Friday night topic: Where do you see PC enthusiasts in 5 years?

Had an interesting conversation with some fellow editors of PC hardware sites recently that revolved around the question: will we still be doing this in five years? There was genuine curiosity about whether PCs built from components will continue to make sense, given the rise of highly integrated devices like tablets and smartphones and the ongoing trend toward mobile computing.

My take was somewhat optimistic, since I think the experience of sitting upright at a desk in front of a large monitor, good speakers, and precision input devices continues to be compelling and engaging, especially for creative pursuits and certain types of gaming. I also think PC enthusiasts are a better served market now than ever before, with better custom components and more refined products. The market may not be growing by leaps and bounds, but its maturity sure has some nice benefits, too.

However, I think some folks have trouble envisioning a path forward for large, complicated desktop PCs, when computers are becoming slick, fast, and easy-to-use consumer devices a la the iPad and such. It is true that a great many of the usage and performance hurdles that drove folks to build big, fast, custom PCs are now essentially solved problems, given the way custom accelerators (for video compression, for instance) and GPUs (for image processing, games, and UI animations) have tackled the pain points.

So, eh, I dunno. I sure would like to have a crazy-awesome hand-built PC in 2017, with a wall-sized monitor as crisp as a printed page, exabytes of instantaneously accessible storage, and enough processing power to run facial recognition on my home video library in seconds. I'd love to be playing Guild Wars 3 on it with fluid, near-photorealistic graphics. But maybe not enough other folks would be compelled by that possibility, if they could get something equivalent to today's best PCs in a 12" tablet or the next Xbox.

What do you think? Where are we headed, and will the market five years from now look anything like it has for the past decade-plus? Discuss.

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