Will desktops eventually become obsolete?

Technology changes quickly – today’s popular devices may be obsolete in only two years. Manufacturers debut new hardware every year that threatens to replace the previous generations. Recently, it’s become apparent that the desktop PCs may eventually be replaced by mobile computing options like laptops and tablets.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, desktops are most popular with older users. Younger users are more likely to own laptops and are the first generation to prefer mobile options to their stationary counterparts. Some industry experts aren’t prepared to say that desktop PCs are obsolete, but that time may be coming.

Desktop PCs used to be viewed as the most functional devices, but recent technological advances have given laptops equal footing. Manufacturers can now build mobile computers with strong performance power without adding extra weight to the hardware.

Additionally, cloud services have contributed to the growing popularity of laptops. Users can store all of their content to digital lockers, which eliminates the need for sizable desktops that are capable of saving large libraries of files.

What about the business world?
Desktops are viewed as necessities by most businesses. Desktop computers usually last longer than most laptops, and companies don’t have to frequently replace vital hardware. However, the need for desktops could soon decrease as working on-the-go becomes more popular.

According to a recent report from the United States Census Bureau, 9.5 percent of the American workforce telecommutes at least once a week. Additionally, 4.3 percent of employees work remotely for the majority of the week. As communication and information technologies advance, more workers are encouraged to leave their offices behind and perform their work at home.

Laptops aren’t the only tools that allow workers to stay at home. Tablets have grown increasingly functional over the last few years, and new productivity apps have improved the mobile devices’ performance. Employees can video conference and send faxes via tablets and eliminate the need for traditional office hardware.

The customizable desktop PC
On the other hand, desktops are extremely customizable, giving users the ability to build and create exactly what they want. This is particularly popular among PC gamers who need systems that require a lot of processing and GPU power to play those graphics-intense PC games. While there are great gaming laptops out there, with desktops, gamers can select exactly what components they want and continually upgrade them to the latest and greatest on the market.

What do you think the future holds for desktop PCs? Do you think desktops will eventually become obsolete?

 

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38 Responses to Will desktops eventually become obsolete?

  1. Jonathon Pack March 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    I don’t believe the desktop will ever be obsolete. They may be replaced by more mobile devices in many areas, but never obsolete. There’s always going to be a large group of people who love the customization of components that building a PC provides. Especially among the gaming community.

  2. smick March 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Eventually they will be obsolete, but only in the same way computers that take up entire rooms aren’t really around anymore. Still, we have the human factors of size. For example, microSD cards are pretty much as small as they need to be, maybe too small, as we can lose them, so computers don’t necessarily NEED to be the size of a postage stamp there’s a point where too small is just as unmanageable as too big. We can get them to a certain convenient size and level of airflow and sort of build on that. Right now we are seeing some mightly powerful Mini-ITX machines, so computers that are the size of today’s dual nas enclosures are probably common in five years and after that’s it’s down to the size of ashtrays and

    might be that what kills the desktop isn’t the mobile as it is now, but the ability to translate spoken word and thought into information processing. Because then, what’s the point of sitting at a desk if I can work while thinking in any chair in the house. If I can code with my mind and target tasks properly, then a proper headset display could work for me. Also wearable computers that can recharge based on motion is an attractive opportunity for growth.

    • Nate May 15, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      U got a very valid point. But as long as voice recognition is bad as it is now desktops will stay put. I also feel that it will get smaller.

    • Paul November 27, 2013 at 5:23 am #

      Here’s a fact: technology has its limits. You can get them to a certain size but with sacrifices on efficiency. Dude, computers that take entire rooms are still here. Do your research. They are just as many as they used to be in the past in the “developed world” if not even more. Why? Because they can do a lot of processing.

      Spoken word into information processing? Do you know how much trouble that is? Accents will cause trouble. Thoughts into information processing? That’s even scary. Ever heard of the novel 1984? Privacy. That’s what’s going to stop things like that from happening and computers like you mentioned from being used.

      Tower PCs are here to stay because they last longer, are more efficient and cheaper. People won’t have money all the time.

    • Jason January 16, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      There is no replacement for 2 large monitors for graphic design and 3D modeling.

      • derp January 24, 2014 at 3:03 am #

        I suspect the occulus rift could susbsitute that pretty well once we get some development on that end.

  3. TheKm March 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Desktops will become obsolete. But we live in a world where millions of businesses are dependent upon in-office staff. That means desktops, since they are the most economical option for that kind of environment.

    They will go away. It will just take either a) a very long time or b) a significant leap in handheld mobile tech…along the lines of the advent of the microprocessor. It has to be that big a change in price and performance to get away from a build structure that’s so in tune with what the big buyers need.

    • D. Strout September 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      I don’t agree with the whole “businesses like desktops” thing. At my very tech-oriented workplace, everyone uses laptops. They have docks for one they get in to work, usually to hook up to a couple of monitors, but it’s all laptops. That way people who need a work station can bring in their laptop, dock it, and get right to work in a well configured environment. But if they need to be working on the go, it’s still a laptop. Desktops don’t really hold up in that way, IMHO.

      • Tracks November 27, 2013 at 6:02 am #

        @D. Scrout

        Dude, you’re “tech oriented workplace” doesn’t do use too processing power. You probably use Microsoft or OpenOffice most of the time. Sounds like they didn’t buy any computers and you have to buy your own.

    • Paul November 27, 2013 at 5:28 am #

      Wrong. They won’t ever be obsolete. I don’t agree with the in-office staff thing. You can work from home and a desktop or tower will be your best option. Why? Because they are efficient and you can listen to music while you work without any problems.

      If technology advances don’t you think that the desktops and towers will also improve? Time will help the tower or desktop, not the laptop.

  4. Justin Kerobo March 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    I don’t think they will ever go obsolete, and I agree exactly with Jonathon

  5. Jimmy March 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Nobody’s mentioned this– network speeds may someday be fast enough to rival the bus speeds inside the computer. It would then be feasible to have most users on a very simple terminal of sorts, likely in a tablet or laptop form. All of the processing power would be in the cloud, and some people could be swayed with a pay for what you use model. Let someone running the server worry about hardware upgrades.

    • Paul November 27, 2013 at 5:30 am #

      That won’t work. Why? People like having their own stuff.

  6. Tom April 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Except for gamers I believe that desktop computers in the home will eventually become obsolete but that businesses will continue using desktop computers indefinitely for a number of reasons. It is true that any program that will run on a desktop will also run on a laptop but when it comes to running highly advanced and specialized applications desktop computers tend to provide a more convenient operating environment. Today’s desktop computers can be customized to interface with highly sophisticated laboratory or industrial equipment but that advantage is slowly disappearing as wireless interface devices are designed to meet these requirements, this may or may not be a plus. Wireless links are prone to interference and are not as reliable a hard-wire connection with the device being controlled which would rule out using a laptop if reliability is critical. A company that uses hundreds or thousands of computers may find it easier to track, monitor and maintain desktop computers over laptops. Security is a big concern for businesses, laptop computers are small and portable and can be stolen or lost which could be costly to a business, desktop computers are less likely to be stolen.

    • Paul November 27, 2013 at 5:33 am #

      Desktops and towers will remain in the home too. They’ll never become obsolete? Why? Many people work from home. When you work from home you want to listen to music besides doing what you have to or play games. You need computing actual power, no only specs.

  7. michael petrou April 26, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    I run a IT business and most of my computer repairs are mainly laptops, a growing trend is that desktops are declining in the consumer market. But in the other hand i have a lot of small businesses with desktops. I agree with jonathon that they wont disappear for a very long time. I guess we have to wait and see what the future holds and see how quantum computing will do in the future.

  8. Steve Smith April 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    The PC will never become obsolete, tablets is just a FAB, i have owned one as well as most of my family, and they all end up returning to a laptop, so maybe the desktop share might shrink, but x86 laptops will always be the true king!

    EVERYONE ALWAYS RETURNS TO A LAPTOP, FACT!

    • Phillip May 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      To many gamers out there for that this to happen.

    • Note3almostApocketPC December 24, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      I gave away my ipad, couldn’t see a use for it because my Asus ROG laptop does everything.
      But now I use my Samsung Note 3 most of the time for everything.
      I only go back to my laptop for things that will not run on Android.

  9. Michael May 6, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Architecture is a slow business, and city planning even slower. – Richard Rogers

  10. Bob May 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Tablets and Mobile devices are never going to be as efficient as Desktop PCs. Typing on a keyboard and using a mouse will always be faster than a touchscreen and for that reason the business world will always be built on Desktops or Laptops so these computer styles will always exist.

    Good luck trying to write code on a tablet or play Starcraft without a mouse.

  11. Andrew June 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    I think that Smick and Bob both made very good points. Eventually you are going to have computers that are as small as are practical given the human body scale that can display a higher resolution than our eyes can perceive, but desktops still won’t be obsolete because you just can’t make a completely ergonomic laptop or tablet. Maybe desktops will actually be more expensive than laptops, but some, maybe most, people will still need the scale and posture provided by a full sized keyboard, screen, and mouse. The only problem is, we don’t know if those will be around forever, either.

  12. Varn June 20, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Well, the desktop PC has been around since the 1980′s. What’s that ? About 30 years +/-. It seems to still have a strong market. Lap tops are cumbersome to use but are handy to take on trips or when needed away from office or home. But, you still have to lung them around. The smaller handheld or laptop devices are handy to use to transfer data so that it can be used later at home or in the office on the desktop for accounting, book keeping, engineering analyses, etc.

    How long was the analog TV in use before it was replaced by the digital version? Over 70 years!

    • Chris July 7, 2013 at 6:11 am #

      Heck i saw a guy at walmart hooking up a tube tv. I thought those were done.

    • Heatblizzard January 17, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      Where can you even FIND Desktop PC’s. All the major stores that used to carry them here in Salem Oregon have phased them out for phones and tablets.

      Heck does anybody know where to find a 32 bit PC to put in an authentic Windows 98 that has Sound Blaster 16 capabilities? The modern computers don’t do it because of something to do with the PCI slots being configured different.

      So far my best bet if my computer gives out is to go to Bits and PC’s over in South Salem but they only do Windows 7 computers which none of them have a floppy drive.

  13. Anonymous July 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Hey, what about web developers? What about web designers? What about graphic designers? What about architects? And digital artists?

    I don’t know about my peers, but it is dang hard to work in Photoshop on an art project or graphic design on a laptop. And not at all on a phone. Professional visual designers and coders will always need desktop computers. I did not spend thousands of dollars on special software to go obsolete any time in the near future. I just hope desktop computers don’t become a “specialty” item and get priced so high that most people can’t afford them. That actually would be par for the market and the way the world goes.

  14. Merrett July 19, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Never say never. The desktop will become obsolete. The only argument to keep it is the interface method (keyboard, monitor, point device). Technology is already here for virtual keyboards (cameras that track finger movement, gloves, etc) and more will come that render current interface methods obsolete. Current monitor definitions will change as technology advances in pixel density and at some point a user will view through contacts, glasses or another visual representation of your work other than a geometric shape in front 2′ in front of your face that doesn’t move with you. As these technologies become reality, so will the desktop become a mere matchbook or smaller and is no longer a ‘desktop’. Processing power will continue to move to the cloud decreasing the need for local resources taking advantage of scaling in the cloud and users will just require more bandwidth/better response times to experience real time interaction. It may take a decade or more, but just as we have taught the older generation to plug in, the younger one coming will be teaching us how to unplug and let go of that boxy thing in front of us.

    • Tracks November 27, 2013 at 5:53 am #

      Never say never is bs. NO they won’t obsolete.

      Those virtual keyboards and cameras are not reliable.

      Glasses aren’t monitors and can cause health problems.

      Contact lenses also cause problems.

      Also all these gadgets are expensive.

      Processing power moving to the could is another idealism. You need a back up. If the internet has a problem you can’t do anything. The same goes with server problems. You’ll have to pay on a monthly basis and the “processing power provider” might just raise the prices because he wants to get new hardware despite the fact that you’re satisfied with it. You’ll become too dependent on the service provider. Thanks for proving my point.

      There’s also the storage issue. New technology is needed to make hard drives with bigger capacity (this will affect laptops too).

  15. Anonymous July 22, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Laptops are not that great for gaming, price/performance is way off balance, your stuck with what ever the manufacturer puts in it. Almost no customization possible. Laptops & tablets are very easy to steal. Not to mention some are getting bigger.
    Cell phones went from huge to small and on it’s way back up to huge I’m sure. Even if right now every one had a laptop/tablet, some one is going to want something faster, powerful,with more storage. Which will result in larger laptops, so on and so on, till we are back at the Desktop “mini”.
    At some point I think Laptops, tablets, Desktops, phones will level out. I don’t think desktops will go away any time soon. I can see Desktop PC’s for personal/business use becoming smaller, like the slim cases.
    Quite frankly it all falls down to what you need something for.

  16. Anthony August 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    O.K so I have read all the posts and I need to get a few things straight. I dont even own a computer anymore. I have a tablet with a real not virtual keyboard built into the case. I have a blue tooth mouse not a virtual mouse. There are 4 usb ports on my tablet I have a 2.5 processor and 2 gb memory. I have a dedicated port on my phone that allows me to hook it to my tv for netflix and all other tasks. My phone has a real kb and mouse so I can use my 52 inch tv as a monitor. I have no chords to get tangled and nothing to shut down. I can plax xbox games with my cellphone and much more. The schools now have tablets in every class. I believe yes computers are on their way out. I believe in the next 5 years even gamers will toss their pcs.

    • ABN September 10, 2013 at 6:16 am #

      Anthony, smart phones and tablets are good for some things, if you don’t need any cpu/gpu power. compare your device to a new intel i7 and dedicated graphics card.

      We have iPids, android tablet, smart phone, and top Laptops, but for performance of our custom built desktops with multi monitor setups is what is needed to edit and render After Effects and Premiere Pro, in the time frame we need.

      Time is money, we need to render and master on to blu-ray asap. Tablets are useless in this line of work, and can only be only used for basic tasks.

      The desktop for the media professional is the only true option in film studios.

  17. Chuck November 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    In the future that flat screen you now watch football on will also be the replacement for desk tops. voice command.

    • Tracks November 27, 2013 at 5:56 am #

      Good luck with that.

  18. Paul November 27, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Despite what many people think desktops will never be obsolete. Why? They are just faster than a Laptop with the same specifications. It’s also more flexible.

  19. Colin January 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    The way it goes, soon tablet CPU’s will be as powerful as desktop CPU’s today, Hook it up to a monitor, add cordless mouse and keyboard, there is you desktop. Paired it with a Keyboard cover, it is your laptop. Insert a Simcard and headset, you have your smartphone.

    4 in 1 would be the answer

  20. Heatblizzard January 17, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    My parents and I have noticed that most electronic stores don’t even sell PC’s anymore.

    Staples for example used to have two entire rows of PC’s in which you could demo them and around 2010 they started phasing them out and now a grand total of only 3 PC’s are there and they are both dogs when looking at the specs.

    Now those 2 rows are filled with android phones and tablets. I am not into social media crap which is dumbing society down and if I get a phone it will be a throw away phone.

    Computers had SO Much promise in the 90s to be both a fun and educative tool but hack n slash tyupe games have ruined it or hidden object games that are there to bum a few dollars off of you are there.

    Most hidden object games are usually pretty dumb though there are a few golden gems out there like *Mystery of Unicorn Castle* TM but they just like FPS get to be all the same but then again most people who play them don’t have lives and those who do are too busy to notice the lack of games!!

  21. Heatblizzard January 17, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Office Depot is another example that have canned most of their PC’s and the software section is a joke. They don’t even have the infamous bargin bin anymore where once in a while you would find an interesting title buried in there.

    Like Staples Office Depot only has a few on display and interestingly the computers are built into the monitor meaning you can’t replace parts like let’s say you want to upgrade to more RAM or a better video card then the one built in. Heck you can’t even change the CMOS battery so that’s a major turn off.

  22. Heatblizzard January 17, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Computers in the 90s had a LOT of potential. Companies like BroderBund made education fun with games like Oregon Trail. Carmen Sandiego.etc

    The problem though with most education games I think that was a turn off is they never made ways for teachers to monitor progress and be able to adjust the game to suit the needs of a particular student.

    Phones are our only hope for education software but it’s not as fun looking into a dorky screen with tiny keys.

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