The PC is Over


I’m cool enough with using devices for most things until I need to create something. Then I want a chair and a keyboard at the right height. I don’t much care what that keyboard is connected to, though, as long as whatever it is keeps up with me.


The only way smartphones will replace laptops (or desktops) is if they become powerful enough to replace them. Do children need a PC? No, but the vast number of working adults do, and will continue to need them in the foreseeable future.

I’d grant that mobile device usage is increasing at a great rate, but if anything is going to replace the desktop, it’ll be the laptop. Mabye in 20 years we’ll see mobile devices getting powerful enough to dock to a full size keyboard and monitor (make no mistake, people want and need a full size keyboard and monitor), and then to run spreadsheets, photoshop and other applications. But until then they’ll be an accessory.


For consumers, maybe, although as my eyes have gotten worse my screens have gotten bigger. But I don’t envision 50 million office workers tapping away on their smartphones any time soon (actually, what I do see is those 50MM office workers using a only fraction of their desktop PC’s, while the “big data” jobs get the rest).


“In case the graph didn’t make it clear”… neither of the two y axes on the graph are labeled, and the ticks on the right-hand axis don’t even line up with the grid lines. Both are linear at least, and as such I’d have put the Geekbench increase at about 11.5 times from earliest to latest data points.

So yeah, not at all clear to me, but at least you have a pretty graph for people to skip over. Everyone likes those.


Imagine, managing that site with a tablet. You’re confortably sitting in the sofa doing this and that and, suddenly you get creative.

But to express this idea damn… You’ll need a mouse and then keyboard and… Shoot ! A bigger screen on a table and a real chair to sit on :-))

Or you can do all this with a stylus pen. Your choice.


The time of persons who only have a mobile device has already arrived. There are loads of kids who have an iPhone but no computer. Just the other week a career counsilor told me that they have to move back from online tests to paper&pencil because, kids don’t have computers anymore, they only have phones. I told her to make mobile apps instead of moving back to P&P.


I agree, to some extent. Last year, I thought of a scenario I would like to see as a reality: your phone holds all the documents, code, pictures, … you care to have. It has a basic computing package: a small, reasonably high res display; a decent CPU and GPU; a usable amount of RAM.

You come home, arrive at work, you drop it into a desktop docking station that provides extra memory, a replacement CPU & GPU (same instruction set, different performance), and you’re good to go. You could have tablet and laptop docks as well, much like the ASUS PadFone and Motorola Atrix, but with a decent software and some standardized hardware interface backing them.

Also, I’m not sure if performance is still leapfrogging as fast as that graph seems to indicate, or maybe the software is not taking advantage of it. I bought an LG Optimus 2X about 18 months ago, and I am yet to see a phone that is overwhelmingly better in terms of performance. The only thing I miss on that phone - as a phone, not a desktop replacement - is a good keyboard.

Perhaps this new generation of 2GB memory phones with quad-core Cortex-A15’s will make a convincing upgrade, but I’m not sure they need to be, until phones can grow beyond their current physical size constraints.


I’m hoping for a stable port of Synergy to Android because it would be very useful if I could interact with my tab using the same keyboard and mouse that I use with all of my other machines.

I’m not a big gamer, my typical usage is editing code, browsing sites that are mostly text and usually have a few SSH client windows going in the background. If a tablet could be connected to two larger independent displays, I’d consider using one. Any compiling I do is usually done on a remote server anyway, so I don’t really need the power of a bazillion cores at my disposal. What remains is app availability - I need to have an editor I like, a terminal emulator I can deal with and the other creature comforts that make my laptop feel like home.

If anything, this would be a hardware possibility way before it was a software possibility. Even if I could run dual displays on an iPad … neither IOS nor Android is the picture of my ideal work or development environment. Well, I don’t know if I can say that with 100% conviction because I have yet to try IOS6, but I’m pretty certain I could not put up with it as my primary (productive) computer from what I’ve seen.


Desktops are perfectly justifiable for software developers and will stay that way. Hard core gamers are (for now) still stuck to powerful desktop machines but that may likely change with more powerful tablets and new command interfaces and sensors.

But developers will always use desktops or high-end notebooks (for those of us that are on the move most of the time).

Unfortunately this means that desktops (may as well come packed in a very small form factor) will likely get increased prices due to less demand while tablets will be dropping it considerably (which is basically happening these days already).


Try again when text entry is a solved problem on a tablet. Until then, they’ll be little more than tools to mess around on the internet and post shitty comments on Youtube - and that won’t be replacing “gettings things done” (and, thus, computers) any time soon.

(Physical add-ons don’t count. The Microsoft Surface is maybe the first that tries to fix this.)


I’m typing this on my Macbook. Why? I don’t think it’s the peripheral problem. There are plenty of bluetooth keyboards out there that support my iPad. I prefer my Macbook (or my Windows 7 in a VM) because stuff is a lot more customizable and open on PC’s then they currently are on mobile devices (at least in the Apple universe). For example, just try to run an extension on Chrome for iOS. Heck, try to view the source of a page on an iPad. It can be done, but is complicated. I’m not sure how much this affects your average user, but lack of extensions, lack of real multitasking, and a bunch of other little things still makes me prefer my laptop for many things.


I also agree with you. The PC hardware is becoming irrelevant because is very powerful for many tasks and people also doesn’t seem to bother if they have the latest.

Outside people that work with computers and requires, keyboard, large display and mouse (not your readership), the tablet usage is only increasing and many are claiming that the tablet is their primary computer


This whole “tablets are for consumers, PCs for creators” meme is ridiculous. Next they’ll be claiming you can’t create on paper because it doesn’t have a keyboard. Yes, they have constraints that PCs don’t have; but that doesn’t prevent creation, it just changes what you can create.

@Justin: in that comic, the guy seems to have ended up in the same place. Except with his new setup, he can actually get up and take the screen with him as a tablet. Which is, in my opinion, a major improvement and something I’ve wished for long a time, as a 12" laptop user. In fact, that’s what made me so excited about the “Touch Book”, which was a laptop/tablet hybrid, which is a model I hope will become more common from now on.

For people claiming that tablets are just too underpowered, that’s true for now, but I think that’s a shortsighted view. As the supply of fast, reliable mobile Internet increases to meet demand, the concept of “augmented capabilities” will become more and more common.

As an example, check out how the Kindle Fire can do its rendering either locally or on Amazon’s servers, dynamically. This model can be extended, allowing resources to be allocated in real time depending on the needs.
This has existed for years for e.g. programmers, who often have a much more powerful “build server” that complements their workstation, but I expect this to become much more common and transparent to the final user.


Just because one stops needing to upgrade something, it does not make it obsolete. It often means the technology has simply matured.

That would have happened whether or not tablets and smartphones turned up on the scene. The speed of desktop computers reaching an adequate point for users has absolutely nothing to do with smartphones or tablets.

They are a separate technology.

Once it was suggested that laptops would replace pc’s. Didn’t happen. Then tablets. Hasn’t happened. Then smartphones - hasn’t happened.

These additional devices have not replaced others. They have become additional devices.

The argument that a technology becomes obsolete when it stops needing to be upgraded… or because other devices are being used is a weak one.

Put your desktop in the bin and try to make a living in IT. You won’t. And if you think that day fast approaches, then develop or focus your career entirely away from desktops…

99% of us won’t make that bet.


Hey tablet, hey cell phone, give me:

  • 20-30" display
  • Hard disc big enough for all my needs
  • Fast and reliable internet no matter where and when
  • Mouse and keyboard support or anything even remotely as intuitive, precise and reliable
  • Surround sound (5.1 or 7.1, surprise me)
  • Decent performance / cost ratio

Can’t do? See you in 5 or 10 years!


Add to this the notion that effective virtualization is becoming more and more realistic via a cloud service, and we will likely end up with tablets/smartphones as the predominant “personal” computing device, and possibly what amounts to almost a dumb terminal on our desktops, for those occasions when we want additional screen real estate and a desk-top environment.

Additionally any of those three device categories could access a powerful-but-cloud-based virtual machine which will, in the very near future, possess most if not all of the performance characteristics of our current desktops. The only bottleneck at that point will be network throughput.


PC has always stood for personal computer. It’s only the media (and people who derive their computer knowledge from the media) that has oddly conflated PC with a Wintel desktop. Video game consoles, laptops, tablets, and cellphones are computers that you own and only you use therefore they are PCs. It’s always about the intended use of the PC. Flops/cm^3 is increasing but the human finger is not decreasing in size; tactile feedback has not become obsolete; and large screens are more useful than small screens. Desktops will always have a place in this world not because they are more powerful but because they offer a superior working environment.


“The only way smartphones will replace laptops (or desktops) is if they become powerful enough to replace them”

What does that mean? My iPad is substantially more powerful, and higher-specced in every regard (RAM, disk space, processor speed) than the laptop I had 10 years ago, and I got plenty of work done on that.

The only thing preventing me using the iPad as a laptop replacement now is the lack of good text input, and the unavailability of certain categories of software tool, either due to the way the OS is designed or App Store policies (both of which I agree with btw, at least in principle).

Apple (and to a lesser extent, everyone who copies them) are trying to gradually grow tablets and smartphones to the point where they can replace PCs but without going through the same malware and usability growing pains that PCs suffered the first time round.

It will take time to figure out how to make tablets as useful for general-purpose tasks as a laptop is currently without sacrificing the inherent no-instructions-needed usability that they have now, but we’ll get there. It’s a user interface problem, it’s certainly not a performance problem.


I have always preferred desktop PC’s when it comes to my home computer and still do for gaming/writing code.

I am in the process however, of selling my house. Due to de-cluttering I have sold my powerful desktop PC and for less than I paid for that; bought a gaming laptop. In the past I would have never bought a laptop for gaming as they couldn’t put out the same power per pound (I’m English ;)).

You might say this isn’t relevant to the article in the sense I’m still using a “PC”, true but it does show how I’ve downsized a bit. I’ll still be getting a desk and dock to use mouse/keyboard/speakers when I move house though.

Now onto the more relevant part…

I have a smartphone but no tablet, I use my smartphone for about 80% of my internet browsing, 99% of my email and all sorts of other internet related stuff.

I can’t however connect my phone to a mouse/keyboard/speakers/monitor and fire up my MMO game of choice. I also can’t see myself writing code on a tablet/phone. Until my phone or tablet (when i eventually get one), can perform the above tasks then for me at least the PC isn’t dead.

As some earlier comments on this post state however, for the average user then with a tablet they can easily do without a PC for the most part. I do think there are still some improvements that need to be made there for tasks such as the use of office suite software. The PC will still be the device of choice for Gaming/CAD/Rendering work and anything else resource intensive for a while yet, so becoming more of a niche rather than dying.


I think the big surprise is that computer enthusiasts managed to persuade the rest of the world for so long that they needed computers designed for computer enthusiasts.

It was a neat trick, because it brought computer prices down and horsepower up for us. But it foisted viruses and way too much complexity onto regular people. Lots of the articles here on Coding Horror are pointing out specific ways in which things that computer enthusiasts are fine with are utterly unsuited for the other 99% of users.

As far as the mainstream goes, iOS-style devices are a no-brainer.