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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era 329

Posted by samzenpus
from the turn-the-page dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AllThingsD columnist Arik Hesseldahl noticed another milestone marking the passing of the personal computer era: for the first time since the early '80s, the share of worldwide sales of DRAM chips consumed by PCs (desktop and laptop computers, but not tablets) has dropped below fifty percent. Perhaps a more important milestone was reached last year, when more smartphones were shipped (not sold) worldwide than the combined total of PCs and tablets (also noticed by Microsoft watcher Joe Wilcox). While this is certainly of tremendous marketing and business importance to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and PC OEMs, others may reflect on the impending closing of the history books on the era that started in Silicon Valley a little over 35 years ago."
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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era

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  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:54AM (#41353059)
    People who use small devices are primarily consumers of information with obvious exceptions like texting, voice, pictures, and video. But specifically these people are not manipulating the information. They might take the video but they aren't likely to turn it into a documentary on their device. As the screens and computing power gets larger the amount of creation and manipulation increases. Thus programmers, video editors, 3D artists, engineers, etc all need powerful systems with good keyboards, mice, and many screens.

    A good example of how this trend is understood by the hardware makers would be the increase in video cards with more than one DVI port. Your average email/websurfer doesn't need dual screens. Even apple, which makes the vast bulk of its money from consumer devices, still makes the Mac Pro. I suspect that they don't make enough money from these to make it worth it. But if they were to loose that tiny core audience of hardcore users to another platform then those hardcore users might start recommending that other platform.

    In a way this whole reduction of the lower end users might help us who would prefer some more powerful machines as the manufacturers will waste less time making machines that are one step up from toasters.

    The one wildcard in this whole mix are the gamers. To a certain extent gamers may have driven the leading edge of hardware development for years with servers driving similar but different high end hardware. So I suspect that instead of the lower end causing problems for the average high end user like developers that the gamer and server market will keep things cooking along at the extreme end and things will trickle down to the rest of us.

    So to say that the desktop is dead is wrong. I would say that the crappy desktop is dead.
  • by stevez67 (2374822) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:59AM (#41353089)
    We have 4 people in the household that use one PC, but we each have Smartphones. I build my own PC and update one individual part (mobo, cpu, RAM, video card, psu, etc.) every 6 months so I never really show up on the radar of the floggers who write such tripe based on HP and Dell stats, but we each get a new phone at a minimum every 2 years and frequently more often if there's an accident with one. The PC isn't dead it's just reached a saturation point like the tablets will someday. Phones I would expect to ALWAYS have higher numbers because they'll always have more frequent replacement, but they may suffer the same fate if they reach saturation once all the features have been fleshed out and hardware hits physical limits.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:06PM (#41353131) Journal

    I never really dreamed of the day when I could pick anything I wanted without being a millionaire.

    Well, these days I can. The only thing I have to be concerned of now, is my personal health and well being (physically, that is!).

    Who's complaining? I only pity the kids who's only gripe on technology is an xbox and a smartphone, but they're not complaining either, they have no clue what we "the old dinosaurs of personal computing" grew up with, I pity them because they'll never have the in depth knowledge that we (40+ something) have.

    I grew up with a Philips Electric Engineer 2003 electronics kit where I learned to follow schematics and make modifications (eg my own police radio) with these kits, later on I got a Commodore 64 in 1981/82, and since there where literally no software for it back then, I had to code my own, and BOY was that frustrating...and ultimately VERY much fun later on. It was like going exploring in an incredibly interesting new world, unseen and uncharted. I just only WISH kids could experience what I experienced back then, I know David Braben is trying to do this with his Raspberry PI, but it just seem to fetch the interest of old timers like me...he he...no wonder, btw. one can dream and hope, and of course...inspire.

    I look at the world in a different way than kids do. Me? I live in a wifeless super-electronics-complex, totally mad science with 1000000's of components from the 50's to today, so many gadgets and computers you'd break into my house if you knew where I lived (and of course suffer the consequences of my analog gadgets that awaits such a culprit, oh straying off the subject here...). I have microcontrollers, I don't think about getting the latest smartphone if I feel like programming an APP, I actually make the darn thing from scratch with libraries, a few MCU's and sensors...and voila...new thingy that no one can explain, but most ...enjoy.

    The kids wonder if I am some kind of mad magician that can come up with stuff from gizmos (to them, totally unknown world...of components) laying around and just make it do cool stuff?

    Thank god for the MAKER movement though, it IS slowly but steadily arising, and maybe once again, we'll get kids curious enough to dive into this basic, simple, from-scratch kind of DIY world that we once took for granted.

  • by Stormthirst (66538) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:08PM (#41353153)

    But refrigerators don't double in power every 18 months.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:15PM (#41353201)

    Power isn't what matters. Useful power is.

    Desktop and laptop PCs have simply passed the point where even an entry-level model is sufficient for everyday home and business tasks like reading e-mail, web browsing, working on office documents and database applications, and playing audio/video files.

    As soon as that happened, the upgrade treadmill was doomed. That sucks for the businesses who were happily coasting along knowing that every 2–3 years someone was going to pay them more money just to get a faster PC and all the preinstalled software that would come with it. It's good news for everyone who actually uses these devices, though, at least until the industry responds by doing shady things that build in obsolescence and try to keep the treadmill running artificially.

  • by Golden_Rider (137548) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:32PM (#41353359)

    Power isn't what matters. Useful power is.

    Desktop and laptop PCs have simply passed the point where even an entry-level model is sufficient for everyday home and business tasks like reading e-mail, web browsing, working on office documents and database applications, and playing audio/video files.

    As soon as that happened, the upgrade treadmill was doomed. That sucks for the businesses who were happily coasting along knowing that every 2–3 years someone was going to pay them more money just to get a faster PC and all the preinstalled software that would come with it. It's good news for everyone who actually uses these devices, though, at least until the industry responds by doing shady things that build in obsolescence and try to keep the treadmill running artificially.

    This. There is this weird opinion by many that "less PC are sold" automatically means "less people use a PC". That is not true - personal computers are still being used everywhere, it's just that a.) by now everybody who wants one has one, because they got cheaper and everybody can afford one now and b.) the hardcore upgraders (i.e. those who upgraded their board/CPU/graphics card every 6 months because of new games etc. which benefitted from those upgrades) do not NEED to upgrade as often anymore, because even the CPU/graphics card from 2 years ago can still run the latest games. I sure can still remember that around 2000-2005 or so I upgraded my main machine here every couple months because it actually provided a noticeable speed upgrade, that is not the case anymore. My core2 duo lasted 3 years in my main machine before I upgraded it - not out of necessity, but because I just felt like doing some hardware fiddling again.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @01:11PM (#41353671) Journal

    The American Economy thanks you for your efforts.

    Would you mind convincing all the people on your block to buy multiple big-ticket items for Christmas as well? Interest rates are low, so it's cheap to borrow!

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:45PM (#41354541) Journal

    Not to mention phones are treated as worthless disposable devices that are given "free' or at lost cost thanks to the contracts skewing the actual cost.

    Look can we all get together and tell these "journalists" to kindly go screw their uninformed clickbait...please? As someone who has been in the trenches since the 386 its REALLY simple, once the MHz wars ended and multicores became cheap PCs went from being "good enough" to insanely overpowered for a good 90% of the planet so like their washer and dryer they don't toss until they break, whereas the cell phone gets flushed by the kiddies, it gets coke spilled on it, its treated as the disposable crap that it is so NO SHIT you're gonna have more of them shipping, because people take better care of their PCs and laptops than they do their "worthless" cell phones.

    Here is the perfect example, look at what i was selling on the low end over five years ago: A Phenom I X3 or X4 with 4Gb of DDR 2 and a 300Gb+ HDD. Now is there anything your average user does that isn't gonna be just curbstomped by a multicore like that? FB? Surfing? Office? Quickbooks? Hell I have a customer running the latest Solidworks on a Phenom I X3 and he is happy as a clam with the performance and sees no reason to upgrade. Even gaming can't slam these chips, my youngest is blasting through giant MMOs on a 925 Deneb quad, that is a 4+ year old CPU and most games can't even hit more than two cores and even then don't hit 100%.

    We are at the start of a worldwide recession (I would argue depression, but whatever) where even China and India are seeing growth stall and people have less disposable income thanks to inflation and rising gas prices. Whereas before they might have been willing to just throw away a perfectly working system just to have a new shiny now there really isn't the extra $$$ lying around and people are deciding if it isn't broke why fix it?

    But other than the iDevices I think we are gonna see the same thing happen in mobile. What is the biggest area growing here in the USA? The pre-paids. Instead of getting raped on 2 year contracts people are finding out they can go to Walmart and get an Android smartphone at prices from $79-$200 and pay $50 a month for unlimited everything. As more and more get tired of the screwing they get from the plans you'll see more and more buying their phones (which I understand is already big in Europe) and when they pay for the thing out of pocket instead of getting it "free"? They'll be more likely to take care of it.

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