When Chris Pirillo released a video explaining how the days of the desktop could be numbered, the response from the community was as passionate as it was split. One side of the argument stated that laptops would never match the power or performance of even a budget desktop system, and the other camp gave a general argument that technology is evolving at such a pace that the smaller form factor will inevitably outreach the traditional tower. So, are desktops becoming obsolete?
According to Google executive John Herlihy, “In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant.” This is a bold statement that surprised the audience he was speaking to back in 2010. He was referring to the proliferation of mobile technology, especially smartphones and tablets. He cited that most of the research being done in Japan was in relation to smartphones and how they will work as mobile computing devices, with traditional PCs being almost completely ignored. Since that day in 2010, tablet computers and smartphones have only increased in their share of market dominance, and a new wave of high-powered ultra-portable laptops has hit the market with incredible reception.
Take a laptop like the MacBook Air, for instance, which comes complete with the latest Core i5 and i7 processors, and a significantly fast SSD storage solution. Similar models are being released by other manufacturers as well, including the Asus UX21, and others. These ultra-thin and ultra powerful laptops are a part of a new class of laptop referred to as an ultrabook. Capable of handling a wide range of tasks including Web browsing and even light video editing, they are capable of replacing a desktop for many home users.
This isn’t to ignore the general laptop market, which has enjoyed the benefits of modern processing technology for some time. The amount of power available in these systems can easily compete with budget and even some of the more expensive desktop towers out there. If you take a look at the Asus Gamer Republic series of laptops, or the long line of Alienware products, you’ll notice that these laptops pack every bit as much power under their smaller hoods as many desktop solutions. In Alienware’s case, it’s been sporting dual video cards in an SLI configuration for years, giving its users remarkable gaming ability without the need of a bulky tower and external monitor.
Computing technology is heading in a direction where mobility is a primary focus, and to say that we’re destined to be tied down to large tower desktops for gaming and primary use could easily be considered a short-sighted point of view. That, in this writer’s opinion, is akin to folks in the 1970s claiming mobile phones will never overtake traditional wired handsets. Here we are in 2011, and I don’t think I’ve seen one of those phones in years.