The Demise of the Desktop Computer

By Jason Slater.

Desktop PC sales continue to slump according to research by both Gartner and IDC; this year sales of the once popular format for computing have fallen by over 10% even though, in some areas, the fall is not quite as dramatic as analysts expected. If this trend continues the desktop computer could be on the verge of extinction as mobile computing devices, particularly tablets, continue to free computer users from the limitations of a desk.

The distinction between desktop and mobile is becoming blurry

The picture isnt quite that clear cut though. The launch of Windows 8 on tablets, when combined with wireless keyboards, is blurring the distinction between what it actually means to be a desktop or mobile device. In addition the mobile operating system is making inroads to the desktop space which could lead to a resurgence of the platform particularly for the Enterprise. A completely mobile computing solution does not currently make sense for many business environments, and the investment required to redesign business processes to meet the demands of mobility may also serve to prolong the life of the desktop computer. This is, of course, as long as PC manufacturers continue to support the format.

The top 5 desktop PC companies are battling it out in what is quickly becoming a smaller and highly competitive market: Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are all trying to retain share of  a market which may lead to strategic partnerships or buy-outs.

Dell, still one of the kings of desktop computing, reported a 79% fall in profits according to the BBC. This fall has has led the company founder to look to take the company private and shift direction to the highly competitive mobile market. This decision has caused a rift between the Dell founder and key investors who are calling for a change in management.

Is HP, with the Slate 21 running on Android, moving away from the Desktop PC market?
Running Android instead of Windows, is HP with the Slate 21 moving away from the Desktop PC market?

Hewlett Packard (HP) recently announced the Android based Slate21, which could indicate a change in direction for HP. As HP say, Its time to take those [mobile] apps to the big screen. Although the Slate21 is squarely aimed at the consumer market, HP – and Windows – are a popular choice for the enterprise, and are still firmly entrenched in the desktop computer model. As a result, other HP equipment usually follows a technology refresh including servers and printers. It would be a bold move for the company to move away from what it does best. BlackBerry, also a popular enterprise choice, tried something similar, and failed, as it looked enviously towards the consumer market. BlackBerry are now refocusing on winning back the enterprise and as reported in Information WeekIt’s do or die time, for BlackBerry.

The desktop market is seeing continuing signs of blurriness from the mobile market. Samsung recently announced the ATIV One 5 Style, a quad core 21.5 Windows 8 All-in-One PC, which some are indicating may be the swan song of the desktop PC from the Korean manufacturer. This is a groundless claim as reported in ZD Net, as Samsung insist they are committed to supporting a diverse range of PC products. HP once famously planned to shed its entire PC division but reversed the decision in a well publicised management upheaval.

Is the Samsung ATIV On 5 Style the desktop PC's swan song?
Is the Samsung ATIV One 5 Style the Desktop PC’s swan song?

Why the slump in desktop sales?

Perhaps people are not updating their desktop operating system as frequently as they once did. There was a time when a new version of Windows usually signified a time to update the desktop computer. However, with the rise of mobility, the budget for computing, in both enterprise and the household, is being stretched far across a broad array of demands. More people want more access to the internet and mobile computing and are using mobile devices to perform a number of functions that the desktop computer used to provide. For everything else, that Windows XP desktop, over in the corner, may well be enough.

The desktop computer may never demise. Most likely it will evolve and transition to free itself from the chains of a desk. The All-in-One may be the future direction for desktop computing – but isnt an all-in-one effectively a supersize tablet?


Jason Slater is a technology journalist, full-time blogger, and editor of Technology With Jason Slater. Follow Jason for tech talk on @jasonslater.


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