Is the Desktop Computer heading for extinction?


I’ve been reading quite a few opinions and predictions lately concerning the desktop computer and its ultimate survival. I read another just yesterday entitled… “10 Reasons why the desktop PC will live forever.” While I cannot disagree with the basic premise presented by the title, nor with much of the reasoning behind it, I believe a statement such as this is a huge oversimplification.

In my humble opinion, the desktop computer is destined to survive to some extent in the long term, corporate deployment is almost certain to see to that; along with serious gamers, professionals, hobbyists, and those who work from home, etc. The question is not so much whether the desktop will survive or not, it’s more about the numbers.

Over the past couple of years we have witnessed a veritable boom in tablet and smartphone sales, to the stage where these these small, versatile, mobile devices are now on the verge of dominating the market place. Logic dictates that this would have to precipitate changes in the manufacturing paradigm… it’s the simple law of ‘supply and demand’. Companies are always bound to invest majority resources in areas of the greatest growth, they are not going to commit major financing for products which are perceived as on the wane. Even Microsoft has seen the light, with the recent release of its new operating system bent on capturing the imagination of mobile device users.

Anyone who states unequivocally that the desktop is set for extinction is not taking into consideration the diversity of users and deployment which constitute the overall market place. Conversely, anyone who predicts that desktops are set to continue on as they are, or have been, is living in a dream world. In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere in between.


I believe we are bound to see a decline in desktop usage, ergo desktop sales, largely confined to the ‘home user’ element. That said, considering home users make up the majority market share, the downturn may well prove quite significant. One just cannot ignore the way tablets and smartphones have impacted on user interaction with the net and between devices. Current trends indicate that connections initiated from mobile devices will easily outstrip those made from desktops within three years.

One of the most common sense titles I’ve seen for an article based on this subject is… ”A reduced but important future for desktop computing.” Here are a couple of insightful comments taken from that article:

  • I think that in less than a decade, 90% of people will use a smartphone or tablet as their primary computing interface.”
  • I’m worried that an ecosystem one-tenth the size of the current desktop market will be uninteresting to Microsoft and Apple. They will continue to make the desktop computing experience more mobile-like in an effort to please the larger market.”

I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

15 Comments

  1. Interesting topic Jim. IMHO, the only way desktops vanish, is if Laptop users use external keyboards and monitors. Can a Laptop be left on 24/7?
    Laptops are great for travel and on a sofa. Desktops are work machines. Mine answers the phone, screens callers, etc.. As I d/l torrents, I have no problem with ’em being on 24/7.

    It’s a matter of how one uses or is comfortable with both, since I too use a Laptop, Mindblower!

  2. In every area about 80% of people are interested in the minimum or ordinary stuff. Its called the 80/20 rule. Some of us do not fit this category.
    For one, I often work with photo images that can be 300 gb. Yes 300 gig – its no error. My disk top computer and its twin back up have 16 & 32 gig of
    ram, 5 / 8 tb or storage and fast 6 core processors. Clearly we belong to the 20%.

    Its the same in every area, most use ordinary stuff and some do not. Desk tops shall continue, or at least some way of maintaining this power and most will play on tablets or phones. Thats life.

  3. JIM: I will be using my my big ole’ computer until they pry my fingers off of the keyboard. Being a Senior, age 72, my computer does what I need it to do. Besides, being a Senior indicates that I have a budget that must for things rather than new computer or the new stuff out there which is beyond my tired ole’ brain.

  4. How many people with poor eyesight can read those tiny screens? How does anyone with large (or indeed arthritic) fingers work those ridiculously small keys? The laptop isn’t so bad on the lap, but perched on a table it’s an ergonometric disaster. How fast can you enter information on a phone? Can you touch-type on your i-phone? Do you suppose a company with dozens – indeed hundreds – of computers will dish out “smartphones” to their employees? How do they secure them from theft? I never heard so much **** in all my life.

    • John – It may surprise you to know that many companies (here in Oz anyway) are replacing desktop and laptop computers with tablets (NOT smartphones). My son owns a group of franchised motor dealerships employing well over 100 people, all his sales and ancillary staff are now using iPads.

      And I did say in the article…“In my humble opinion, the desktop computer is destined to survive to some extent in the long term, corporate deployment is almost certain to see to that.”

      In case you’re unaware, “corporate deployment” means used in the workplace.

      Cheers… Jim

  5. As with my two “hand-me-up laptops, I just “inherited” a 7″ tablet. It is uses Android 2.2 as its OS. When I get time, I will look into finding out how (if possible) I can upgrade it to the latest version. It is nice for playing games. Also googling, where you don’t need to enter a significant amount of data. I do find it hard to read the output – not so much from the small type, but from the scant amount of data that can be shown on a 7″ screen. As 2 of my children and 2 son-in-laws use I-Pads (10″ screens), I don’t see a significant improvement over the 7″ screen. Also, if you have big, grubby paws like me, those “fat” fingers tend to hit more than one thing. Yes, I do have a stylus and it helps, but like the glasses atop one’s forehead, you wonder wear you left it. Those who praise the tablets and say get a keyboard for data entry (and hook it up to a TV for better viewing) might as well by a laptop or a 10″ netbook. I’ve seen pictures of those keyboards that roll up, but can’t imagine the feel when typing – not knowing whether you really pressed a key. Being the packrat that I am, the tablet needs at least a few terabytes (or what is the next order of magnitude) of data storage. Now my desktop (even the laptops) can handle all that stuff with a terabyte internal HD (plus terabyte external drives).

    I suspect when they get voice recognition down to being error free, you will be able to get away without a keyboard. Likewise, when the get terabyte micro SDs. Of course, a 20″ I-Pad or Android or whatever will also help. By then, maybe the tablet will replace the desktop.

  6. I noticed a couple of typos in my post. No way to edit what has been posted. “where” not “wear” and “buy” not “by”. Unfortunately spell check doesn’t catch that kind.

  7. I am an 58 yo and do not need to be driving and texting and the like.
    And as people get older, you tend to forget things. So all those new and
    wonderful things keep coming out we just might start loosing them or
    worse stolen from us. While the good ole desk top will still be home.
    And remember the older generation is the one that is growing in numbers.

    That something for you manufactures to think about (Lots Of Old Money)

  8. I’ve migrated from a desktop to a laptop but when I’m in my office, I add a full-size keyboard and large monitor to help my 72 year old brain. 🙂

  9. I use my desktop more then my laptop or phone.

    I do a lot of photo editing on my desktop. When I want to send a snapshot to like facebook then I will probably use my phone and some app. I don’t care what anyone says but desktop is way to go when doing photos.

    I hate using my phone for internet…sometimes it has a signal and sometimes it doesn’t and it is slow and I just don’t like some of the mobile websites.

    My son has an iPad and it is nice but it’s not so great when you can’t expand the memory on Apple products. but of course it is good because it is light weight and very portable as with my laptop

  10. Jim,

    I am 60+ and hate the thought of using even a tablet with onscreen keyboard. My dyslexic fingers cause problems many times even with my laptop. I wouldn’t want to try doing my work as a graphics tech (using AutoCAD, CorelDraw and ArcGIS) on anything smaller than a laptop with 17″ display.

  11. We’ll be building computers for the foreseeable future.
    Yes, people are moving towards tablets and ultrabooks, but high end and gaming machines, which will always be built by hand won’t be going away very soon.