Monday, June 21, 2010

Death of the Desktop... Again

Slate beats a familiar drum, about how netbooks and cloud computing will kill the desktop PC:
Indeed, it seems just as likely that desktop sales will drop faster than Forrester projects. In her report, Epps points out that desktops still offer more processing power per dollar than laptops—in other words, for the same amount of money, you can get a faster desktop than a laptop. As a result, Epps says, people with "processor-heavy" needs—people who want to edit high-definition video or play a lot of PC games—will keep the desktop market alive over the next few years.

But I suspect Epps might be overstating the attractiveness of very powerful machines. The rise of netbooks and tablets proves that, for many tasks, consumers are OK with sacrificing power in favor of portability. What's more, in the future much of the "power" in our computers will come from the Internet. You probably won't even need to store or edit your music, movies, and other files locally for long—we're getting better wireless network drives and Internet-based storage systems, and soon all your media will reside in a central location (in your house or some far-off server farm) accessible to all your machines. You might even be playing graphically-rich games over the Internet soon, too.

The thing I've never understood about how cloud computing is supposed to make desktops obsolete is that to me... the only advantage a laptop has over a desktop is that you always have your work (or games or movies or whatever) with you. You never have to worry about having left something crucial on your home or work machine. Doesn't cloud computing completely eliminate that advantage? Meaning that now I don't have to tote around a 15 pound laptop to always have access to my stuff... I can spend less money and have multiple monitors to work on... why would I even want a laptop? I can see the case for a tablet or two for surfing the net or watching movies or whatever, but I can't see why you'd ever want to do serious work on a cramped keyboard and tiny display... but clearly I'm a bit biased, since I've always been pretty anti-laptop. I guess we'll just have to see, but it seems to me the big loser in the rise of the tablet is going to be notebook computers.