The demise of the desktop

The demise of the desktop

It comes as no surprise that the notebook market is rapidly overtaking the desktop market, nor is this particularly newsy. It is interesting, however, to probe into the reasons why this is and where we can expect the market to go in the future.

Historically, desktops have had several things going for them and have therefore succeeded in the market. Graphics have always been better (or at least easier to upgrade) on desktops. There has historically been more storage space. The screen and keyboard size has been more comfortable and the price point has been unbeatable.

Largely brought on by the Santa Rosa announcement made by Intel last week, there has been a flurry of activity in the laptop market. Dell, Acer and HP have all released laptops with 20-inch screens, exceeding the 19-inch screen size of most desktop systems. With the increased screen size comes increased keyboard size, with some models now boasting for a full-sized keyboard and integrated media remote control. The screen is typically more adjustable and enhanced for longer periods of work.

Going from a desktop to a notebook has for some time meant a severe drop in the graphics department, but no more. Nvidia has introduced its Geforce 8 series, bringing Directx 10 goodness to a laptop near you, in all its high definition glory. HP has also dabbled in a water-cooled notebook, which would enhance battery life significantly and allow for high-end internal parts.

The introduction of cheap and fast external drives have eliminated the need for multiple hard drives in desktops and the introduction of solid state memory will most certainly take this trend further. With 2.5-inch hard drives now becoming as fast as their bigger siblings, the storage cap is closing rapidly.

Although top-of-the-line notebooks are still quite expensive, the price difference between laptops and desktops is shrinking. The emergence of Windows Vista outlined the need for beefier hardware and most manufacturers seem to have followed suit, thereby driving down the cost. More intense competition in the market and the introduction of new brands such as NEC and LG have also had an effect.

So is this the end of the line for desktops? While there are certain vertical industries that require easily upgradeable machines and larger screens, these markets are fairly small. More and more home networks now utilise the desktop as nothing but a file server and hub, while all the real work is done on laptops. A few years ago theft was noted as one of the main reasons corporations would not replace workstations with notebooks and this is still a reality. It’s certainly easier to steal a notebook than a big workstation. Managing virtual security for remote and mobile workers also remains a challange for organisations.

Yet the need for a mobile workforce has seen many corporations issue workers with notebooks that dock into desktop-like peripherals at the workplace.

This is the beginning of the end for desktops in the business market.

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