Virtual reality brings new life to desktop PCs


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With all the press about the death of PCs we’ve seen over the last several years, you would be excused for thinking that new desktop PC shipments had essentially stopped. But in an ironic case of what’s old is new again, desktop PCs are not only not dead, they’re seeing a rebirth of sorts. To be clear, I’m not predicting a massive resurgence, but they’re actually holding their own and even growing in several different sub segments of the market.

Traditional consumer desktop PCs have taken a big hit, with most people who opt for a new PC choosing a notebook. However, there are still a lot of existing desktop PCs in use and, if they’re anything like the main desktop in my household, still doing some important tasks.

Our primary family digital photo library (now at 50,000+ photos), for example, still lives on our desktop (as well as in the cloud), as do our Quicken finances, TurboTax taxes, and other critical files. When my son comes home from college, it’s also the machine he often gravitates to for gaming.

In fact, gaming is one of the critical drivers for renewed vigor in the desktop market. With the explosive growth of eSports, Twitch and computer gaming overall, there’s very strong interest in desktop-based gaming rigs. Of course, unlike the early days of computer gaming, you no longer have to own a desktop to get high quality graphics, but for fixed installations, many people still prefer them. Throw in innovative new small form factor desktops like Intel’s Skull Canyon NUC and you have people who may not have considered desktops giving them a serious second look.

In the commercial world, desktop PCs are far from dead. Believe it or not, desktops still make up more than 50% of all PCs purchased for business. That number is expected to eventually fall below half, but in many business environments, a fixed, large computing device is still very much an asset. After all, most people in businesses don’t travel and don’t need a notebook. As a result, commercial PC desktop volume is expected to increase in the latter years of the decade as businesses start completing their Windows 10 migrations and upgrading their existing PCs.

VR headsets from the likes of Oculus and HTC have the most demanding compute and graphics requirements of any consumer-focused application, and they need the raw horsepower that you can now only get from a desktop.

The most compelling and newest demand for desktop PCs, however, is being driven by virtual reality. VR headsets from the likes of Oculus and HTC have the most demanding compute and graphics requirements of any consumer-focused application, and they need the raw horsepower that you can now only get from a desktop. If you want the latest iterations of the powerhouse graphics cards from AMD (the Fiji-based Radeon Pro Duo) and Nvidia (the Pascal-based GTX 1080), for example, you have to buy a desktop.

As a result, we’re seeing long-time desktop PC brands like Dell-owned Alienware, as well as Dell itself, developing complete new lines of desktop PCs specifically for VR. For now, Alienware (which is celebrating it’s 20-year anniversary in October, by the way) is offering specialized configurations of its X51 small form factor desktop, but it’s not hard to imagine them offering a whole new line of VR-optimized desktops in the future. In addition, Dell has informed me (exclusively) that they will be offering a new high-power and expandable XPS desktop this fall that’s specifically designed for VR applications.

Desktop PCs will never again reach the high-level stature that they once held, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go away either. They still provide the best experience for a wide variety of consumer and business computing applications, and for that reason, will continue to hold an important place among technology solutions for some time to come.

Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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...Just because sells doesn't grow every year for ever doesn't mean it's dead. Graphics cards, the only part that effects gaming these days sell great, maybe make other parts better too if you want to sell? If I get 0-1 fps more by changing processor or ram I can't see why I would. VR will still be such a small market that it really doesn't affect nearly as much as say new graphics cards.

Unless they make internet 2.0 or something that requires children and old people to get new laptops sales will still fall. There's too many makers scamming with inferior parts for higher prices than you get by building your own computer, if some of them end business it's only natural. Would think that if you buy parts in bulk as a company it would be cheaper to sell a ready made computer. Also they get money for pre-installed bloatware so should be cheaper still.
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TS Evangelist
New life? PCs aren't going anywhere, its the consoles that are dying.

Not to mention enthusiast PC gamers have consistently purchased hardware that could easily run VR. Everyone is acting like VR is reviving PC gaming because the standards are so "high".
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First of PCs have never been dead, sure sales some year may decline, but they still out sell EVERY single console put together each year. I feel in the home there is a place for both a pc and a console.


TS Addict
This is clearly an opinion piece presented as fact. Example:

"Desktop PCs will never again reach the high-level stature that they once held, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go away either."

Nobody can predict the future and no facts of any consequence have been presented to support this author's claim. VR is not mainstream.

Take for instance 3D televisions. That industry made similar claims about how well 3D TVs would sell and so just about every TV maker built one to sell. They didn't sell much at all. Why? Because it's a made up requirement not many people actually wanted or cared about. Instead of selling TVs with better sound and clearer picture they tried to take this to another place, entirely. In business, you often have to take risks, but that was one that failed. I saw it coming. I see this doing the same thing. VR? I'll pass.

What will likely kill the PC is the fact that Windows is still the one of most widely used OSs. Windows 10 has been shoved down everyone's throats so much many of us don't want to see it again. That's what will kill the PC industry, if it ever even dies.