back to article The last PC replacement cycle is about to start turning

A friend recently emailed me at the end of a journey to New York City. “I was lamenting the weight of my company-issued Lenovo,” he wrote, “when I saw the machine carried by the passenger in front of me.” He enclosed a photo showing that poor unfortunate, who’d somehow managed to string a shoulder strap around an old Dell …

  1. Alan Bourke

    I love these articles

    ... they remind me of the ones in the 70s where we'd all be living on the moon discussing our new flying cars over the videophone.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I love these articles

      Perfect reply to this load of dingo kidneys.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I love these articles

        >Perfect reply to this load of dingo kidneys.

        It is not a bad reply, but perfect? Personally, I feel that the discussion below that this article has prompted is useful, not least because we have different understandings of what 'tablet' and 'laptop' entail.

    2. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: I love these articles

      If the most interesting thing you do is powerpoint presentations, I suppose you could get away with either an ARM device or a weak laptop like a MBA. For anything more interesting, you're probably going to be out of luck.

      It's nice to have meager expectations. Not everyone does though.

      Plus all the tech everywhere has to support you. Not everyone is going to accommodate your Apple device (even in 2014). I suggest always having a contingency plan ready.

    3. Oninoshiko

      Re: I love these articles

      And RISC! x86 has clearly been dead for 2 decades!

      God I loved that one.

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: I love these articles

      Whilst I get using tablets phones etc. for consuming content, I personally would still want a real computer (Mac, Windows or Linux) to compose actual content on. But maybe that marks me out as an out of day generation-Xer.

      (slurpes a cup of Earl Grey whilst sat in the station buffet)

  2. Buzzword

    “When I’m in the office I’ll AirPlay it over to an Apple TV connected to a monitor. What’s the difference between that and a desktop?”

    The difference is productivity. On a desktop with a mouse and a full numeric keypad I can fill out a spreadsheet with data from three different sources, draw a chart, copy it into a document, format it nicely, and email it to twenty recipients. All within five minutes.

    On your iPhone, multi-tasking is barely feasible - every time you jump from your spreadsheet to your presentation app you'd find the latter'a process was killed because it ran out of memory. The Bluetooth ultra-light keyboard will be slower to type on than a more solid keyboard. There's no mouse so simple tasks like Copy+Paste take forever.

    For content consumption (displaying your presentation) the iPhone is fine: but creating anything more than linear text, no edits, is a tedious chore.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "The difference is productivity. On a desktop with a mouse and a full numeric keypad I can fill out a spreadsheet with data from three different sources, draw a chart, copy it into a document, format it nicely, and email it to twenty recipients. All within five minutes."

      What about network computing which would let you do the same things by connecting to some headerless server somewhere and do the same things with a keyboard+mouse attached by On-The-Go? Why does it always have to be a genuine honking workstation actually sitting on your desk?

      1. Grikath

        "Why does it always have to be a genuine honking workstation actually sitting on your desk?"

        It's your desk. you're paid to be there and generally available in that vicinity, and , if slightly possible, do something that can be classed as "productive" . Signed, your boss.

        While a mobile workspace, like "open office plan" sounds nice in theory, and in several high-level use-cases is actually practical, for the most of us drones things come down to the above. And then I haven't even touched the bits where company policy or law *requires* the use of physical connections on isolated or firewalled networks while handling $data.

        1. Nigel 11

          Why does it always have to be a genuine honking workstation actually sitting on your desk?

          It doesn't always. I was recently in a furniture chain where the salespeople all had Ipads and took your order sitting on one of the sofas. They could also show you what any sofa looked like in any fabric. Quite impressive.

          But personally, I prefer to type on a proper full size keyboard and look at a full-sized screen (24 inch 1920x1080, lamenting the disappearance of 1920x1200). That way I don't get RSI in my fingers and I don't get eyestrain and headaches and back-ache.

          I have a smartphone and a tablet and find uses for both. But if I had to choose I'd give those up rather than my desktop (assuming I could go back to my old dumb phone for calls and texts -- with a battery that lasted two weeks, some things don't improve).

          At work, any employee whose job it is to sit in front of a computer for most of the working day deserves a proper desktop system. And the employer is in danger of facing a claim for causing industrial injuries, if they think otherwise.

          PS the laptop probably *is* dead. It always was a poor compromise, with a shrunken keyboard with limited key-travel and a too-small screen too close to the keyboard or too far from your eyes. As for those expletive-deleted mouse-pads, the less said the better.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Nigel 11

            "As for those expletive-deleted mouse-pads, the less said the better."

            I can agree with that wholeheartedly, but why don't more laptops include trackpoints (or pointing sticks, or whatever they want to call them)? They're miles better, and don't take up much space.

            1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              memory evolution

              > but why don't more laptops include trackpoints (or pointing sticks,

              > or whatever they want to call them)?

              Well, a female friend of mine used to have her own slang term for the "trackpoint", which led me to suggest that was why she liked playing with it.... (just as a hint; a female anatomical term)

          2. xenny

            Get a decent hardware supplier. 1920 x 1200 is still perfectly well available.

      2. stucs201

        re: some headerless server somewhere

        Some headerless server which is probably actually just PC hardware in a different box and location. I'm not seeing the point where I can't buy such hardware and assemble it in a case under my desk arriving any time soon.

        Besides isn't the x86 PC supposed to already be dead? Killed off by Itanium? Or was it by PowerPC? No wait, it was Alpha. Etc. There have been so many predicted deaths for the PC that it's difficult to take another one seriously.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: re: some headerless server somewhere

          I'm talking the office environment. If you need it for a private or personal business, well that's your prerogative. But you'd also be the exception. Enterprises, as content creators, will always need the horsepower. Thing is, thanks to improved portable computing and networking capability, man and machine really don't necessarily have to be in the same room anymore. Indeed, barring outlying circumstances like social interaction, why bother with an actual office? Meanwhile, computing has morphed into something that doesn't necessarily need a single muscleman processor to accomplish. By necessity, we've become much more adept at finding ways to slice the jobs into smaller bits that can be parallelized. Even some of the toughest ones like video encoding can be split effectively if you do a little analysis first (for example, detecting scenes and splitting by them would not incur losses because each segment would be split at key frames).

      3. goldcd

        Because for the additional size

        I'd prefer to have one less thing to worry about.

        In an ideal world, yes, I'd agree - if I could guarantee access to the server from work/home/on the go and didn't have any connectivity issues etc.

      4. foo_bar_baz

        Cloud + virtualized desktop = fail

        I'm right now in a "Virtual Training" class. The Internet connection from my office is top notch. The experience is still horrible. I'll never attend another one.

      5. JEDIDIAH

        Don't be such a cheap b*st*rd.

        > Why does it always have to be a genuine honking workstation actually sitting on your desk?

        Ergonomics and efficiency.

        The "workstation" isn't so much important as is everything else connected to it. It's the peripherals. Although a lame locked down OS running on some slow CPU like something out of the 90s isn't going to be helpful.

    2. EddieD

      He even acknowledges in the article that the phone is no use for production:- "only surpassed by the top-of-the-line MacBook Air I type this on"

    3. dajames Silver badge

      But why?

      The difference is productivity. On a desktop with a mouse and a full numeric keypad I can fill out a spreadsheet with data from three different sources, draw a chart, copy it into a document, format it nicely, and email it to twenty recipients. All within five minutes.

      Maybe ... but how many of those twenty actually read the thing?

      If the report is actually useful and necessary it would be more efficient for to automate its production rather than messing around with spreadsheets; if it isn't then it would be more efficient not to produce it at all.

      I don't see any clear argument for a desktop PC here (though you will have to prise mine away from my cold dead fingers).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Spot on

      'The difference is productivity'. Correct sir.

      When at work I use a VDI session, run from a little cisco thin client box, but, and here's the crux, it's attached to a mouse, keyboard and 2 big monitors. It's this what allows me to be productive (well, perhaps not on a Friday afternoon, but you get my drift).

      When at home, I use the same VDI session. But I access it through my traditional desktop. Again, the critical part is mouse, keyboad and 2 big monitors.

      I can also use the same VDI session from my Tablet. And my phone. Other than clumsily checking email or lync messages, I could have zero productivity from that way of working. As for 'casting' to a big screen, without my mouse, keyboard, comfy chair and desk, I'm not going to be able to work as good.

      I think it's the 'Desk' in 'Desktop' thats the critical thing, and the peripherals that sit on it.

    5. Hans 1 Silver badge

      WTF?

      Listen, I have a BB10 Z30 hooked up to my TV via HDMI, with wireless USB keyboard+trackpad and mouse (used if needed). They work as intended. I can do my work on that thing quite reasonably, although I never really did it for very long. USB host mode is great with a powered hub.

      The sources lie on a 3Tb drive, also hooked up via USB - this thing has 2Gb of memory. Now, I do not waste time in MS Office, I do my stuff in vi from the command line - and it works pretty well. Does the iPhone have USB host? I am not sure and am too lazy to look it up - actually, I do not really care to know.

      The only thing I miss is the preview.

      Yes, I can create presentations from within vi, they can also end up as MS Office presentations, after a little work. I personally use PDF, but I can output almost anything - docbook, for example.

    6. Observer1959

      This is why we need both. I really want a iPad Pro that runs OSX (no not a touch version) when placed in a keyboard docking station. I could run dual monitors from the dock. Then when I pull the iPad from the dock it changes to iOS for on the go. I could keep ALL my files on the iPad and have an identical docking station at home and work. Yes something similar is out there, but I want Apple to make mine.

  3. Hilmi Al-kindy

    Specialty applications

    There will always be a place for a full blown laptop in specialty applications. Anything that is very processor intensive and shuffles huge amounts of data, needs detailed display on a large screen needs to be run on a device that was designed for that kind of work from the ground up.

    One of the biggest reasons for this is power. Batteries just can't provide enough juice at a reasonable size to perform such tasks. As long as there are people who want to do video editing in better quality than what is intended to be consumed on a 5" screen, those who want to process astrophotos where 1 GB of data to be crunched through is normal for 1 photo or other processor intensive tasks that take a long time to achieve just can't be conveniently performed on a mobile device as small as a phone in a very practical matter.

    The flaw with mobile devices is their size. Notice how they try to compensate by growing bigger. Mobile devices are very suitable for consuming media, but a totally unsuited for heavy creation of content. Ever tried writing a 20 page document on a mobile device? I find typing a one paragraph post on a discussion forum an exercise in frustration, let alone writing a 20 page incident investigation report. Once you add a blue tooth keyboard and an external display are you really much better off than having a laptop? Why is there a reasonable sized market for keyboard covers that attach to your tablet of choice?

    I believe that the laptop will continue to have it's place, but most of the market will be for specialty models with higher processing power and massive storage instead of low end models not much good for creating content. There will be, in my opinion less variety of models and many of the low cost laptop makers like Acer will disappear. The prevalence mobile devices shows how little we actually create in our jobs... I guess all it shows is that the computer sales will have shifted to India and China where all the work actually gets done and all us consumer suckers will be using mobile devices because we don't actually create anything anymore.

    1. lnLog

      Re: Specialty applications

      "The prevalence mobile devices is that it shows how little we actually create in our jobs"

      I think it would be an eye-opener to see how many folk spend their days generating emails... and somehow probably quite depressing.

      Moving to asia I ended up having to design a case to fit a supermicro ATX xeon and full size graphics card into a standard laptop bag to take as carry on luggage, power supply went in the hold, but so much more power than I could have got from a laptop even for twice the money. The fella with the dell, just needed a bit more ingenuity

  4. PleebSmash
    Meh

    it's optional

    As long as I can be more productive on the laptop, and it costs less while performing better than a phone or tablet, with a better UI and a larger screen, the laptop can be the desktop. Surface is a neat idea but entirely overpriced. Just getting a stupid keyboard for your choice of app-laden tablet costs $70-130.

    The $300-500 laptop range is great. Broadwell will arrive in force soon along with Kaveri's successor. 1366x768 panels will hopefully die out.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: it's optional

      1366x768 panels will hopefully die out.

      A man can dream ...

      I suspect the 1366x768 panel will be with us until Microsoft or someone equally influential in the marketplace publishes a PC specification that calls for 1920x1080 panels as a minimum, or that prominently attaches the label "Low Definition" to 1366x768 panels.

      1. PleebSmash

        Re: it's optional

        Intel tried. Their roadmap keeps 1366x768 in the entry category of 2014 laptops. Intel completely missed the phablet and ultra-high PPI phone displays (as high as 2560x1440), but correctly predicted a trend towards greater than 4K premium displays (Dell, iMac).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    "and run all the important apps"

    This is why laptops (and yes, even desktops) will remain relevant far longer than another "replacement cycle" - content creation apps on smartphones and tablets are complete and utter garbage.

    Ever try scanning 10,000 pages into a tablet, OCR'ing them, keyword searching, cropping relevant portions, and inserting those portions into a slide show or video presentation? I just listed 6 things you aren't going to do effectively on a smartphone or tablet anytime in the next couple of replacement cycles, because the apps simply don't exist at all or don't have anywhere near the necessary functionality. And yet, those functions are necessary for most law offices - so you've just taken the entire legal profession off the map.

    What about design engineering? Architecture? Accounting? Etc, etc, etc. The apps don't exist, or the ones that do are such complete and utter crap as to make working on one for professional content creation completely impossible.

    Yes, a sysadmin could do a little coding, and remote into some systems on a smartphone, and throw an image onto a larger screen, and connect a keyboard - we've all experienced it. Yay! That functionality has existed in some fashion since the Palm Pilot was hip though, keep in mind. I did nearly all those things with my first Blackberry just for kicks. Telling me that a sysadmin can keep some servers running from a handheld is absolutely nothing new, and has absolutely nothing to do with "the death of the PC".

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: "and run all the important apps"

      Yes but in your example, you need one person with a PC used for such things, you don't need everyone to have a PC just in case they need to do some scanning.

      Of course some people need a full PC interface either for performance or input/usability reasons - just as some people actually need 4-wheel drive or a pickup truck to drive around in day-to-day.

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Mushroom

        Re: "and run all the important apps"

        > Yes but in your example, you need one person with a PC used for such things,

        No. In that example, ANY person in the office needs to be able to do those things. Not only that, they may have to do even more interesting things that the OP didn't even get into. He only went into ONE small subset of the given use case. He only touched on the tip of the iceberg.

        Flexible powerful systems allow users to do interesting and surprising things.

        THAT is the whole point of the PC. You are not stuck dealing with centralized IT management to give you permission to do something. You just fend for yourself individually or collectively.

        Mobile devices have to lose the whole mobile device cripple management mindset before they displace genuinely general purpose devices.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: "and run all the important apps"

          I've worked in offices where anyone might need to do scanning. We didn't have a scanner on every PC. We had one PC with a scanner, which you'd jump on if you needed to scan something. If we'd been a business who did a lot of scanning it would've been different but then that's a special case in which case your whole argument is meaningless because we're talking about general IT, not any number of niches (programmers, architects, artists, scientists, etc)

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: "and run all the important apps"

      Telling me that a sysadmin can keep some servers running from a handheld is absolutely nothing new, and has absolutely nothing to do with "the death of the PC".

      Exactly; being able to do a job where your main tool is to immediately telnet into something else - which by definition makes whatever hardware is right in front of you irrelevant beyond a keyboard and some screen that can display text in a readable fashion - hardly says anything whatsoever about the general relevance of whatever you're using as nothing more than a teletype console...

  6. Khaptain Silver badge

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

    The last phrase was probably the most important as it actually describes the whole article. ( see title).

    Effectively, there is a movement towards small devices, but I hasten to add that the movement is within a particular demography. I can't say who that demography are but I might be able to who they are not. I would suggest that the following is a non-exhaustive list of those they will not move towards the smaller devices regardless of how much power they have.

    Hardcore gamers. (There strife for power is never ending)

    CadCam (was mentioned the article)

    Video Editing ( was mentioned the article)

    Photoshoppers ( again need lots of power).

    Photographers ( need huge storage and large screens with reasonable CPUs).

    Admins ( Any admin that is working solely on one small tiny screen must have a vey quiet life)... Multi-remote sessions require screen estate and a good keyboard, not a dinky thing where finding the Pipe Symbol is a major challenge)

    Game Developers.

    Big Data crowd...

    etc etc etc

    One of the major differences between the two platforms lies in their "Duree de Vie"... A smartphone has about a 2 year lifespan; a PC is usually closer to 4. This means a much quicker and expensive refresh.

    The smartphone would have to be permanently connected to a power source, thereby removing it's advantage of being portable ( I agree that it will retain a least a few hours of autonomy though).

    Smartphones are fragile, they definitely cannot take the beating that a PC/Laptop can take. Walk into any office and have a look at the scuffmarks on the PCs that are floor bound... Also have a look at a 2 year old road warrior smartphone, they get pretty beat up...

    Personally I don't see a massive migration the smartphone as the sole device, it definitely has its place but not as the sole device... It is more of a compliment to the existing arsenal.

    Currently there is a huge choice of platform PCs, Smartphone, Tablet, Tablet that resemble smartphones or PCs ( IBM Yoga style). Most of these devices can have a keyboard added, removed etc so they are quite adaptive. But each will eventually find its own crowd and probably retain them.

    If I had to choose between the Smartphone, Tablet and my PC, I would definitely keep my PC and buy a very cheap "talk only" phone.

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      >Hardcore gamers. (There strife for power is never ending)

      >CadCam (was mentioned the article)

      >Video Editing ( was mentioned the article)

      I'd be interested to see some rough breakdown of how desktops are used... my guess is that most of them are fairly low end for general office tasks, followed by enthusiast gaming machines, followed by intensive productivity workstations (CAD, video-editing).

      One trend worth noting is that for the last few years, new Intel CPUs have been geared towards energy efficiency instead of raw grunt - they are already fast enough for most tasks.

      Gamers do push the limits of GPUs, but some may trade that against size and noise to run a 1080 TV in their front room (SteamBox). The other drivers here are ultra HD displays, multiple monitors and maybe the Occulus Rift... Most modern games don't benefit from any CPU faster than an i5.

      CAD can be run on a laptop, and the big number-crunching - rendering and simulation - can be farmed out to an array of GPUs or even the cloud. Hell, some CAD can be used over the cloud - there are some advantages (pay per use, easier security administration, cheaper local machine, team collaboration tools).

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

        Video editing.

        A decent MPEG encoder used to take a day to encode two hours for a DVD on highest quality settings. A new PC greatly sped this up and I think a large part was going from IDE to SATA.

        Now I handle HD, even the quad core plays up sometimes, but I do get the odd issue with strange frame behaviour (Editing MPEG2 if I insert an image it reencodes all teh MPEG2 and then messes up lip sync).

        Gaming does appear to be a constant power battle, Good rooom heating though!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

          Video editing.

          Main constraints: Processing power, Input/output, driving high res displays.

          Some of the workload can be offloaded to GPUs, or to specialist parts of the newer Intel CPUs. Software has been re-written to take advantage of OpenCL - see DaVinci for OSX. More specialist encoding hardware is available PCIe / Thunderbolt, such as the Red Rocket.

          The other concern is IO throughput. Storage will never just be on the local machine for reasons of redundancy. Within the machine, yeah, SATA will be better than IDE, SSD better than HDD, PCIe SSD even better.

      2. ilmari

        Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

        I cant wait until the day Steam games are all kn the cloud. I wouldnt have to worry about constantly upgrading the gaming rig, wouldnt have noise and heat problems in the gaming room, the gaming room could be repurposed.. And, best of all, I wouldnt need to get out of bed to play a game if it ran on, or was streamed to a phpbe, phablet or tablet device..

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

        >CAD can be run on a laptop

        Yes but it depends upon what you are using it for, however, there are good reasons why technical drawings tend to be A0, A1 or A2...

      4. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

        >Most modern games don't benefit from any CPU faster than an i5.

        Haswell ? i3 even ... until they bring out more games with proper multi-threading - a few use two cores, very, very few use more.

    2. Amorous Cowherder
      Pint

      Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      "not a dinky thing where finding the Pipe Symbol is a major challenge"

      Oh yes!

    3. wdmot

      Re: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      the smartphone [...] definitely has its place but not as the sole device... It is more of a compliment to the existing arsenal

      I completely agree, assuming you meant complement (not just saying nice things about the existing arsenal). Even in the things you list, mobile tech (and cloud) could complement desktop, though not replace it for the most part.

  7. LaeMing Silver badge

    The laptop and desktop are dead.

    Long live the workstation and portable workstation.

    ...

    I like the term 'workstation' as it defines where these devices still provide for a strong need - work (ie, content creation). I agree that laptops/desktops for consumption-only is generally overkill these days (outside of hardcore gaming, as the only exception I can come up with off-hand).

    I can see good, solid, not-overly-cheap (but-worth-the-price) workstation-class machines going on for a long while yet. The cheap-end will likely be eaten up by mobile though.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

      The cheap end will probably merge with mobile over time. Surface has the right idea, the problem is that it is trying to hit the wrong cost point.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

      >I like the term 'workstation' as it defines where these devices still provide for a strong need - work (ie, content creation)

      Bus stations are where buses stop.

      Train stations are where trains stop.

      On my desk I have a workstation...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

        RAILWAY station thankyou.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

          RAILWAY station thankyou

          Indeed. If you don't say it proper then the old joke falls apart;

          Where do you weigh a whale?

          At a whaleweigh station.

          Where do you weigh a pie?

          Somewhere over the rainbow.

    3. Dave Bell

      Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

      I am not convinced that hardcore gaming has a future in the PC world. Or it's maybe just that we should start thinking of a Playstation or an XBox as being as much a PC as is an Apple Mac: all are essentially desktop box tools.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

        Who in their right mind pays for online gaming when you can get better hardware for the same money and free online gaming on the PC - all using the same game?

        Exactly, over my dead body.

        BTW, I was helping a mate move-in the other weekend and found an xbox 360 lying in the garden ... was the former occupant's toy, apparently ... no charger ... I took it home, used an old 350W PSU and fired it up ... works like a charm ... now, I might get a charger second hand somewhere ... but I will never pay for online gaming for the thing, ich bin doch nicht blöd.

      2. roger stillick
        Linux

        Re: The laptop and desktop are dead, pt.2 Python, et all...

        Python and a whole bunch of other hi-level SW is needed to manipulate sattellite data sets into useable GIS images to interface w/City, County, State and Federal GIS Maps (essentually making new maps)...use gaming technology that is normally only found in I7 workstations w/ LINUX OS's...also needs several 32 in or larger monitors...

        IMHO= this is only 1 of many things that will never be done on simple pc's either Laptop or Desktop, do not even think about a cell phone... gaming boxes / technology, along w/HD TV monitors and multi-TB USB storage devices make quasi-workstations, just dump MS-OS and rebop w/a useable LINUX setup...RS.

  8. Wardy01

    Laughable

    This sys admin friend chose a large phone so he could better see the desktop he was remoting in to in order to achieve just about any task that required his urgent attention.

    Phones right now are little more than a convenient lightweight portal to a proper machine weather it be in the cloud or a desktop at home.

    We are way off dumping the desktop!

    If this guy can do so much without his desktop I dare him to drop get rid of his macbook for just 1 week to see how productive he is.

    Unless he's part of the 1% of the population that do little more than prepare and send emails I doubt he'd be able to properly do his job!

    1. Greg D

      Re: Laughable

      I think you'll find its more than 1% who prepare and send emails for a living.

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Followed by....

    Followed by... "The death of the PC has been greatly exaggerated."

    Notebook PCs, and even desktops, I just don't see sales falling off a cliff. Decline? For sure. Death? Well, I don't think so.

    Even for desktops, there's so many business uses where the person is at a desk or workstation, the computer is stationary (in fact for discouraging theft it's far less likely to walk off). A similar-spec desktop costs less than a notebook, and much faster desktops are available if the goal is raw processing power.

    As for notebooks, there's still so many uses where the software available on Android and especially IPhone would be far too confining. People have already gone over these in other comments, and the article touched on some. I would find the typical rubbery little bluetooth keyboard pretty unsuitable for more than a little typing too (I'm a serious keyboard conoissuer though). Just as with the desktops, decline in sales? I won't be surprised. Death? Doubtful.

    I do find the idea of saving serious power by running Linux on ARM instead of Linux on Intel very appealing though.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Followed by....

      > A similar-spec desktop costs less than a notebook, and much faster desktops are available if the goal is raw processing power.

      Here's the thing: You are unlikely to be using all that extra processing power all the time.

      If you want more power to save time, you either build a CPU/GPU-cluster (again, to get value for money you want to be running it all the time) or you take advantage of a cluster that someone else has already built - i.e you rent processing power from the cloud.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Followed by....

        That is all nice and well until one morning you walk into your office and find that not a single computer in the building is of any use beyond playing Angry Birds simply because a router popped somewhere, or a fishing boat's anchor snagged an undersea cable, or, you know, someone just forgot to renew a DNS entry or certificate somewhere - and then it only takes sixty seconds for the brass to decide you need your computing power kept locally...

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Followed by....

      I do find the idea of saving serious power by running Linux on ARM instead of Linux on Intel very appealing though.

      Are you aware just how few watts you need to run an Intel system these days? If you don't want huge number-crunch power, build a system with no moving parts out of a Celeron J1800 Mobo (such as Gigabyte GA-J1800N-D2H), an Akasa Crypto case (tiny, don't connect the fan!), 8Gb RAM and an SSD. Passive-cooled, completely silent and mine doesn't even get seriously warm. If you do need huge CPU power on request, intel's Generation-4 core CPUs are good at not using watts when idle, provided your OS, drivers and applications play nice. (ie all event-driven, no polling loops).

      Yes, at the really low power end ARM is better. I've used a Rasberry Pi as a "thin client" just to see what it felt like. (A bit too sluggish for my tastes, though not unusable).

      Nevertheless what's eating the power is your display rather than your state-of-the-art Intel CPU.

      PS Why do I have to build my own silent desktop PCs with no moving parts? It's a sign of lack of imagination, that nobody like Dell is selling such systems, to replace ancient, loudly whirring "classic" desktop systems that are still out there in vast numbers.

  10. Sampler

    Aiming for the same

    Recently work upgraded our aging laptops (i5 2.27's with 8GB of RAM and an SSD) to shiny new i7 3.2GHz with 32GB of RAM and even faster SSD's and a higher res screen (1080p inplace of 720p at the same 14") quadro nvidia card with 4GB dedicated RAM (of it's own, not out of the aforementioned 32GB)

    However, I'm still using my old one, the upped screen resolution is irrelevant as we all have a second 22"/24" 1080p monitor as I didn't like the new machine much (the 1080p is useless at 14" so the machines are scaled to 120% only our primary app don't scale so we can't actually access some buttons without tabbing - or change the scale to 100% and squint). And all that extra power they paid for as people in my team complained they needed it is irrelevant - any work I do is on an RDP to one server or another, my desktop launches rdp sessions and checks my mail so I'm actually bringing my Galaxy Note 10.1 in to see if I can replace my desktop with it.

    I can hook up my ergonomic keyboard and mouse (well, I have to my mobile in the past so figure that'll be fine on the OTG) so it's only the second screen which I need to work at. Once I get that sorted and a compatible VPN client the ageing desktop can go in the bin and the $4k shiny new one on ebay. I'll stick for a light and thin tablet that does my job and doesn't look like a laptop from the nineties like the "mobile workstation" they gave us as new laptops.

  11. Christian Berger Silver badge

    There always have been people who do things in a certain way...

    ... just for the sake of doing them in that way.

    In a productive environment, tools shouldn't be used because they are hip or trendy. Tools should be used for maximum efficiency. Having to learn how to use a tool you need to use daily shouldn't be a point against using that tool, particularly since the time spent learning will be saved many times by using it later.

    To me someone using a "mobile device" for something a laptop would be better suited tells me that that person obviously hasn't thought about what tools he uses and he obviously hasn't looked at what tools are available. Instead he listened to some advertisement which may or may not be in the interest of the organisation he's working at. In a way it says that person doesn't care about the interests of the organisation. If I was this persons boss, I'd have to fire him.

    Obviously fun things like trying to prove you can do X even with unsuitable things just to show that it could be done are excluded. I mean the existence of bottle boats does not mean that actual big ships are constructed through the neck of gigantic bottles. People build bottle boats for fun, not to show that conventional ship building is obsolete.

    1. Nigel 11
      Coat

      Re: There always have been people who do things in a certain way...

      Obviously fun things like trying to prove you can do X even with unsuitable things

      Do X? Like displaying from a remote X-windows app on an Android mobile?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

    .. the circle the author moves in.

    "A few weeks ago, I gave one of my occasional lectures at the University of Sydney, a class on the history of virtual reality and art."

    Mark, I read that and I was interested. Virtual reality and art is something that has been, slightly it has to be admitted, an interest since I first saw an example of VR as a kid in the 80s. Then the next sentence read, "...thanks to Oculus and Google Cardboard."

    Erm, if the lectures you are giving are that influenced by the latest fashion in IT, are they really lectures or just a fashionable discourse to tickle the ears of the iPhone weilding crowd and not considered serious?

    If that sentence annoys you, then that is exactly how, I would suspect, the majority of the Reg readership felt when they read:

    "The desktop has been dead for some years, resurrected to an afterlife of video editing and CAD. Laptops keep getting smaller and more powerful, but we’ve now reached a moment when they’re less useful than our smartphones."

    Because my statement was just as inflammatory and based on little investigation into what your lectures consist of as your statement which just seemed to regurgitate whatever tech section of the "quaint" newspaper you read.

    Not for any other reason than this is just re-cycling the same, tired rhetoric that gets pumped out. Usually, this is by the people who mainly use iPhones and iPads. However, all there was was a re-adjustment of the laptop being the main used tool by those who *can* use an iPhone or iPad for their work, or play. The Laptop itself replaced desktops for those who *can* use a laptop for their work or play. So the distribution just re-distributes itself.

    I *could* use a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet for all my ssh and text writing needs. I probably will if there is an emergency and I have that handy. I won't, because a laptop is so much better for doing that when I am about. I am writing this on a laptop keyboard because I can type, and hopefully proof-read, this so much easier than a tablet. If I could type as well on a tablet, that would be *in-spite* of being on a tablet. Not because it is the best tool for the job.

    i am not alone. Multiwindowed use, with decent *readable* screen real estate is a massive factor in what I use. I am not alone. I use, in a day, terminal/command shells, SCiTE, Libreoffice, copious webpages, Google docs, skype, Thunderbird and whereas i *could* do all that on a tablet, i would want to smash it against a wall because it would slow me down.

    If I didn't do all that, required only a few pages open at a time, didn't need a few sources to check whilst doing some work on that, I could use a tablet. Or even just my phone.

    So, I would actually be interested in seeing a lecture of yours. But I wouldn't hire you for an analyst.

    Which is, I suspect, how you would want it too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

      "i am not alone. Multiwindowed use, with decent *readable* screen real estate is a massive factor in what I use. I am not alone."

      And you see? I *DIDN'T* proof read my wording, which goes to show a bad worker is a bad worker*, regardless of what he uses....

      :/

      *because after that post, I can't blame my tools.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

        >"I *could* use a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet for all my ssh and text writing needs. I probably will if there is an emergency and I have that handy. I won't, because a laptop is so much better for doing that when I am about. I am writing this on a laptop keyboard because I can type, and hopefully proof-read, this so much easier than a tablet. If I could type as well on a tablet, that would be *in-spite* of being on a tablet. Not because it is the best tool for the job."

        There is no inherent reason why a tablet plus keyboard couldn't be a better solution than a laptop for your use case. At the moment, a tablet isn't suitable for you because of the touch-centric nature of its UI and applications. If these were fixed, than a tablet plus keyboard would offer you:

        - Your choice of keyboard... chiclet, mechanical, number keypad, whatever you want

        - Screen placed independently of the keyboard for a better typing position. (Current laptops are already an ergonomic compromise compared to desktops)

        -Being able to proof-read away from your desk. A lot of us currently don't proof read on a monitor, but print out hardcopy and grab a coffee. A tablet or e-reader could emulate a 'red crayon'.

        I'm not for a moment saying you ditch your laptop now, but only that some things aren't written in stone.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

          " At the moment, a tablet isn't suitable for you because of the touch-centric nature of its UI and applications. If these were fixed, than a tablet plus keyboard would offer you:"

          So you are saying that a tablet would be more suitable if a few more alterations were made to it to make it more inline with a traditional OS? And a keyboard? And again, I would have to have certain things fixed for it to be suitable?

          OR I could use a laptop and have a tablet separate and just grab the document, proof read on that. Best of both worlds.

          The point is, a tablet isn't a suitable solution for my needs, or a lot of people (who also seem to frequent this site judging by the comments). It is a great device, and it certainly is portable, easy to read off and, sometimes, browse on depending on the website designers butIwontrantonthatrightnowthankyou but the article was all about the death of the PC, (laptop or desktop). And that is just silly.

          Silly, silly, silly.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

            >So you are saying that a tablet would be more suitable if a few more alterations were made to it to make it more inline with a traditional OS?

            Kind of. What I was getting at is that the words we are using are poorly defined, and might lead us to argue when really we are in broad agreement. There is also a difference between the concept and the current executions.

            For example, it is only convention that makes us assume a 'tablet' is ARM-based running a touch UI on top of a OS that hasn't been designed around local storage and peripheral devices. However, there have been x86 XP tablets around for years, and there are ARM / x86-based laptops that don't really do local storage (Chromebooks). I have even seen x86 laptops running a Linux distro specifically to connect to a VPN and prevent local storage (for security reasons).

            A keyboard and a tablet (placed at the correct height) is, from an ergonomic typing perspective, closer to a desktop than a laptop. However, this solution is sub-optimal when it comes to transporting it (it takes a little longer to stow away than just closing the lid and picking it up).

            Maybe one solution is to have ARM tablets that can act as monitors for grunty x86 CPUs housed in keyboards (return of the Amiga/Spectrum Atari ST form factor!). Who knows?

            Talking about the death of the PC is a bit silly - things tend to evolve rather than go extinct - but it is has made us think!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

              Semantics.

              The context of the original article was clear. To extend your points, which are valid outside the context of comments on this article, we have those devices that do both. but they are not mainstream beause Android is useful as a touch UI. iOS is useful as a touch UI. they don't translate back well, and vice versa for traditional OSs. Despite what Canonical are trying to do.

              I agree that a device that allows use as both a touch style with all the limitations and advantages that allows, AND a more traditional OS with a more multitasking view of the workspace would be useful, and will probably end up replacing the laptop as we know it, but not for a while yet. And when that happens, they are not truly what we currently know as a tablet WITH a tablet OS, they will have a decent OS with a decent switchable user mode. Which Microsoft sort of tried to do, then buggered it up because they let the marketeers in on the tech and attempted to oust more traditional ways of working for no other reason than "WE WANT TOUCH, DAMMIT".

              Hey Microsoft, how did that work out? Ooooohhh so then traditional UI functionality isn't dead? Why is that then? Oooooh because people STILL refuse to embrace new technology and just use a tablet?

              (Childish I know, but hell, fun to write :) )

              There isn't one suitable UI that does touch and mouse replacement well in both scenarios. When that does happen, well we will see. But I can tell you I am more accurate with a pointing device on the screen than with my fingers.

              And they would HAVE to have oleophobic coatings.

              There is room for both, and until mind control is suitably implemented, a keyboard and a pointing device will be around for longer than you or I. I would bet my life on that.

              Oh, wait....

              1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                Re: This article is more interesting for what it tells you about...

                > they are not mainstream beause Android is useful as a touch UI. iOS is useful as a touch UI. they don't translate back well, and vice versa for traditional OSs.

                Absolutely. Wasn't there a once a Windows laptop that could switch to Android (for quickly checking one's email inbox without draining the battery)? I seem to recall the software attempted to make it easier to swap documents between the two OSs. Or maybe I ate too much cheese before bedtime.

                Apple's approach is to keep one UI per device, and to use iCloud and 'Continuity' to allow a person to start writing an email on an iPhone, and finish it on their Mac - without digging into the 'drafts' folder.

                The idea in the article - use an Apple TV to let an iPhone ape a Mac - is amusing because the first AppleTVs could be made to run OSX, essentially making them low-powered MacMinis. http://www.appletvhacks.net/2007/04/01/mac-os-x-running-on-apple-tv/#.VGNBdvmsXQo

                With things like Intel's NUC form factor, we essentially have headless laptops that could be slung in a bag and plumbed-up to the nearest TV.

                Another thing that tickles me is that nobody in this thread has cited the 'netbook' formfactor - it's as if they never existed! You wouldn't want to write a novel on one, or even browse the web for long, but you could if you had to - for a device that would fit in a big jacket pocket. Tablets and 'ultrabooks' largely stole their lunch, but they are handy for connecting external peripheral devices and cheaper than 'ultrabooks'.

  13. Rufus McDufus

    Do...

    Apple's iOS developers develop the OS only using an iPhone or iPad? If so, I'll be impressed.

    1. NP-HARD
      WTF?

      Re: Do...

      Was thinking much the same thing.

      I'd be stuffed at work if I couldn't run up a target emulator/VM along with an IDE.

  14. thames

    Converged Devices

    This is what Canonical has been banging on about for the past few years. They're calling them "converged devices". Phone CPUs, RAM, storage, etc. are all rapidly catching up to what is installed in typical laptops.

    In Canonical's vision though, you don't want a phone UI on a desktop, nor a desktop UI on a phone. Instead, when you drop the device into a dock it switches to using a desktop UI (Unity in their case), but if you take the device out of the dock it switches to using a phone UI (the mobile version of Unity).

    The two UIs have common elements, but they're not the same. The common elements mean that switching from one to the other isn't an alien experience. The differences though take into account that the way you interact with a phone is not the same as the way you interact with a desktop. It's also designed to allow developers to write apps which work in both environments. You will typically need to write code which takes the differences in UI into account, but you're not re-writing the whole thing from scratch for every platform (as typically happens today).

    Microsoft's big mistake with MS Windows 8 was to try to shoehorn a phone UI into everything. Apple is for now simply pretending that the issue doesn't exist.

    Microsoft now seems to be coming around to Canonical's view. I suspect that Apple has as well, but they aren't ready for the "big reveal" yet where the legions of fanbois can ooh! and ahh! over Apple's foresight and innovation.

    So far as desktops are concerned, I don't think they are going away. I do think though that future desktop hardware will look nothing like the typical tower boxes we have today. The present desktop design is utterly demented from a manufacturing standpoint. There are loads of screws, brackets, cables, and other fiddly bits oriented in different planes which have to go together by hand, as anyone who has ever built their own PC can testify. I think instead that desktops will be more or less a single circuit board with everything on it stuck in a narrow stamped or moulded box which can be assembled easily. You can think of them as being like phones or tablets sans batteries and display, with fewer space constraints, and with more connectors for plugging things in.

    Hardware cost for the CPU box will be under a $100, and most business upgrades will be done by simply binning the CPU box and plugging in a new one while keeping the same monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The challenge for traditional software vendors in that environment is going to be justifying steep software prices when other costs have dropped so dramatically.

    As for laptops, I think they'll vanish completely, since they're neither fish nor fowl. Their niche will be replaced by phones/tablets using touch UIs in some applications, and portable docks in others where someone needs a monitor and keyboard on the go for their converged device.

  15. localzuk

    Fascinatingly myopic

    Articles like this seem to like presenting a tunnel vision view of the world. The author's little niche works well with a phone and a pile of video clips (I hate presentations that are all videos btw, you get very little actual content out of them), so why shouldn't everyone else's?

    I hate to break it to you, but your local bank won't be doing all its work on tablets any time soon. They might augment certain roles with them, but the bulk will still be a traditional PC or similar. The local call center? That'll continue to use something PC-like for a while yet. All those businesses *creating* stuff, will continue to use some form of PC to do that design and engineering work.

    There's actually only a very small group of people who could make the move to *just* a phone and tablet. These people being mostly consumers of info, and people who give presentations for a living. As much as I'd love to be able to do my job using a 5" screen, I suspect that my employer would have to hire 3 more people to do the job as well, whilst I'm busy jabbing away at the screen and getting annoyed with auto-correct. Even this post would've taken 5 times as long to enter on a phone or tablet.

    Once again, the death of the PC is predicted and once again I think the author is living in cloud cookoo land.

    1. trance gemini
      Boffin

      Re: Fascinatingly myopic

      ... and that's exactly what the optician's gonna say in 15-20 years time when all these fondlers and fumblers have lost the ability to focus on anything further than 20cm away

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Fascinatingly myopic

        >I hate to break it to you, but your local bank won't be doing all its work on tablets any time soon. They might augment certain roles with them, but the bulk will still be a traditional PC or similar. The local call centre? That'll continue to use something PC-like for a while yet.

        It looks like you have just identified two environments where thin clients would work rather well. I've worked in a call centre, and the rows of XP-based Dells were doing not much more than running legacy I.E forms. There was certainly nothing they did that that a low-powered ARM device couldn't handle. Keyboard plus mouse plus monitor plus modest processor is all that's needed.

        Banks similarly, especially when you consider their data-protection obligations.

        1. localzuk

          Re: Fascinatingly myopic

          Thing is, with a thin client, you're still effectively running a PC - you've just moved the processing power to a cabinet in a room elsewhere. The productivity and working practices for end users are still the same.

          Many banks already do operate VDI infrastructure, or data-centre based workstations for users. I still consider them as PCs though. The work paradigm is still the same. The only difference is geographic location of the processor.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Fascinatingly myopic

            >I still consider them as PCs though.

            I'm sure you're not wrong localzuk.

            My point is just that some define a PC by its OS, some by its form factor, some by its architecture. All valid.

            Ultimately, banks and call centres care about the ergonomic working position of their workers for fear of lawsuits. They are serious (or at least serious enough to tick the check boxes on a form to cover their asses) about chairs, desk heights, monitor heights and glasses for those staff who need them - it is just cheaper to look after staff in this way than it is to compensate them for RSI.

            How that is achieved - local ARM or x86, thin client, full office suite, web form or proprietary software, whatever- doesn't really matter. The example given in the article - a phone connected to a projector - is no different in concept to phone connected to a VDU and a keyboard. A phone without a screen is just a little ARM box. A monitor with a computer built-in is an 'All-in-one'. A tablet on a stand is just an ARM-based 'All-in'one' PC with a funny OS. A 'desktop' is just a VDU, a box and a cable! However, people are just as valid if they choose their definitions based on pragmatic considerations such as: Does it run this application? Can I connect that device to it?

            The definitions are a little fuzzy, is all.

          2. JEDIDIAH
            Linux

            Re: Fascinatingly myopic

            ...or the PCs are just terminals connecting to web applications.

            However, they still need to be proper terminals. They still need a proper graphics terminal rather than some tablet. They still need all of the biggest and bulkiest parts of the PC form factor. Even if you could replace their PC with a tablet, the rest of the graphics terminal hardware would still be there.

            You could just shrink the PC to the size of a NUC and then you have diminishing reasons to displace the PC.

            Although ultimately tablets are only useful as PC replacements if you turn them into proper PCs first.

  16. apepper

    Desktop uses?

    "The desktop has been dead for some years, resurrected to an afterlife of video editing and CAD."

    A few seconds thought of things that are easier on a desktop gave me:

    Software development

    Word processing

    Photo editing

    Data entry

    Spreadsheet

    If I was paying for your time to do any of these things, and you pulled out your phone to (say) write a 100,000 word document, I'd suggest a way you might be more productive.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Desktop uses?

      >Photo editing

      With respect, a tablet with proper software and enough grunt could be just as good at photo-editing as a laptop, if not better. See Cintiq Hybrid, or Modbook

      The issue is with the current crop of software, not the hardware form-factor itself.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Desktop uses?

        >With respect, a tablet with proper software and enough grunt could be just as good at photo-editing as a laptop, if not better.

        Like the Dell XPS-18 say?

      2. apepper

        Re: Desktop uses?

        It's not just the CP power; I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts when editing images, I have a second screen showing the edited image and a third screen holding the list of images - a big keyboard and extra screens aren't that big a deal on a desktop system but they make a big productivity difference.

        Obviously it's *possible* to edit images on a laptop - but I'd only do that when I'm away from my desktop because it's so much slower with only one small screen a worse keyboard. Equally, I have Photoshop on my tablet and it's possible to do basic editing with that and I have done, but only when I didn't have my laptop.

        To rephrase; if I was employing someone as a photo editor to sort through 600 images and produce 30 publishable images and he pulled out his tablet, I'd have a suggestion about how they could be more productive.

  17. xeroks

    Operating systems

    reckon apple will release a tablet running OS X any time soon?

    Certainly the iphone and ipad have the grunt for most tasks, but does the OS have all the features required for the mobile space?

    This is why MS are where they are now, they've tried to deal with this convergence. Just didn't work first time round. However, you can develop code on full fat visual studio using a Surface. Not going to be able to do anything like that on an iPad for a while.

  18. davidct

    Businesses don't work like that

    "The desktop has been dead for some years, resurrected to an afterlife of video editing and CAD."

    That's quite simply not true. Look at most businesses, educational establishments and government and you'll see desktops, and the purchase of them continues. There's no reason for a callcentre to give laptops or other mobile devices to its telephone agents, whilst there's every reason not to. What about staff whose job it is to be office based and process documents? A fixed desktop is by far the most cost-effective and efficient way to have these staff complete their work. Whilst schools continue to move to mobile devices for staff and students, there are tasks far better suited to desktops. Equally there are schools where mobile devices aren't an option (cost, damage, theft, forgetfulness), so robust and secured desktops are put in place.

    The author needs to think about users outside of the IT sphere, of users who don't have the knowledge or desire to use mobile, and of companies and establishments who have no need to change to mobile devices.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Businesses don't work like that

      As I've noted before, does it HAVE to be a desktop? Instead of say a graphical network terminal, where a tablet with a keyboard and mouse attached? Done that way, perhaps several desktops can be replaced with one server that serves multiple network computers. Which becomes cheaper long-term: several desktops or one big server and network computing links to them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Businesses don't work like that

        Larry, That you?

      2. localzuk

        Re: Businesses don't work like that

        @Charles 9 - You are still effectively running a PC, you've just moved it to a server instead.

        My question is this - why? The cost of introducing a VDI solution which has enough grunt to handle the work of a proper desktop (eg. if you need a graphics card to do stuff) is pretty high.

        It'd take a proper cost benefit analysis to decide if such a setup would actually gain you anything.

        It certainly wouldn't here. A VDI solution powerful enough to do the job of our PCs would cost us roughly 2 times the price of simply continuing to use full fat clients.

      3. sandman

        Re: Businesses don't work like that

        When you get to the stage of adding a keyboard and mouse to a tablet you might as well call it a laptop. I've also had the dubious pleasure of working in server/terminal environments and it wasn't a happy one. They do have their uses but there are times when you want your processing power - particularly graphics processing power to be local.

        The primary advantage of a laptop is that you can carry a machine that you can use to both create and consume content.

      4. apepper

        Re: Businesses don't work like that

        Microsoft do have such a system where several (ISTR 4 was shown) screens/keyboard & mice were connected to a single tower - it was designed for educational use where the cost per seat was an issue. Obviously, if the tower breaks down, you lose several seats and you might argue it doesn't save that much money.

  19. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Visual Studio on a mobile phone? That would be..interesting. And you know what the Chinese say about interesting times. Still - I do accept that as a software developer I must be something of a corner case.

    Remoting into a VM hosted on some server cluster would be feasible with the phone as the client. But it needs a good network to ensure that the experience isn't sluggish and a pretty meaty host to run the VM. That's a lot of expensive infrastructure to set up and maintain.

    Oh and..whose mobile phone am I supposed to be running this stuff on? I know a lot of people are happy to use company equipment or get into that whole BYOD thing but I'm not really. My phone is my phone - I haven't even set it up to pull company emails.

    All in all I think we're a couple of years off yet. Time for another cycle maybe two yet. Enough time to get me to retirement probably :D

  20. xyz

    ooh, it all sounds lovely...

    ...pity it doesn't work. When I look at pr0n or do social stuff I use the phone. When I watch telly, I use a tablet tethered to the phone. When I work, I use a laptop tethered to the phone. The phone is a hub, not an electronic swiss army knife.* Maybe if you could attach a proper keyboard, mouse and monitor to it and use it was a weeny processor box, we be talking sense, otherwise we're talking bollox. IMHO obviously.

    * except in someone's wet dream.

    1. stucs201

      Re: ooh, it all sounds lovely...

      Actually I think the phone is an electronic swiss army knife. However as with the knives some of their features work better than others. The primary purpose (phone calls/folding pocket knife) are unsurprisingly fine to use as a primary device. Some of the extras are fine too - my swiss army knife makes a fine bottle opener, just as a phone works well enough for many people as an mp3 player. Trying to use a phone as a replacement for a full PC though seems more like the equivalent of using the saw or chisel on a swiss army knife - possibly workable for small jobs if you have nothing else availble, but not something I'd want to do all the time if I had larger, better tools available.

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Thumb Up

        Re: ooh, it all sounds lovely...

        The Swiss army knife is a great analogy as those things have never displaced the many more specialized knives out there. As soon as your job gets big or important or it's what you do for a living, then you have to use tools dedicated for and designed for the particular purpose.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank the lord...

    Now like the paperless office we have had since the 70's we can ditch the lap/desk tops Yes?

  22. Fihart

    In defence of desktop.

    All too easy to lose (or smash) a phone. I guess there's always "the cloud" but I'd rather have important stuff living on a proper computer which can be fixed with cheap off-the-shelf parts if it fails.

    And I cannot type much more than a web address or a short text email on a phone -- the desktop, its 20 inch screen and antique IBM PS/2 keyboard better suit my fat fingers and aging eyesight.

  23. bex

    Pipe dream

    Will some people use a phone for all there work instead of a laptop yes, will people in static settings doing normal office stuff do the same? I doubt it.

  24. jason 7 Silver badge

    I love these...

    ..."I can do my 'not very demanding' job on a phone sitting in Starbucks, so everyone else in the world will be too in a years time!" articles.

  25. Mellipop

    Good old fashioned client server

    The computer world is subject to fashion, same as everything else. Before PCs, we had client server.

    Now they're back. And a veritable tsunami. Openstack based tool chains are popping up all over the place. There are webIDEs - codenvy, nitrous, codio, koding, cloud9, codebox, divshot and mozilla's 10th birthday refresh of Firefox as a developer's edition with webIDE.

    For years I've had a little linux server to try things out. Someone asked me to evaluate couchbase lite for mobile device. I've abandoned my server for the cloud and a docker container.

    As collaboration and social backends get rolled into clients I think we'll find the discussion is not about a continuation of the arrow of time, but more about revisiting the boomerang of fashion.

  26. BillDarblay

    Wet Dream for the executive classes

    "When even senior sysadmins work on an iPhone connected to an Apple TV, the end is nigh"

    Utter nonsense! I remember when the skiing/Waitrose shopping CIO wanted us to do all our network management from a Psion 5!

  27. jpb421

    Mass market and specialist use diverging

    I am one of those dinosaurs that use workstations, don't have a smart phone and only have an ancient laptop that I barely use. I find a full size keyboard comfortable to type on. I like the space provided by large monitors. I need to do some serious number crunching from time to time (machine learning related) and I'm much happier leaving a robust, well cooled workstation running for two weeks than a tightly packed laptop.

    I actually also like the fact that my work doesn't follow me around and stays where it is put, either in the office/lab or in my home study.

    But I agree that the mass market is moving to using smart phones/tablets and I find this slightly depressing because it means that the sort of computers I like/need to buy are going to develop much more slowly and cost relatively a lot more.

    I don't game myself but I'm very glad others do as at least some market remains for things other than mobile phones.

  28. Adrian Jones
    Facepalm

    Hmm, that might've been me

    I've carried tower computers home on the train and tube before now, hooking a strap through the case.

    Always got funny looks. My usual response was to comment "I asked for a portable computer..." with a sigh and a rolling of eyes.

  29. Irongut

    Advertorial

    "new iPhone is the second most powerful computer I own... far more powerful than my first MacBook Air, purchased in the long-ago days of 2011."

    Bullshit. If it's more powerful than a three year old MacBook then why does it run a cut down phone OS instead of OSX?

    No more clueless advertorials please El Reg, you're better than that.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Advertorial

      >If it's more powerful than a three year old MacBook then why does it run a cut down phone OS instead of OSX?

      The iPhone is powerful enough to run OSX, but it wouldn't be an optimal experience for the user. The underlying OS would work, but the UI wouldn't. A good number of Android phones are powerful enough to run OSX, too.

      Apple will have their own business reasons for not making an OSX tablet or whatever, but I would be surprised if they haven't compiled OSX for ARM as an experiment- as they always did for OSX on x86 before they left PowerPC.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Advertorial

        The iPhone is powerful enough to run OSX, but it wouldn't be an optimal experience for the user.

        My definition of "powerful enough to run" something is not ability to execute the instructions but ability to interact with me without me EVER seeing the UI snagging - in 2D or 3D (and I'm not talking about games now). With that idea even actual desktops don't quite fully qualify - but they're a heck of a lot closer than any ARM-level stuff.

  30. Fenton

    Multiple personas

    I don't think we are there yet, but I can imagine a future where your phone/tablet are your compute device.

    The Operating system will have different personas (this is where windows phone/RT may have a head start)

    When undocked the OS (and apps) take on mobile persona all based around touch and non multi tasking work loads.

    You then dock at your office/home and a desktop persona comes into play, allowing multiple monitors, multi tasking use of a mouse and keyboard

    If you need real grunt a server is only a network cable or cloud away

  31. Franco Silver badge

    I don't see PCs fading away any time soon. Not just the reasons everyone has already mentioned, but physical security too. I've worked on numerous sites where there is no internet access, no wireless, no remote access etc. Whilst some of the hybrid devices have Ethernet ports, tablets and smartphones do not generally.

    Add to that the fact that numerous applications (MS Office being a prime example) either do not have a touch optimised version, or have an immature version, keyboards and mice are here for a while yet.

  32. Stretch

    *Shudder* This was horrific to read.

  33. Nubs
    FAIL

    Weak points...

    As someone who works in the semiconductor design and failure analysis field I can safely tell y'all there is no end to the demand for more power. So, here is my view on things;

    For something as simple as a toaster they are using micro controllers for more exact temperature control. For cars they want tire pressure sensor modules that can sense finer pressure changes more frequently and send updates to the car's engine controller micro which now in most cars controls the transmission, the main consoles, and a slew of other things.

    People ALWAYS want more power faster than the industry can shrink down the chip architecture. In many cases the customers(businesses making appliances or gizmos in our case) are opting for a more powerful chips that are larger and use more power. The situation is made worse by people not wanting to learn how to program in assembly or machine code as much as they used to. Coding in higher level languages will ALWAYS produce programs that are slower than what they would be if they had been written in assembly. The reasons for this are obvious; Assembly is difficult and time consuming to code in.

    That last problem mentioned is ever more apparent in the computing world; people want more complex programs that do more and people want to make games or programs with piss-poor coding skills. Hell, even in the laboratory equipment scene there is a very high demand for higher performance and more capable equipment. Most test equipment these days is controlled by PCs rather than having a built in primitive proprietary computer. It's bad enough that everyone wants more power than ever before. It becomes a clusterfuck when people forsake assembly programing for convenience and speed in coding on top of the demand for much more power.

    Why do y'all think video cards have become so massive? That giant heatsink you see on most higher end graphics cards isn't for show. The heat dissipation on modern video cards alone isnt even comparable to how it was 10 years ago because the demand for power has grown so much.

    What this all comes down to is that there is no replacement for displacement. A larger chip will ALWAYS be faster and more capable than a smaller chip of the same architecture. With the demand for more power bigger than ever before, I don't see portable devices being sufficient for any higher performance demands anytime in the foreseeable future.

    On a broader scope I will say that it is likely that 99% or more of the PC market is composed of people who don't need a PC. They simply got a PC because at one point it was the only device that was "affordable" that would connect to the internet and let them go through emails. I believe that once this section of the market leaves the remainder will be of high demanding customers that actually need the PC for it's capabilities not found on portable devices. At this point the price, performance, and size of desktop PCs will grow.

    That's just my two cents based on my line of work, I could be completely wrong!~

    Cheers!

    1. Martin 37

      Re: Weak points...

      "Coding in higher level languages will ALWAYS produce programs that are slower than what they would be if they had been written in assembly. The reasons for this are obvious; Assembly is difficult and time consuming to code in."

      Sorry, have to disagreee on this. I would say instead

      "Coding in higher level languages will USUALLY produce programs that are slower than what they would be if they had been written in assembly. Sometimes this is important, more often it is not as silicon is cheaper than prgrammer time. The reasons for this are superficially obvious; Assembly is difficult and time consuming to code in, so is best left to an opytimising comiler to do"

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Weak points...

        Well, to be fair, it probably depends on the exact context. On the other hand, I do believe a really good assembly programmer will produce shorter and/or faster code than a really good higher-level programmer every. single. time. No exceptions. How much longer it would take him is another matter...

        1. Nubs
          Facepalm

          Re: Re: Weak points...

          "... On the other hand, I do believe a really good assembly programmer will produce shorter and/or faster code than a really good higher-level programmer every. single. time. No exceptions. How much longer it would take him is another matter..."

          Pretty much! After working in this industry for just a couple years I noticed how the moment a customer realizes he has more processing power at his disposal he IMMEDIATELY wants an easier way to code and wants to double or triple the capability of what ever his code is doing. It's like watching a kid deciding to wallow in a giant bowl of jelly beans to eat them because using his hands is too hard.

          On one hand i understand that man hours are more expensive than silicon, on the other hand it just seems like we are disgustingly wasteful with our resources.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Weak points...

            "On one hand i understand that man hours are more expensive than silicon, on the other hand it just seems like we are disgustingly wasteful with our resources."

            We'll only be thrifty when it's demanded of us. For us, time is the most important asset since we know that's limited. That's why you can't always go with hand-coded assembler; it may be tougher to make the deadline.

  34. John 110

    But what about....

    There's an awful lot of talk here about hardware's capabilities (not that that's not important, I'm currently multitasking 5 programs on my desktop), but not a lot's been said about the ergonomics.

    Where I work, we have to do periodic VDU risk assessments and the safety officer shakes her head sadly at those people risking embolisms, bad backs and RSI when we're using our desktops on a proper desktop. I shudder to think how she would react to the sight of folk peering at a 6inch screen and attempting to do proper work using a squishy bluetooth keyboard, and as for slouching about with a laptop on your lap...

    My feeling is that if your tied to a desk in your daily work, get a proper desktop PC. You (and your lower back) know it makes sense...

  35. Malik01

    who says u cant b productive using a phne?

    -Sent from my Galaxy S5 with Android 12.3 and Chrome 34.53. Win A Car. This message is Owned by Google.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is what Microsoft is saying...

    "One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them"

    Win 10 is supposed be able to run on a smartphone/tablet and a desktop PC except the equipment form factor doesn't really matter anymore if you have good enough vision and tiny enough fingers.

    Hopefully it will bring them together in a corporate environment at least and BYOD accessories can take up the slack (bigger monitor and wired keyboard at least)

    I don't, and I wish people (moronic artists & bloggers at least) would stop giving management another reason to be cheap. A phone or laptop, no matter how powerful is just NOT BIG ENOUGH or FAST ENOUGH to work with spreadsheets compared to a "desktop" without added components that make things non portable.

    I can easily build my own desktops. I can't build/order the same quality & capacity in a "laptop" for the same price. Nobody can build a phone at home. Yet.

    No, the desktop is still here and will stay in use for most corporate users.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: This is what Microsoft is saying...

      I think in your comment you touch on the real problem, people are getting confused in their thinking: Just because you can now carry around in your pocket a complete system with more GFLOPS than a CRAY-2, doesn't mean you would or could, necessarily use it to do the same tasks.

      Yes we can now reliably and cheaply produce relatively powerful processing units that fit the shirt pocket, the challenge is in how to use them. For a "desktop" this can mean that the under the desk system box shrinks to such an extent it can be mounted on the back of the monitor or even slotted into a docking station so that the user can take it with them. But in all of this, the small size of the system doesn't change the basic use case, but it does enable new use cases.

  37. Nicole D.

    Oh, please.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PC's ARE DEAD? OVER MY DEAD BODY!

    Gaming.

    Yes, we have consoles, but the top gaming PCs have chips getting past 7 billion transistors. You can't tinker around with a behemoth graphics card that weighs 2 kilograms alone if you don't have a full-bore desktop.

    And if you have that kind of computing power that only fits in a desktop, a desktop shall it be. You can't (or won't) forgo that amount of power over so you can play in a notebook. It doesn't mean that you don't own a laptop, or a smartphone, (far from it), because they have their uses. But you can't give up your desktop just yet, because it does things better, like gaming, and movies. You can't beat watching a movie or gaming on a 30 incher.

    And we value our self-reliance when it comes to repair, oh yes we do. But you can't repair or replace parts from your phone or tablet, can you? Thought so.

  39. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Too fecking small

    Sure, working off a whyPhone might be all well and good if you can *SEE* the thing, but at the screen size/resolution, I sure can't. A 7" tablet is my absolute minimum, and even that isn't for actual productive work (more like reading ebooks, as long as they're not hard-formatted PDFs, or watching Netflix or YouTube). Heck, even the 14" screen on my work laptop is too small, and I need to use an external 22" screen (widescreen, of course, which is useless for terminals and browsing long log files).

  40. PAT MCCLUNG

    smartphones are pretty depressing

    The fact is, the workstation/laptop are declining because the consuming public becomes more and more dumbed-down and plagued with hyperkinetic disorder that they are no longer able to (or willing to) take the time to learn to use this magnificent tool. For the attention-deficit generation, a smartphone works great. Load down a bunch of tracker-surveillance APPS, and that will satisfy your 90-second attention span. The point is, the smartphone is a device an ignorant consumer can use for immediate gratification. But, see quote below. A laptop is a tool, and you can get it to do what you (ought to) want and actually do need, and securely communicate with others, particularly if you run Linux on it and can program, even a little.

    Of course, you could get your smartphone to work right, plenty of good hardware there, but it's a lot harder than doing it with a laptop, and murderously difficult to maintain security. They are designed to be used by ignorant consumers who don't understand (or care) that they are the product being sold.

    "There is no way that you can describe yourself as free, if you are being constantly watched."

    Chris Hedges

  41. Siv

    Apple air-head

    I cannot believe the register publishes this rubbish.

    This is exactly the mind-set that led to Windows 8 and a "touch first" world. Look where that went!

    Grow up, real productive work will always be done at a desk with a mouse and keyboard and a desktop operating system.

  42. Levente Szileszky

    Wow, it must be the most clueless article this year...

    ...with gems like these:

    "When even senior sysadmins work on an iPhone connected to an Apple TV"

    (Priceless. Senior... what? :D)

    "Something has happened, right under our noses, so close we still can’t quite see it. It’s only when we get to the long shot, like my friend in New York, that the arrow of time reveals itself, arcing in a path from 10 kilo boat anchor to 129 gram super-thin super-smartphone."

    (Right, because they serve the same purpose, right? I mean in your world only, of course. :D)

    "“When I’m in the office I’ll AirPlay it over to an Apple TV connected to a monitor. What’s the difference between that and a desktop?”

    My friend has worked in IT for a quarter of a century, and likes all the new toys, but when it comes to work, he’s incredibly conservative in his choices - that’s why he gets hired to keep infrastructure ticking over."

    (Ahahahaha, this is soooo great it is self-explanatory. Sometimes I wonder if clowns like him ever read their stuff before they hit the publish button or they do but they just simply lost their ability to recognize the sheer nonsense in their own little precious pieces...?:D )

    "Laptops keep getting smaller and more powerful, but we’ve now reached a moment when they’re less useful than our smartphones."

    (Suuure. Like your - probably imaginery - friend who runs some giant retail sales network architecture but also gets involved on daily server administration yet he is much more productive on a low-res 6" smartphone that only runs its own, non-x86 apps, with very limited CPU and memory etc than a laptop with, say, 13"-15" QHD or UHD resolution, full-fledged remote desktop, unlimited multitasking, can make calls while doing something else etcetc...? :D)

    "powerful devices that can cast to any nearby screen (Chromecast & AirPlay), browse any website, and run all the important apps."

    (Except any website that requires Flash, SIlverlight or any commonly used plugin and has no fully-equivalent mobile version eg a giant retailer's sales intranet comes into mind... all important apps? You mean all that *exist* except the inifinite number of x86 ones that won't run? :D)

    "Plus ça change."

    (Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses, as my latin teacher used to say decades ago when someone gave some detailed, lengthy but completely wrong explanation to a question... please, do yourself a favor and drop the "futurist" attempts and go back reading Gibson and keep teaching - students certainly need input and ideas. Even if it's completely wrong like this. :D)

  43. briesmith

    God, How to Waste Space

    This article is so stupid as to provoke other thoughts. Is the author trying for the single longest troll? Is it a bet to see who can generate the most negative comments? Or an exercise in total contrarian dialectic?

    It's wrong on so many counts it's almost impossible to begin.

    When it comes to work humans, being intelligent beings, will always try to minimise effort. The author's approach is an exercise in, "Now let me see, just how hard can I make this computing malarkey?"

    Complete tripe. Utter tosh. No, facile, childish, argumentative bollocks.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The desktop is dead, long live the desktop

    "The desktop has been dead for some years, resurrected to an afterlife of video editing and CAD."

    I accept most writers here exist entirely within techie-media world... But in the real world, where many people do a particular job because their situation rather than their desire dictates it, the desktop is very very far from dead. And many jobs would be almost impossible without one! (These are boring jobs. The ones no one wants to do. But if no one did... The world would grind slowly to a halt, and your supply of Skinny Jeans, Granola, and irrelevant (really) online waffle would be difficult to come by).

    You write articles telling us of all the great jobs your friends do (Why?), and inform us that if you can't do it all with your right hand, then it's outdated and useless (Hmm). When really... Just because you have no use for something, it doesn't mean many others don't. Desktop sales are down, which may support your stance. But I don't replace every pc in the office just because a new one has come out. That would be moronic, and as tragically hilarious as replacing a smartphone every time a new one comes out (Oops!) :-D

    Come on! ...Some people have to work for a living, and not just waft around a shared, eco, ideas inspiring environment, littered with soft furnishings and fold away bikes, or from home.

  45. T L

    The desktop is dead. Long live the desktop

    "The desktop has been dead for some years, resurrected to an afterlife of video editing and CAD."

    I accept most writers here exist entirely within techie-media world... But in the real world, where many people do a particular job because their situation rather than their desire dictates it, the desktop is very very far from dead. And many jobs would be almost impossible without one! (These are boring jobs. The ones no one wants to do. But if no one did... The world would grind slowly to a halt, and your supply of Skinny Jeans, Granola, and irrelevant (really) online waffle would be difficult to come by).

    You write articles telling us of all the great jobs your friends do (Why?), and inform us that if you can't do it all with your right hand, then it's outdated and useless (Hmm). When really... Just because you have no use for something, it doesn't mean many others don't. Desktop sales are down, which may support your stance. But I don't replace every pc in the office just because a new one has come out. That would be moronic, and as tragically hilarious as replacing a smartphone every time a new one comes out (Oops!) :-D

    Come on! ...Some people have to work for a living, and not just waft around a shared, eco, ideas inspiring environment, littered with soft furnishings and fold away bikes, or from home.

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