Of course, PCs continue to face their challenges as well, particularly consumer PCs. After peaking in Q4 of 2011, worldwide PC shipments have been on a slow steady decline ever since. Interestingly, however, US PC shipments have actually turned around recently and are now on a modestly increasing growth curve.

    PCs have actually never been stronger or more attractive tech devices—it’s more like a personal computer renaissance than a personal computer extinction.

    The reason for this is that PCs have continued to prove their usefulness and value to a wide range of people, especially in business environments. PCs are certainly not the only computing device that people are using anymore, but for many, PCs remain the go-to productivity device and for others, they still play an important role.

    To put it simply, there’s just something to be said for the large-screen computing experience that only PCs can truly provide. More importantly, it’s not clear to me that there’s anything poised to truly replace that experience in the near term.

    Another big reason for the PC’s longevity is that it has been on a path of constant and relatively consistent evolution since its earliest days. Driven in part by the semiconductor manufacturing advances enabled by Moore’s Law, a great deal of credit also needs to be given to chip designers at Intel, AMD and nVidia, among others, who have created incredibly powerful devices. Similarly, OS and application software advances by Apple, Microsoft and many others have created environments that over a billion people are able to use to work, play and communicate with on a daily basis.

    There have also been impressive improvements in the physical designs of PCs. After a few false starts at delivering thin-and-light notebooks, for example, the super-slim ultrabook offerings from the likes of Dell (XPS13), HP (Spectre X360) and Lenovo (ThinkPad X1) have caught up to and arguably even surpassed Apple’s still-impressive MacBook Air. At the same time, to the surprise of many, Microsoft’s Surface has successfully spawned a whole new array of 2-in-1 and convertible PC designs that has brought new life to the PC market as well. It’s easy to take for granted now, but you can finally get the combination of performance, weight, size and battery life that many have always wanted in a PC.

    Frankly, PCs have actually never been stronger or more attractive tech devices—it’s more like a personal computer renaissance than a personal computer extinction. The fact that we’ll likely be talking about the latest additions to this market later this week says a great deal about the role that PCs still have to play.

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    fimbles likes this.
  2. johnehoffman

    johnehoffman TS Enthusiast Posts: 27   +35

    Cars, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashing machines, toasters, coffee makers, etc., have all been around for a lot longer than personal computers.

    What is so surprising about useful devices continuing to be made, so long as they continue to evolve with the times?

    Tablets are marvelous for reading books, catching up on email, etc., while away from home, but I never thought they were going to replace PCs for getting work done. And, I never thought smart watches would be useful, though that may just be due to lack for foresight on my part, if someone finally figures out something useful that can be done with them.

    While on the subject of useless devices, I think IofT will turn out to be a bust. I'd much rather make a list of what groceries I need than risk someone hacking into my refrigerator and turning its power off. I also do not need my washing machine or car to make repair appointments on their own. Similarly, while HD television provided an enormous increase in quality over the lower resolution analog sets, I don't see that 3-D or 4K add anything significant to the experience.
  3. CTSNic

    CTSNic TS Rookie

    I'm glad to hear PC's in the U.S. are slowly making a turn. I'm sick of everyone wanting tiny devices to view large content. A personal computer in a home makes sense. It's cheaper, more user friendly, less likely to become obsolete in two years (with modern computers, mind you.) And provides in my opinion, a much more family friendly environment than kids off in their rooms with tiny screens. Maybe that's just the nostalgia talking...
    Reachable and MoeJoe like this.
  4. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 711   +382

    An article in proper perspective.
    jobeard likes this.
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,350   +1,999

    It's funny to see yet another prediction of the demise of a good working machine. When you try to consider all the fallibility of the PC you have to get to the bottom line ... it still does the job. The lion's share are still business oriented and business likes something that is dependable, flexible, can't be easily picked up and stollen, and can last a long time. All kidding aside, I still have clients that only use their PC's for word processing and some spreadsheets ... and still running DOS based windows; not because they are cheap but because what they have still does the job and they don't want to introduce too much change into an ageing workforce.

    The bottom line is that demand is demand is based upon who's got the money and if they are willing to spend it. All the rest is Hype designed to seperate you from your hard earned cash .... nuff said!
  6. mcborge

    mcborge TS Guru Posts: 426   +278

    New tech can always be split into two categories... useful and gimmick, useful tech matures because it fills one or many needs and can gain more uses and features as it matures, like the desktop computer . Gimmick tech tries to fill a need no one really has, but it gets by for a while purely on the fact that some people have to have the latest bit of kit to show off until the next thing comes along and because company's need to sell you stuff. The pc like the car has developed fast and come a long way, and will endure for as long as we need to work , learn or play... and you just cant compare sitting at a sturdy desk using a big mechanical keyboard in front of a big monitor to sitting hunched over a dinky little screen, squinting at tiny text or graphics... Well I cant any way.
    Reachable and fimbles like this.
  7. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 711   +382

    Still using DOS ... L M A O
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,168   +986

    Nice work Jos :=)
  9. alexnode

    alexnode TS Enthusiast Posts: 45   +14

    I believe that each modern home will have a mainframe server in the future. A really high powered device to power all sorts of AI, Gaming, VR and productivity software. It seems that renting processing power is how the industry tries to market itself but from my point of view there will be disruptions.
    Johnnyblaze1957 likes this.
  10. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,936   +1,101

    The best example of how far PC's (die size and efficiency) have come is something you hold in your hands everyday.
    Really, they are super convenient personalized mini-computers (smartphones).
    One day, a smartphone will have i7 type power, and that will just be the beginning.
  11. soonerproud

    soonerproud TS Rookie

    My opinion is PC's have become thinner, lighter, and more powerful and smartphones continue to also get more powerful and are becoming large enough to compete with a tablet. For most people, there's no place anymore for a tablet in their lives. Tablets occupied a market that is being supplanted by the very devices it was created to compete against.
  12. rpjkw11

    rpjkw11 TS Member Posts: 20

    I agree 100%. PCs are wonderful for what they can do as input. I don't want something automatically ordering a product when I don't want it. I can and do make my own lists on paper and take it with me. I suppose I have one foot in the 2th century and three toes in the 21st, but I'm happy. Trending is wonderful, do it, just don't cram it down my throat.
  13. lacisnot

    lacisnot TS Rookie

    Agree with almost everything you said except for the 4K part - its a pretty big difference on a 27" monitor.
  14. alexnode

    alexnode TS Enthusiast Posts: 45   +14

    It will always be the same though ... you will be able to have something that is bigger and faster. Even if you talk about 3nm designs. And my bet is that we are going for high performance computing. It might be that in ten years time a photorealistic game might need petaflops not terraflops. I see an IOT mainframe processing unit for home that will replicate what we call today server and size won't matter that much. I don't see how the cloud speeds could handle petaflops of processing power in the foreseeable future.
  15. Badvok

    Badvok TS Addict Posts: 174   +66

    What are you talking about? My guess is you don't actually know. There are probably exaflops if not zettaflops of processing power in the cloud right now, today, but I don't actually know if anyone has tried to calculate an accurate figure.
  16. Reachable

    Reachable TS Booster Posts: 144   +44

    Talking to computers of all sizes -- that's big , big, big in the future (meaning from now on), I think. Alexa, prepare yourself for the dumpster. I'm going to ask my desktop to play Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra over the high end audio system in the living room, volume level 4.
  17. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Evangelist Posts: 583   +318

    I have an HP ENVY Desktop with a Core i7 6950x with 32GB of RAM and a Titan X 12GB running three HP 20" monitors in my office.

    Total cost: $1899 (Micro Center)

    At Home: Alienware Area 51 tetrahedron Tower with Core i7, 32GB of RAM and a GTX 1080 running three HP 20" monitors.

    Total Cost: $2300. ( Alienware)

    Have you any idea how much this kinda power and performance would cost if I'd gone to Apple?

    The only thing I can even think of using Apple for is music/video editing. I'd never play games on it.

    And the really big deal is Microsoft Office.

    It just doesn't work as well on Mac as it does on the PC.

    And then there's FLASH.

    And then there's JAVA.

    And then there's anything but something Apple made...
  18. N.Taylor

    N.Taylor TS Rookie

    I tried getting an evenings entertainment sitting in front of a smart watch, it was boring.

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