The PC is booming—just not the PC we know

So, you heard the news: PC sales are tanking. Apparently, nobody wants to buy Dells or HPs anymore; nobody cares about clunky laptops and bulky mid-towers. People haven’t necessarily stopped using them—aging PCs are still humming along in bedrooms, living rooms, and offices everywhere. It’s just that those machines aren’t getting replaced. Instead, people are spending their hard-earned dough on what analysts call post-PC devices: smartphones, tablets, phablets, and so on.

The PC industry is scrambling to adapt. Microsoft has retooled Windows into a weird hybrid that straddles post-PC tropes and legacy conventions. Laptop makers are bending over backwards to give us touch-enabled laptops that double as tablets. Everyone is working overtime to put a new spin on old concepts… and by all accounts, it isn’t working. PC shipments suffered their greatest decline ever last quarter, in spite of Windows 8 and all those tablet-notebook hybrids.

Some say there’s no hope, but I disagree. Because the PC is booming—just not the PC we know.

Source: German Federal Archive.

What is a PC? The initials stand for “personal computer.” According to the Merriam-Webster, a personal computer is a “general-purpose computer equipped with a microprocessor and designed to run especially commercial software (as a word processor or Internet browser) for an individual user.”

In the 90s, when I was growing up, personal computers were few and far between. To record TV shows, we used VCRs and VHS tapes. To share music with friends, we spent hours copying cassette tapes. To get in touch with friends and relatives, we used a land line—or, if textual communication was more up our alley, we wrote a letter. By hand. With a pen and paper.

The only kind of personal computer you could buy was a big beige box with a matching CRT monitor. Or, if you were loaded, you could get a laptop with a crappy passive-matrix LCD and a trackball wedged in the palm rest. These were toys of the privileged. We, the geeky elites, used them to play Doom and to rack up preposterous phone bills surfing AltaVista and GeoCities on 14.4K modems. A PC was a badge of pride. Finding someone else who knew about the Internet was sufficient to spark a lasting friendship.

If you’d fallen into a coma in 1993 and awoken today, you’d realize that personal computers are everywhere now. You’d probably notice the laptops and mid-towers at first, but then you’d start to see the phones, the tablets, the game consoles… and you’d think, aren’t they all the same thing? Aren’t these all general-purpose computers equipped with processors and designed to run commercial software? Sure, some of them are a little more locked down than the IBM clones of old, but that’s nothing a little jailbreaking or rooting won’t fix. Hackers can still write their own software. Not only that, but they can also package that software, ship it, and make money from it with very little effort or risk. It’s a far cry from the days of shareware trials on 1.44MB floppy disks.

Two decades ago, having the tools to play video games, to get on the Internet, and to write crappy BASIC programs made us special. Now that personal computing has grown into something so exceedingly ubiquitous, we feel like we’re not so unique anymore. Some of us see the PC’s evolution as a corruption of something precious—but I don’t think it is. The basic formula that made PCs great 20 years ago is still there, more or less intact, in today’s post-PC devices. You just have to look past the drastically different packaging and realize that modern personal computers are more beautiful, more versatile, and easier to use than than they’ve ever been.

I still spend a lot of time in front of an old-school desktop PC. I wouldn’t dream of giving it up. The thing is, though, my PC is big, heavy, difficult to operate, and required for serious work—Photoshop, Excel, web design, text editing, you name it. There’s nothing terribly personal or cozy about it. If you think about it, today’s tablets and phones fulfill the PC’s original mission—making personal computing available to the masses—far more elegantly than this thousand-dollar workstation.

Because that’s really what this is: a workstation. And that’s really what most of today’s traditional PCs are. They’re workstations with multiple processor cores, Windows NT-based operating systems, and copious amounts of storage and memory.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Workstations will always be needed, because there will always be work to do. But we shouldn’t pretend that the PC is somehow dying because people aren’t buying workstations they no longer need. The PC isn’t dying, because today’s real PCs are in our pockets. We’re buying more of them than ever, and they’re doing more for us than i486 Compaqs ever did.

Comments closed
    • sunner
    • 7 years ago

    “….PC sales are tanking….. some say there’s no hope, but I disagree…. because the PC is booming—–just not the PC we know”.

    Well spoken, Cyril. I was ready to write-off the PC, until you wrote that.

    • TheMonkeyKing
    • 7 years ago

    I think industry people are confusing sales with saturation. The PC is not dead; people are just not buying “the PC” at the rate they bought before. They have a PC, now they just buy for break/fix or components for upgrades. They also bought the system, the whole PC, at places like Best Buy, Walmart or online (Dell, HP, etc.) I think this why we are seeing a downturn at places like Best Buy, Dell and HP. Everyone now has a computer.

    Do they upgrade? No, not as long there are no real demanding software or games that need faster hardware. The average consumer is not a fan boy, they’re the ones who think Angry Birds and Plants Vs Zombies (and by extension Bejeweled) are replayable games. And like the games I mentioned, no they’ll never need an upgrade.

    But they will buy replacement parts like memory (RAM, disk drives) because the parts suppliers have made it easy for a normal person to perform such a task. CPU? No, because I think the coolers make it seem too complicated for them. Video card? Likely as it is pulling one out and putting a new one in.

    • dashbarron
    • 7 years ago

    It’s OK Cyril, at least you will always be able to play your favorite FPS.

    • Village
    • 7 years ago

    This is a semantics argument. As far as TechReport demographics are concerned, I would tend to side of the PC is dying side of the fence. Maybe the numbers don’t hold out and I’m wrong and there is more site viewer ship and more money. But judging the number of actual tech review articles I see on this site and others I assume there’s struggling everywhere.

    PC will never die, but the version we think of will never be a driving force again.

    • Ashbringer
    • 7 years ago

    All this will change once the software is there. There’s a few reasons for this.

    #1 Xbox 360 and PS3 have stagnated game developers from using PC potential.
    #2 Developers today are extremely concerned about system requirements. More so then ever before.
    #3 The Direct X fiasco from Windows Xp to Vista/7. Fact is Direct X 9 graphics are still a minimum requirement for modern PC games. At least 40% of Windows users are on XP still.

    Don’t give me that games aren’t the driving force of PC hardware sales nonsense. Cause I can fire up a Pentium II 233Mhz and put something like Ubuntu on it, and you wouldn’t notice a difference when it comes to checking Email and typing documents. I would even go so far as saying web browsing, if the sites didn’t make use of Flash or streaming video.

    Also consider that the 3D accelerator is first and foremost a device for gaming. It’s just included in so many PCs that it made sense to take advantage of existing hardware. So modern OS’s make good use of them.

    As for the tablet market, I have my prediction as well. The PC we know, such as laptop and desktop is not dead, it’s just that for most people it’s fast enough. Right now most people don’t own a tablet, yet, but they will eventually. Once you own a tablet, you won’t have much of a reason to upgrade. You know, like going from iPad2 to iPad3. Unlike the PC which literally has room for improvement, the tablets are limited due to space, power, and heat. Then there’s the software, which many people don’t take very serious. When was the last time you saw an app that required a Quad core ARM cpu?

    The tablet will eventually hit the same brick wall the PC has hit, only it will hit it harder and much faster. Once developers get smart and support OpenGL over Direct 3D, and begin developing for Linux, the PC will leave its brick wall. Don’t be surprised Microsoft will make DirectX 12 Windows 8 only. Tablets will need more advancement in manufacturing and battery. Even then, it’ll have to get over the stigma that every app cost $1 – $5. Cause without increasing the cost of apps, developers will never put enough effort past what most free flash based games do.

      • jonjonjon
      • 7 years ago

      i know ms made some features of directx 11.1 exclusive to windows 8. lets be honest most new games don’t even fully use dx11 never mind 11.1. if ms limited dx12 to windows 8 the adoption rate would be even slower then it was for dx10/11. if next gen consoles and windows vista/7 are all dx11 you can bet dev’s wont waste their time with dx12. 40% of pc’s may have xp but those are not gaming pc’s. according to valve 8.78% of pc’s on steam have xp. 70%+ use windows 7 x64/x86. i mean who buys a $200-400 gpu and then limits themselves to dx9 and xp? ms let vista users upgrade from dx10 to 11. i’m guessing they will do the same with dx12 and windows 7 users. what ms should really do is when they announce the next gen xbox also announce dx12 and that xbox and windows 7 will both support it. talk about an advantage over the ps4. ms owns directx they should use that to their advantage. but that would make too much sense and instead ms will probably focus on kinect 2.0.

      • tipoo
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve never seen an application that required a quad core desktop/laptop CPU either, have you?

        • Ashbringer
        • 7 years ago

        Hence the reason why the PC has hit a brick wall. And why the tablet will soon follow.

      • Diplomacy42
      • 6 years ago

      So I agreed with the first bit, but the part about people not needing or wanting to upgrade their tablets. The truth is that people ARE upgrading “post pc devices” because there is a need to do so. Apps are getting bigger, taking up more ram and CPU/GPU oomph. They have taken over more and more of the roles of the traditional pc. Soon, for instance, virtual wallets and wireless HDMI and 128GB cards in phones will necessitate another 2-4 generations of advance. Smaller and smaller process size has taken the tablet to roughly the late 90s in terms of power, but there is a whole world of already been-there-done-that computing and apps that are just dying to launch on the smartphone and the tablet. Xbox and PlayStation games from gens 2 and 3 for instance.

      Meanwhile, the PC isn’t changing. Sure, they are becoming more energy efficient, but the connectors and ports are the same(VGA worked well enough and if you have HDMI or mini HDMI, you’re set), 5 year old Nvidia cards can still handle fresh new titles(at low resolutions with some latency problems), and the entire developed world has stopped paying attention to the incremental improvements to processor speed and power. Windows 8 is a prime example of this. Microsoft actually removed all those “high overhead” gadgets like “aero” and the “weather widgit,” except Aero and the weather widget were fine. PC Systems running Win 7 had plenty of overhead for these programs. We were right on the verge of RAM cacheing and RAM disks being viable in the mainstream.

    • Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman
    • 7 years ago

    As long as people still do [i<]office work[/i<], then I fail to see why 'workstation' should be dead. Sure, you can browse with smartphones, but try writing reports and proposals using touch keyboard and four-inch display and you know what I mean. Also, like the article says, aging PCs are still humming along in offices everywhere. They will deteriorate over time and at some point, they need to be replaced. [i<]Replaced with workstations[/i<], not tablets, because only a sadist would insist that office work should be done with tablets..... ......or [url=http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/meet<]tablet operating system[/url<], for that matter. (runs away)

      • Diplomacy42
      • 6 years ago

      maybe, but something like the surface(NOT the surface, but something inspired by it) could eventually replace the desktop. tablets are quite capable of sitting on a table and interfacing with bluetooth and wifi peripherals like mice and keyboards. meanwhile, you can bring your tablet into a meeting to take notes or show a PowerPoint far more easily than a laptop. Its a matter of having the processing power and the drivers to do it.

    • NovusBogus
    • 7 years ago

    Everyone is used to having one big white box to rule them all. The future is lots of more specialized devices that each does something well. Also, since performance specs and especially system requirement creep is slowing to a halt systems live a whole lot longer.

    Success will go to companies that understand this, not companies who decree that <insert form factor here> is the new one box to rule them all.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      If that’s the future, companies that supply parts which cover the entire spectrum with a cohesive software ecosystem will really succeed.

    • Captain Ned
    • 7 years ago

    Oh, that picture brings back some memories. An original IBM PC with the godfather of the Model M keyboard (check the Function keys on the left) and a tractor-feed dot-matrix printer. Even though it came out in 1981, this exact rig would not be uncommon in the office world around 1990.

    We joke about the Model M stopping bullets and the like. The 5150 PC case could be used as a jackstand for large diesel trucks, probably while still running. The best part was that it still had the Big Red Switch on the side.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    A PC is a PC because of choice. You can choose what goes in there in terms of hardware and software, which includes the OS and applications. I couldn’t care less if the underlying hardware becomes MIPS or ARM or PowerPC as long as I can walk down to the local computer store, buy the parts I want, put the PC together, install my OS of choice, install the apps and games of my choice. And when something breaks down, I can replace the broken part on my own.

    That’s the PC that I’ve grown to know and love over the years.

    You can’t really do all that with Apple.

    You can’t do that with your Android device.

      • travbrad
      • 7 years ago

      An android device or Apple device is still a PC though.

      I do understand what you’re saying. As geeks we like to customize, hack, and tweak every little thing, and that’s why a lot of us find cell phones/tablets/etc a lot less interesting than “traditional” PCs. We also like high performance computing and even laptops can’t match a full desktop PC in that regard, let alone a tablet/smartphone.

      Most “regular” users don’t want to tweak every little thing though, and they already have all the performance they need. Most people get a new PC now because their old one is broken and Geek Squad wants to charge them more than a new PC would cost just to look at it. PCs really are seen as appliances now by most.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    Man, that picture showing a kid using an old-school PC is sooooo prim and proper. Like it’s the ideal way for a human to use a computer. I mean, even the keyboard is aligned with the table! Who would’ve imagined that in the real world, desktops would be cluttered with icons, hard drives would be filled with porn, gamers playing FPS titles screaming and cursing (look at how productive this kid is!), a can of Dr. Pepper and some Cheetos on the table along with a pile of other messy stuff…

    Shame on us normal PC users!

    • Stickmansam
    • 7 years ago

    Unless I am only watching stuff or playing fluffy games, I much prefer my laptop to my phone/itouch. The kb+m experience for just is faster and more fluid and accurate than any touchscreen experience can be.

    Even just browsing the kb+m gives me so much more flexibility. It just feels so much better using a kb+m even compared to tablets. Watching vids is the only major win for tablets since you can get rid of the kb+m being in your way.

    Also the fast that the numbers don’t include custom builds is a big issue. I recently converted pretty much everyone I am know sort of well to letting me do their rigs for them. The lost warranty/simplicity is made up in either good cost savings or by being able to get better parts/higher quality parts than prebuilt rigs would get them.

    Having my parents try out a ipad, though they liked the portability and the touch factor, they still much prefer their PC’s as kb+m is actually better for them than having to swipe stuff/etc.

      • Wolfram23
      • 7 years ago

      I use my Galaxy S3 for on-the-go email and browsing FB, Reddit, checking local restaurants, navigation, and of course quick Googling for whatever I need to know.

      At home I’ve got a big powerful gaming rig, a media PC, and now a laptop. I use the media PC for a lot of TV or Movie watching, but sometimes I prefer doing that on my laptop in bed or somewhere else and it’s easy to stream. I also use my laptop more for just general facebooking and net browsing at home (which I’d do on a tablet if I had one).

      But any time I want to play a game or do some Excel work or anything like that, I get on my desktop. A real mouse and lots of power and a big screen are still very useful to me.

    • End User
    • 7 years ago

    Yesterday is was Dell and HP. Today is is Samsung and Apple.

      • ronch
      • 7 years ago

      Nothing ever lasts forever. Nations rise and fall. So do companies.

    • thermistor
    • 7 years ago

    Not really any nods to HTPC yet. I can’t believe people are buying ‘smart’ TV’s. Whoo…a TV with a built-in web browser. With a Windows remote and a KB/M (optionally), my full PC dominates a so-called smart TV. And the case makes it look just like a fancy DVD player, though it plays DVD’s too.

    My point is the more general the box, the more you can customize it on your own to make it what you want. But the form factor matters a lot. It is easy with a fairly open architecutre big box to do that, less so with a handheld phone or tablet.

    Frankly, as long as text and data are relatively expensive on portable devices, I’ll stick with fairly inexpensive voice communication. Thank you very much.

    • ET3D
    • 7 years ago

    It’s about semantics, but I think Cyril got them wrong. What we normally call “PC” is not just a “personal computer”. A Mac isn’t a PC, according to the everyday use of the word, even though hardware-wise it’s the same. An Amiga isn’t a PC, and neither is a TRS-80. Sure it’s possible to define PC as any general computing device, but in common use PC is a Windows/x86 computer, regardless of form factor.

    If someone from 1993 woke up now, would he think that tablets and consoles are PC’s? Certainly not. There were consoles in the 80’s, it’s not like they were called PC’s then. Such a person might be shocked how far the Apple Newton has developed, but will not think of tablets as PC’s, because they clearly are a development of PDA’s.

    Will we see a change in terminology to have PC encompass more than this? I don’t know. It’s possible, but it’s also possible that we’ll find another term, like “home computer” was used in the 80’s for the computing devices of the time.

    The discussion of whether the PC is dying usually degenerates to semantics. It’s better to clearly split it into more concrete questions: Are desktops dying? Are laptops going to die? Are Windows devices going to die? Are x86 devices going to die? Even some of these will likely degenerate to semantics arguments. People will argue that an all-in-on is a desktop, because it’s on the desktop, and that a tablet with a keyboard is a laptop.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      Uhm, wha…??

      If some guy from 1993 (pre-wifi, pre-GPU, and almost pre-touchscreen anything) woke up today, saw somebody pull a small touchscreen device out of his pocket, pull down information from anywhere in the world, write a quick email, and spend a couple hours sharing photos and random banter with friends on a social network, play high-resolution video games, and then get interrupted by an alarm reminding him that the GF was probably about ready for an afternoon video skype…and do all of this for several hours without charging a battery…he would see the future of the PC in a fashion that exceeded his wildest dreams.

      And he’d be far too busy peeling his jaw off the floor with a spatula, to argue semantics about what a “PC” is.

        • ET3D
        • 7 years ago

        I’m pretty sure you could convince someone from 1993 of pretty much anything. 🙂

        But if he just judged available computing devices on his own, I imagine he’ll define those devices with keyboards as PC’s and those touch devices as something else. For one thing, a PC was mainly what Cyril calls a workstation, and being able to converse with others and pull information would be a natural extension for a phone, not a PC, and phone is also how we still call these devices.

        For another thing, people just love to give different names to similar but slightly different concepts. Sure, a laptop, subnotebook, netbook, ultrabook, UMPC, they are all the same thing basically, yet people differentiate. A Mac and a PC are the same, an iPad and an Android tablet are the same, yet people will fight over silly little differences as if they make a real difference.

        Sure, a console is really a PC in a sense, like Cyril said. You can play games on it, but also watch videos, browse the web and talk to people. But it’s still recognisable as a console because its major function is games and because of its form factor and connection to a TV.

        A friend once told me that Stargate and Star Trek are the same. You know, a group of people with a captain going to different planets. And he’s right: Stargate, Star Trek, Farscape, Doctor Who, Firefly, they’re all exactly the same. Take a far enough look and you see the similarity. Anyone who really didn’t care about PC’s in the 90’s wouldn’t care about the definition now either. But take an enthusiast from the 90’s to these days and I’m sure he’d beg to differ.

        (The thing I imagine an early 90’s enthusiast would not differentiate between is a Mac and PC.)

          • Scrotos
          • 7 years ago

          “(The thing I imagine an early 90’s enthusiast would not differentiate between is a Mac and PC.)”

          Then you weren’t into computers during that time. It was prime time for Mac/PC holy wars except during that time it was played out at user groups and BBS flamewars and in schools and at jobs and via print publications.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Someone from 1953 might be very very impressed, someone from 1913 would be floored, but someone from 1993 would at least have a reasonable frame of reference for what they were seeing and once it’s been explained they would say ‘Yeah, pretty cool advancements from what’s available now.’ That frame of reference includes real-world tech like cell phones which did exist in 1993 (as did wireless data in the form of packet radio for the extra nerdy) and fleshed out imaginary tech like tablets from Star Trek:TNG. There might be an initial large surge of ‘wow, it’s real’ emotion but it would quickly become mundane.

          • shaq_mobile
          • 7 years ago

          Someone from 1993: “That’s amazing!”
          Someone from 1953: “Communist spy!”
          Someone from 1913: “So you’re telling me… women can vote now?”

          One of the my favorite parts about looking into the past, is knowing that people will do the same to us some day. We mock ourselves for our behavior fifty or a hundred years ago. What will we be saying in another fifty years about today?

      • Vasilyfav
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]What we normally call "PC" is not just a "personal computer"[/quote<] That just means the majority use the term wrong. A personal computer is anything where it's a box with the standard Von Neumann architecture that is able to be customized and programmed (at least to a certain degree) by the end user and used for diverse tasks. A Mac is a PC. Technically I would consider a jailbroken tablet a PC as well if the degree of customization was present. Probably some smartphones too.

        • Grigory
        • 7 years ago

        Really? What about the same thing with a Harvard architecture?

    • Andrew Lauritzen
    • 7 years ago

    Before the Gartner/IDC stuff goes too much further in these doom and gloom posts, I do want to point out that part of the reason for the supposed fall is because they separated out all of the tablet, detachable and even ultrabooks (!) into another category, which according to them is rising. If you lump their forecasts for those categories back together, the decline was only 3.5%… but hey, that doesn’t catch the headlines the same way. [url<]http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2408515[/url<] I don't think the market trend towards smaller and more portable devices that fulfill the majority needs should be a surprise to anyone, but drawing conclusions from that trend about architectures, operating systems, etc. is not really justified. So I mostly agree with this article, specifically that the only people that will end up buying traditional desktop PCs long term are workstation-like uses, and gamers will be lumped in with those. You can already see this starting to happen with the main target of CPU TDPs falling and the halo segment being served by workstation-based parts. I just don't see how that's really anything to get too upset over... there's really no danger of those server-grade parts going anywhere soon; where do you think the majority of computation to feed your pocket device data goes on? 🙂 Those parts are seeing double-digit growth every year.

    • cegras
    • 7 years ago

    The logical conclusion, to me at least, is a smartphone type device that can be docked into a large monitor + KBM at home, and can somehow be docked into a tablet like device for consumption. Asus has already done this stuff and I’m waiting to see just how far we can push consolidation.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    I think there will always be a desktop gamer crowd.

    Just look at the numbers there is a solid gamer market for pc. When a game does well on PC it generally grosses more money because development is cheaper, markup is less, and margins wider. The volume needed to be profitable is much less than on consoles. Tomb raider has sold very well but still isn’t listing as profitable, same for many other games on consoles. Meanwhile you have valve over in the corner making sick cash on a platform that is “in decline”

    • bfar
    • 7 years ago

    Glad somebody’s finally come out and said this.

    I personally own a massive desktop, two consoles, a small Netbook, a tablet and a smartphone. That’s just me. And they say the ‘Personal Computer’ is dying? Are they serious??? My house is infested with the things.

    • shank15217
    • 7 years ago

    most people never did anything more with pcs than they can do with their phones, this was bound to happen. Tech companies in their persuit of faster, better, more options etc lost sight that even a cpu from 2004 is overkill for just about anything 60-70% of work people do. The client server architecture is coming back in a big way because tech companies have only one place to sell their high powered advanced silicon, the datacenter.. everything else is going the other direction.

    • BiggieShady
    • 7 years ago

    I was wondering, who buys assembled PC anymore. Even the ones who don’t know how to build a PC, have someone who can do it. Heck, even if they buy component’s and pay for the assembling in the shop, it does not get written as PC buy, it’s still separate components. How can they analyze PC market looking at sales of complete systems?

      • rpsgc
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]How can they analyze PC market looking at sales of complete systems?[/quote<] The same way they ignore digital sales when counting how many copies a video game sold. They're idiots.

      • Scrotos
      • 7 years ago

      Because most people, a vast majority of people, buy pre-assembled goods? Don’t kid yourself–a bunch of nerds building computers for friends is not making a dent in the millions of pre-made PCs from Dell and HP sold each quarter. If their sales are dipping, it’s for some other reason.

      I can make computers. I started buying premade Dells. They are good enough for what I want and I can upgrade them decently enough if I so choose. The warranty is through one company if anything breaks. Not motherboard here, RAM there, CPU over there. In many cases, I can get a tech out within 24 hours to swap parts or even give me a new computer.

      Is Nerdlinger down the street equipped to do that for his friends? Does he get paid for it? Does he get paid to keep spare parts in inventory for instances like that on all systems he’s built, often for FREE, for people?

      I know some mechanics, maybe I’ll stop buying cars and get them to build me one for free. I’ll pay them for the parts and even throw in a $20 for their time! 🙂

    • hasseb64
    • 7 years ago

    Maybe I am old fashioned:
    But for me a PC is:

    -Microsoft, first DOS then Windows
    -x86 – INTEL (AMD)
    -Open ecosystem

    Two main things happen during my computer trip:

    1. OPEN ecosystem much better than CLOSED
    (Competitors: APPLE-MAC, Commodore- AMIGA)
    PC won not because it was a better computer system?

    2. End of “central computing”
    Decentralized power was much better than terminals.

    Now, we see another step in decentralizing, first we will carry the computer, next next step we will have it inside our body. More important, it must be a closed system to be innovative enough.

      • esc_in_ks
      • 7 years ago

      Interesting, but I would contend we’re swinging back to centralized computing. A lot of people use tablets or phones which are, effectively, just a view into what’s happening on a web server using a relatively simple communication protocol. Sure, it’s more advanced than a VT100 or 3270 terminal, but it’s the same concept. No/little local storage, control given to someone else to run things for you.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        This ^

        We’re moving into Software as a Service with darn near everything.

      • Scrotos
      • 7 years ago

      Meh. Ignoring C64, Apple, Macintosh (two separate products in that timeframe), Amiga, Atari, even the CP/M-based Z80 and x86 machines?

      “IBM” was a very closed ecosystem until Compaq was legally able to make a “clone” and other viable “DOS” competitors arose.

      The “PC” won because it was cheap and appealed to the mass market. Not because it was “better”. C64, Amiga, and Atari might have kept going if management hadn’t run the companies into the ground chasing margins.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a PC guy through and through. But at that era it’s hard to argue the PC was technologically better. It was cheap crap. Amiga and MacOS had GUI and multitasking. Amiga had multichannel hardware sound mixing and could display THOUSANDS of colors when the PC was stuck with CGA and EGA. And what was closed about the ecosystems? There were many third party hardware and software makers for ALL platforms. It’s only because the courts got involved that PC clone makers could flourish.

      And honestly, for point number two, the very definition of a personal computer is one that isn’t a dumb terminal tethered to a mainframe. Yeah yeah end of “central computing” but if you’re talking PC, you’re not talking Larry Elison’s future he prophesized in the 90’s where everything is a “net” terminal connected to a Sun server. You can argue that we’re moving that way again with mobile apps and web-based apps, but even in “airplane mode” on my iPhone I can run several applications locally on the phone itself without needing an always-on connection.

        • hasseb64
        • 7 years ago

        TBH. PC kicked of late 80-ties early 90-ties. C-64/Atari whatever was forgotten by then.
        APPLE and Commodore is mentioned.
        Main point, it is an open system, and that is now going to DOOOOOMMM PC.

          • Grigory
          • 7 years ago

          Since when has freedom ever doomed anything that wasn’t evil?

    • Aliasundercover
    • 7 years ago

    If you fell asleep in 1993 and awoke today you would see computer based appliances everywhere. They do resemble personal computers but the open competition in software has been locked down. Phones are almost universally locked by the wireless carriers. Tablets are dominantly Apple and locked to their app store. Windows isn’t quite locked yet as the not-Metro locked up apps are going nowhere in the market though not for lack of Microsoft trying. Of course competition in Windows software exists only at the edges as Office wiped out the big money productivity market which was lively in 1993.

    General purpose Personal Computers are in trouble today. Computer based appliances on the game console business model are doing well.

      • Voldenuit
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]If you fell asleep in 1993[/quote<] Cue South Park Encino Man parody. I do agree with everything you say, except I now have 'Ace of Base' playing in my head.

    • Krogoth
    • 7 years ago

    Pretty much sums up what has been happening since 2000.

    I’m actually kinda surprised that Intel hasn’t attempt to push forth another form factor standard. ATX standard is ancient and quite frankly it is bloody overkill for the vast majority of the market. It doesn’t suit needs of the SoAC platforms that are becoming more commonplace. ITX is a little too small and mATX still retains some of the issues with ATX. BTX was still-born since it was meant to address the thermal shortcomings of Prescott.

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      Stop saying “bloody”, you barely speak English.

      [quote<]"I'm actually kinda surprised that Intel [b<]hasn't attempt[/b<] to push forth another form factor standard. ATX standard is ancient and quite frankly it is bloody overkill for the vast majority of the market."[/quote<] I don't believe it's overkill when it's often the cheapest way to build a PC or HTPC. Since most people don't live in a 200 square foot dorm room, hiding the case in furniture (or at least matching it to furniture) shouldn't prove difficult, and sometimes a bigger case has advantages, in the form of more connectivity options and more flexibility with optical drives and storage.

        • bjm
        • 7 years ago

        Why are you so nice to Krogoth?

          • ronch
          • 7 years ago

          I just had an interesting theory. Krogoth and Meadows are mortal enemies here on TR. But what if they’re actually just one and the same person with two usernames? And that person uses his Krogoth persona to attack Meadows, and vice versa. Maybe doing that helps him think. You know, kinda like Smeagol (or Gollum) in Lord of the Rings.

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]You know, kinda like Smeagol (or Gollum) in Lord of the Rings.[/quote<] You mean Krogoth killed the real Meadows, and just adapted the Meadows persona as 'penance'?

            • ronch
            • 7 years ago

            No. Krogoth/Meadows is really a disturbed being, undecided if he is Krogoth or Meadows. He endlessly cycles between the two personas. One post, he’s Krogoth, the next post he’s Meadows. So he talks to himself, endlessly flaming the other persona, arguing about technological matters. Just a theory, though, but you know… I could be right, right?

            Speaking of theories, I think someone here also abducted the real chuckula, got his username and password, bribed him into never ever visiting Tech Report again, and is now posting here on TR using chucky’s username and password. We’re all familiar with the real chuckula, and this ‘new’ chuckula posting around here just seems … like an impostor.

            Disclaimer: As I’ve said, it’s all theory, so take it with a big bag of salt.

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            I think Krogoth/Meadows are actually NeelyCam.

            And NeelyCam is actually Deanjo…

            • ronch
            • 7 years ago

            Now my head is starting to hurt.

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            The other personas have their own ‘other’ personas, which in turn have their own. lol

            • ronch
            • 7 years ago

            I think NeelyCam is the same guy as a certain ‘CameronD’ (or something like that)… not sure. I seem to have had an argument with someone with that username back in the early 2000’s here on TR (or was it AcesHardware…??). I have a feeling it was good ol’ Neely back in the early 2000’s… I dunno.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            [spoiler<]You mean I'm Comstock and he's DeWitt?[/spoiler<]

        • C10 250
        • 7 years ago

        Perhaps you are misunderstanding the context of the the word. Maybe it’s an adjective meant to visualize the degree of the overkill rather than a British expletive attribute.

        • Krogoth
        • 7 years ago

        This isn’t the 1990s.

        You don’t need discrete cards to handle all of your peripheral needs. The integrated graphics on current crop of CPUs is sufficient enough for light-gaming. Most of your gaming systems equiped with ATX boards that are out there are often using a single discrete card and rest their slots are empty. They barely use half of their SATA and USB ports. The gamers could have easily got by with a merger mATX board.

        The traditional desktop system as we know it is becoming the big irons of 1980s. A platform geared towards prosumers and professionals that use their system for real work. The rest of the market is opting for smaller and more portable platforms.

        Apple and MS understand which is why their UI of their OS are shifting towards portable platforms. Windows 8 isn’t meant for systems of today. It is meant for systems of tomorrow.

          • peartart
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<] The gamers could have easily got by with a meager mATX board.[/quote<] But they didn't. There is absolutely no point in another motherboard standard.

            • Krogoth
            • 7 years ago

            form factor =! motherboard standard

            • Scrotos
            • 7 years ago

            Sorta pedantic, isn’t it? Did anyone not know what he meant? What other “motherboard standard” do people typically refer to? And especially in the context of this thread, were you confused that he didn’t know what you meant? Did you not know what he meant?

            Really?

            • Jason181
            • 7 years ago

            I personally read “another” motherboard standard as though it’s another new standard added to the mix, whereas it’s a well-established form factor. I think the point was that he must’ve meant something other than form factor since the mATX factor he’s talking about isn’t anything new.

            Could be wrong though. He could just being, as you aptly describe it, pedantic.

            • Scrotos
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, but I can’t figure out what a motherboard standard is besides the form factor. “Intel” versus “AMD” “standard” motherboard? Or what? Is there some IEEE standard that covers motherboards? If so, I never see it mentioned in motherboard reviews or specs.

            I’m not trying to be argumentative on this; if there’s really a set of motherboard standards, I’m curious. I don’t mean stuff like bus standards or specific chipsets or that kinda thing, those are all standards for their specific bits and are all glommed together on one motherboard, so I can’t see them as a “standard” as a whole. DDR3 is my standard? QPI is my standard? It don’t make no sense to me. So it’s gotta be something else I’m missin’…

            • peartart
            • 7 years ago

            some people need an infinite amount of hand-holding.

          • Meadows
          • 7 years ago

          I didn’t say you needed discrete cards.

      • spugm1r3
      • 7 years ago

      Arguably Intel has pushed forth beyond ATX, just not with an uneccessary new board standard. The NUC is, in no way, shape, or form, recognizable as a transformation of ATX, but it attempts to take everything a basic user needs and sticks it in a package with about the same footprint as the bag your SATA cables came in. The thing about innovation is that it often seems like a novelty before its recognized as a shift. Its either half-baked, like the bicycle of the early 1800s, or boutique, like the cell phone of the early 80s. Time can only tell if the NUC becomes the new home computer.
      That said, as Cyril points out, the workstation will likely not be going anywhere, anytime soon. But if thats not what you need, you have a plethora of options.

    • Nelliesboo
    • 7 years ago

    I have a laptop, iPad, and Note 2. The Note 2 is clearly the brains of the operation. It keeps me connected up to the minute on pretty much everything. Also tethers out internet to all my other devices. That said my laptop is mostly used for heavy lifting (read: Video Games). The iPad is a $600 daily planner and financial tracker, not worthless… but almost. It gets a lot of use when traveling (airplanes) but other than that not really. If I had to pick just one, I am taking my phone.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    lol a few years too late to say that new form factors are PCs, what’s next we discover global warming?
    You do make a fundamental mistake though,you seem to think that work is somehow constrained to a form factor and that’s just not true.
    The desktop is just a box connected to peripherals , any new form factor can do that.
    Laptops were killing the desktop because they got good enough ,mobile device are getting good enough really fast and everybody needs a phone ,if you have it you might as well not waste money buying devices that the phone can replace. Whether you connect to some big screen, just expand the flexible screen or connect to a pair of glasses it doesn’t really matter.
    As for real workstations, not your expanded definition ,they might survive or they might get replaced by cloud appliances , local or not.
    For decades the form factors were defined by the keyboard and the screen while the industry was trying to figure out how to get rid of those limitations. The first steps are done and there is no going back, the old form factors are dead, it’s just a matter of how soon they’ll be dead and buried.

    I do wonder if TVs are dead, many don’t really need a TV anymore anyway but if Google Glass and/or Oculus Rift take off ,we’ll have dozens of head mounted displays in a few years. (If you noticed the Rift teardown,that thing is so basic that it can easily retail for 100$ when mass produced). Anyway,full vision,high res glasses would be way cheaper than a big screen and a pair that can be both transparent and opaque is not impossible to be made relatively soon.
    So.. the PC is dead , tablets will be dead soon, i just killed the TV , long live the PC or phone or w/e you want to call it.

    • csroc
    • 7 years ago

    I certainly refer to my desktop system (which I just replaced/built anew at the beginning of the year) as a workstation more often in recent times than I used to. It’s what it is though, that’s why I built it, to get work done. It plays games quite nicely too and is perfectly capable of whatever else I ask of it.

    It certainly seems to be true that more and more people are moving to smartphones and tablets to perform their day to day surfing, communicating, facebooking, twittering and whatever else they choose to be doing. The interesting thing is that personally I think doing all those things on a mobile device is an inferior experience. I prefer the desktop environment for web surfing, chatting, emailing, facebooking or whatever else I might want to do. My large screened overpowered smartphone or Nexus 7 might give me the convenience to do it in more places but I’d rather do it on my computer at home.

    Every time I get in to a conversation or have something I need to write out I find myself longing for a big screen and keyboard to work out a proper response. Surfing the web? My Note 2 and Nexus 7 still feel too cramped, even my 14″ laptop feels restricting at times.

    So while more and more people might solely use a smartphone or other mobile device it definitely isn’t for me. I don’t know how that might change in the future, time will tell.

    • obarthelemy
    • 7 years ago

    I spend 80% of my “smartphone” time reading (RSS, web, ebooks, email, magazines), 15% listening (music, audiobooks, radio), and 5% playing. Actual phoning is less than 1%.

    On the desktop, I’m just getting into Android sticks: $50 PCs that run Android and the PlayStore, and cost nothing because they don’t include a battery, nor a screen, nor tablets’ sensors. Add an HDMI screen, keyboard, mouse, gamepad, webcam… Those can do most of what I do on my Wintel PC, except play Civ5, but quite less conveniently: no windowing, no right-click, no keyboard shortcuts… Most of the users I know are *confused* rather than *empowered* by those capabilites though ^^

    I see those replacing quit a few Home Wintel PCs, offering a tablet’s capabilites, with a desktop’s I/O comfort (big screen, keyboard…)

    • ShadowTiger
    • 7 years ago

    Who cares about the “PC Industry” anyways?

    I think TR readers are mostly enthusiasts… we care about AMD, Intel and nvidia making competitive new parts for our desktops and laptops.

    So the question is… are system builders and power users shrinking in market share? If not… then I don’t really see any major changes in our lives coming soon. Maybe looking at more detailed statistics would provide a clear picture of trends in the tech industry that we care about.

    There is a halo effect though… so we could see component prices go up in the future as companies shift towards mobile.

      • Scrotos
      • 7 years ago

      Enthusiasts care about the PC Industry. It’s a simple matter of economics. If you have a high-volume product that you know you can sell, that helps offset the cost of R&D on the product and of course tooling up an assembly line for manufacturing. So what happens if traditional desktop computers are no longer useful? If everything is going to small form factors with the components soldered directly to the circuit boards in the interest of space and lightness?

      All of the sudden you end up with RAM for servers and the rest going to directly-attached stuff. You’ll have some regular RAM, sure, but it will be a low-volume component with higher R&D and manufacturing costs and that gets passed on to the consumer.

      It’s an extreme “what if” scenario, but this is why you should care about what the big system builders are going through. Didn’t everyone pitch a fit when they thought Haswell would only be in BGA format or whatever?

      Let me present a case study for you. In the Amiga world, people have wanted a “new” Amiga. A company that has some of the ashes of the brand and IP came out, after many years of development, with the AmigaOne X1000. Here’s a summary:

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AmigaOne_X1000[/url<] Now because there's like 5000 Amiga users left in the world, it's a very low-volume and niche product. That's one of the factors that contributes to it costing something like $2000. It's simple, volume drives cost and technology. The other alternatives for the Amiga crowd? They can "sell out" and run an Amiga emulator on a PC for a fraction of the cost or they can buy a "clone" OS that runs on a few supported PowerMacs, again the hardware being subsidized by something in a much higher volume field. Not caring about the "PC Industry" is just being ignorant of how it affects enthusiasts.

        • ShadowTiger
        • 7 years ago

        I agree with what you are saying… that falls under the “halo effect”

        However, I still think that rather than focus on generalizations like how many PCs Vendors sold… its more important to look at individual components like HDD prices and shipments since the flooding, or the rising price of RAM and predictions of how many months it will last and will it inevitably fall again when the cycle resets.

        This is a very complicated statistic: less shipments. Does that mean upgrade cycles are getting longer? Does it mean that people like to buy new computers when they want a new OS instead of buying a disc… but now they are content to stick with the OS they have?
        Are people spending $500 on a tablet instead of $500 on a laptop computer for basic use?

        So like i said… “Maybe looking at more detailed statistics would provide a clear picture of trends in the tech industry that we care about.”

          • Scrotos
          • 7 years ago

          No, a halo effect is when you have a flagship product that is there to give brand awareness and prestige. Just because a high-end product gets more expensive and scarcer due to higher R&D costs and less overall sales volume doesn’t mean the price is going up because it’s a “halo” product. I think you aren’t getting the cause-effect right on that.

          If you want more details, maybe check out punkUser’s post: [url<]https://techreport.com/blog/24681/the-pc-is-booming-just-not-the-pc-we-know?post=725732[/url<] That seems to indicate it's mostly a shuffling of numbers from one section to another, though IBM's trying to ditch their server division due to crap sales so perhaps there's more to it than that. Regardless, I figured the gist of the article wasn't so much the shipment/sales numbers but the contention that "PC" should define more than just the traditional desktop and the numbers were merely a stepping stone to that opinion.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 7 years ago

    I think I’m in the minority (or maybe not, there might be more of us than what I know), but 90% of what I use my smart phone is texting. 5% is talking on the phone. The last 5% is on the net looking for a movie time or playing Angry Birds while waiting.

    A personal computer? Certainly not. (Again, I could be in a small minority here). But on the whole, Cyril, I agree with what you’re saying.

    Considering most of what the general population did on a desktop (surf web, write emails, watch youtube and word/excel) can now be done on a tablet, this decline is to be expected. Just like land lines declined in usage when mobile phones arrived, desktops are declining in usage with the mobile computer (tablet/phone). Just progress.

    • C-A_99
    • 7 years ago

    Workstation? I prefer the euphemism “gaming rig” and I spend a lot more time on it than I would on the S3. I see it more as a matter of different needs.

    My mechanical keyboard, gaming mouse, and 3 screens really blend work and play. I can get things done, work on hobbies, work on work, or just browse comfortably. Content consumption is comfortable with so much screen real-estate, and I’ve never truly appreciated the traditional keyboard until I’ve had to do the same tasks on a mobile screen. I can (theoretically) make video games just as well as I can play them. It’s great on here.

    The mobile device’s job is to keep me connected anywhere; anytime I need the Internet in my pocket, it’s there. The camera lets me quickly snap photos and share them online, and some of the apps are good for killing time. I even installed SSH and RDP clients on it in case I ever need them. Plus, it makes a great MP3 player with Poweramp.

    However, when sitting at home, I don’t have any reason to settle for the cramped screen and keyboard when I have a desktop that simply provides a vastly superior experience in every possible way.

    I understand that this isn’t the case for others; touchscreens are easier to use than mice, and those devices are, as you said, more personal with their design. However, design doesn’t cut it for me. On the desktop, I have access to simply everything; all my nerd hobbies available in one place. (Almost) all my favorite games and movies too. I can even listen to music on YouTube and still browse the web, and I don’t have crippled text boxes whenever I want to type things out on the web.

    All of that makes the desktop more personal for me than any smartphone could be.

    tl;dr: For me, mobile is about access and availability, and desktop is about being able to do things more easily.

    • uni-mitation
    • 7 years ago

    PCs as consumption devices, well, that fits the definition. But PCs are also productivity devices, they create things.

    Those people that line up to buy tablets are doing it to consume content than to produce such content.

    In a traditional PC, you have have both, consumption and productivity.

    Who am i to say what is a personal computer to you? But let’s us not kid ourselves that you can create anything meaningful in a tablet too. Let us draw that distinction clear.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 7 years ago

      Of course. The important thing to remember is that most people consume on the PC far more than they create. If you can do consumption on a portable device (web, reading, audio, video, email), it makes sense that people would choose to do it there rather than while they’re tethered to a desk.

      Combine that with PCs lasting far longer than they used to because they’ve been “good enough” for the majority since around 2007 and its pretty clear why sales have slowed.

        • DPete27
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]Combine that with PCs lasting far longer than they used to because they've been "good enough" for the majority since around 2007 and its pretty clear why sales have slowed.[/quote<] Bingo!! In the "early days" of computing there was always a market demand for better performance because applications were quickly demanding more and more resources. Since 2007 (to use your arbitrary year) there has been a stagnation of said resource needs in software compared to the growth of computing power to the point where any dual core processor circa 2005-2007 can still acceptably run the vast majority of commonly used software out there today. Graphics demands did "stay alive" for a longer period of time, but I see the same thing happening in that corner as well in the not too distant future. There will always be niche markets (digital video storage pushing hard drives, gaming enthusiasts pushing graphics, and scientific computing pushing CPUs/GPU-compute) that advance technologies of "traditional computers" (aka desktop/laptop). But today's low-power PCs (phones/tablets/etc) are playing catchup in computing power and they already have their future performance goals sitting in front of them. They're a new piece of the market which inherently attracts buyers, but they're also rapidly evolving. That makes their replacement cycle much shorter than "traditional PC's" Input methods aside, desktops/laptops and tablets/phones are destined for an intersection. And the closer we get to that intersection, the more "traditional computers" will lose market share.

          • spugm1r3
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]Bingo!! In the "early days" of computing there was always a market demand for better performance because applications were quickly demanding more and more resources. Since 2007 (to use your arbitrary year) there has been a stagnation of said resource needs in software compared to the growth of computing power to the point where any dual core processor circa 2005-2007 can still acceptably run the vast majority of commonly used software out there today.[/quote<] I guess nobody told software developers that the pace of Moore's Law needs to apply to them as well.

        • Jason181
        • 7 years ago

        My work computer is a 3Ghz Core 2 duo running XP, and it’s by and large good enough. SSDs are tackling the last major performance bottleneck, so I could see the generation of mainstream PCs with them lasting a loooong time for consumer use (with the exception of probably gamers).

      • Theolendras
      • 7 years ago

      Until for some people the docking concept get off realizing that for some productivity cases they have enough horsepower in a tablet.

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