The PC is Over


Pffft! Wake my up when it’s possible to use high-power 3D modeling apps like Blender on a smartphone or tablet.

(Rolls over, goes back to sleep.)


Interesting discussion.

I would consider my wife as a ‘typical’ user. She plays games on facebook, sorts and manages our many digital photos using Picasa and the general windows folders, futzes around with Word and Powerpoint when creating flyers for our son’s birthday party etc. etc. Try doing any of this easily and intuitively on an iPhone or a tablet - you can’t. We had a netbook that I got for free - she hated the small screen. We have an iPad and yes it’s convenient for doing email and some web browsing and also playing particular games - especially when we were travelling - but nothing comes close to the flexibility, performance and ubiquitousness of a desktop/laptop.

Is the ‘big’ PC dead? Not by a long shot, they are designed for different purposes. Tablets and smartphones were designed for convenience, and until I can have the same hard drive space (or cloud storage that is as easy to access and has the same price ratio as a big HDD), the same flexibility, the same performance and the same ease of use on a tablet as I can on a desktop then it’s not going to happen.

Why do millions of corporate users around the world still use desktops/laptops? Because of flexibility and low cost - a basic desktop with Win7 for a corporate is roughly the same cost as an iPad - and can be locked down, admin-ed, networked and managed much better than an iPad or other tablet.

Yes there are some business and corporate users that do everything they need to on a tablet. But is the desktop dead just because of a small few who say so? No.


Also I call shenanigans. So many of your posts Jeff in the past have how you’ve been excited about new PC technology - screens, HDDs and SSDs, graphics cards etc. But now you’re saying it’s all pointless? Who is paying you to write this stuff?


Phones, tablets… those are devices used to consume content, not create it. I see myself do it and most of my friends. Im in my early 20s. We look at these things on our mobile devvices and then beam the contents to the laptop or desktop for later. I do it so much. I will read my forums and then write my reponses at home, on my keyboard evven though it is broken. Motorola is ahead of the game. They saw this trend coming, but the problem is that no one wants to carry that stuff around. That the phone doesnt really switch into a desktop mode that operates differently in any way. This part of the device would just need to be publicly available at cafes and hotels and such, but even then, the multitasking we are used to is still not great on these devices. Bottom line, I work retail and sure I sell more cell phones than laptops and desktops (and one phones makes the store more profit than all pcs combined), but they arent going away, people are buying them for creation, some even for consumption. But yes, basic specs were good enough a few years ago. Now it is all about responsiveness.


I don’t have a desktop anymore. Not that I don’t want to have one. It’s just that my priorities have shifted. I still love how I can modify a desktop to have more of this or more of that easily (and maybe more cheaper?), especially the video card coz I like to play games (but don’t have much time now because of a busy work sked). However, laptops are more mobile. I can’t got around town with a desktop. Laptops have become more powerful over the years too.

While tablets and smartphone are supposedly “convenient”, I still hate browsing sites through these devices. For me its inconvenient. It’s lacking a lot of things that I can do with a proper keyboard, mouse and at least 14" of screen.


I’ll just leave this here.


I am so incredibly sick of hearing people make these speculations. As we speak I’m writing this comment on my iPad 2, I wish I was in the other room on my desktop. Logging in to post this comment via Facebook is reason enough for me to want to be on a different device. The fact that advances in ARM powered devices are currently out pacing traditional computers doesn’t really mean very much. The desktop computer will surely see another period of rapid performance increases. Besides that this idea of using a tablet with an external keyboard is just plain stupid. I have that and I also have a MacBook Air, I strongly prefer the MacBook Air. Why would I want my keyboard to be detached (just makes it a pain to carry) when I can have it connected to the computer? Not to mention touch screens will never be nearly as effective as a mouse, I find myself frequently deleting an entire sentence because its easier than actually selecting the position I would like edit. The mobile and desktops markets aren’t in equilibrium right now, they’re going to move back towards desktop dominance.


Although the idea of connecting a screen and keyboard to a smartphone to work on is a neat concept, it’s not practical yet and I’m not sure it will ever be worthwhile compared to simply getting a separate device. At the moment, you can get an On-Lap 13" screen that you can connect to a smartphone with MHL cables - but it’s a clunky set-up, and at $199 you’re already paying as much as the Nexus 7.

If external screens can combine high-quality, low price and easy connectivity, it might catch on, but at the moment the technology is too clunky and the saving in price not enough to make it worthwhile.


“the future of computing is, and always has been, to make the computers smaller and cheaper.”

I disagree with this assumption. My statement would be:

“the future of computing is to make the computers more affordable and more usable”.

People want as big a screen as they can get, and if interfaces get too small UX suffers. Go into a (successful) electronics retailer. People aren’t buying tiny screens, they’re buying the ones that offer the best balance between large size, image quality and economy.

People love when their smartphone of choice gets a bigger screen because it becomes more usable.
Consumers do want the hardware to be invisible, or as close to invisible as possible, but for many, the optimal experience is still not a handheld one.

And then there are the other arguments about general purpose computing.


You know what my big problem is? For gamers, PC is not dead! You can’t play games like Skyrim on a tablet or a phone! I don’t know if you ever will.

Of course, if all you do is go on the internet, go see your e-mails, yeah, a tablet or a phone will do.

But if you’re a developper/programmer, a gamer, PC will go on…


You’re forgetting one little, tiny detail: all the content for tablets and smartphones (movies, television shows and ads, apps, etc) is PRODUCED ON DESKTOP COMPUTERS. As long as that’s the fact, we’ll keep using a huge amount of PC’s. I think that what you are meant to say, is that from a consumer standpoint, the PC era is over in the sense that the media content and activities are done via tablets and smartphones. That’s is true. So, as long as you’re not involved in any kind of productivity area that involves PC’s (I work on film editing and 3D design) and you only consume content instead of creating in, well, you’re nice and tidy on a tablet and a smartphone.


This matches a trend I’ve noticed lately. Less and less, “can you fix my computer” is the follow up to “You’re a computer guy right, …”. Lately it is “I got a new phone and can’t get my email working on it”, or some other feature. At least in those cases if I feel like helping, they have the phone with them, and I don’t need to visit their house, or troubleshoot over a phone.


“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.”

You answered that one yourself: IPad = outdated performance


Well, I love my work laptop. Combined with a docking station at the office, I get the advantages of a desktop + I bring very easily my work stuff with me at home where I can decide to work on the laptop or plug other devices to it. I don’t see how it could be replaced by a tablet. So casual PC for casual users may be dead soon, but developers and other geeks/nerds will still have a use for it. No ?


Its amusing to witness the arrogance of many here.

The simple fact is that the vast majority of people don’t code. They don’t do statistical analysis of big data. They don’t edit movies. For these tasks - use the appropriate tool to complete those tasks. Which is typically a desktop or high end laptop. For everyone else - a tablet and/or a smart phone will work just fine for their work and play.

I now return you back to your echo chamber and fake outrage.


@BoltBait: “You can’t build an iPad app with an iPad.”

Not true:

CargoBot was written entirely with Codea, a Lua IDE for the iPad. I’ve used Codea to teach my nephews programming. (And by “teach” I mean “show them the demo apps and let them play all day.” They weren’t interested in theory.)

I wouldn’t recommend it without a Bluetooth keyboard, and even then I much prefer a desktop environment-- mostly because you can’t get a Bluetooth Kinesis keyboard. Oh, and getting files moved around in order to build a standalone app is a pain, but that’s because of Apple’s policies.


Dear Jeff Atwood –

One could not be more wrong if one were to say something like “I think we’re way past the point of satisfying the computing performance needs of the typical user”.

The words “lack of vision” and “imagination-less” come to mind.

Come on, man-- Really!!! You, of all people, said that?

No, I am not going to argue the point because the chasm between your view and mine is just so wide on this matter, well, it is just going to have to be another grand statement from my view to counter yours.

OK, so here’s one-- It is WAY more likely than not that the computing power of machines will never be sufficient for the needs of humans.

Humans have virtually limitless potential and, inasmuch as computers can serve that potential (and it can), the role of computer is virtually limitless-- which means we are likely to always benefit from faster, smaller, better, smarter, computers at-large.

BTW, the “death of PC” is an old red-herring-- it has been Larry Ellison’s battle-cry for a long time… …and guess what?

Happy trails.


“(…) desktops are all built from the same interchangeable pool of parts (…)”

Being a white-box junkie all my life, this is what matters the most to me: in the journey away from the desktop we’ve lost the very foundation of what was the real engine behind all the progress and technological advance for so long…

I guess pure marketing and consumerism are supposed to take over that role, but I can’t help imagining how that could change when I see projects like the Raspberry Pi and others like that.

Just remember what Apple (and NeXT and others) hardware was in the 80’s… most of it custom. Apple only survived by commoditizing its own hardware. Now I see no way to commoditize the components of these new devices, being as they are so tiny and differentiating themselves on shape and size, constantly.

I want my white-box desktop… I want to tinker, to have myriad of choices for every single component, and I want to be the one who replaces the parts. And I want the barrier to create a newer-better component to be as low as possible.


If you’re not using your desktop for gaming or other really heavy duty stuff, the Acer T2 monitor ( ) or something similar could be an awesome desktop replacement.


Tablets/smart phones are terrific travel computers and offer a convenient way to browse, play games, maybe listen to music and podcasts and so on. This works of course only if you really don’t have to be productive and if you don’t mind tiny text, funky behavior sometimes, difficulty printing (ipad), inconvenient data entry, no flash, and so on. And in the case of Apple tablets, if you don’t mind being tethered to a company of control freaks.

For me I’ll take my tablet when I travel. But I will continue to use my laptop in my recliner sipping my morning coffee watching the sunrise. For people who have to be productive or serious gamers, they will undoubtedly continue using desktops computers or full function laptops.