Prologue for this post: "Missing Work"
Do you hate sitting behind a desk? (Or if you're unemployed, do you hate NOT sitting behind a desk?) The recession has spurred a number of innovations and needs in the digital realm, and among these is the need to be more versatile and mobile and to buy computers that are lightweight and inexpensive. Laptop sales grew by 23% in December, to 1.9 million units, and netbooks rose in volume to 12% by year's end. This post isn't really about the netbook craze, but these figures are a powerful illustration of a social tend. In the media, the mantra is that people have flocked to social networks to feel more "connected," and these lightweight computers (and mobile phones) are perfectly suited for this and other web-oriented tasks. It seems clear that this is a backlash to changes in careers and urban landscapes that lead to an increasing disconnect from other people. So then, this begs the question: if people prefer to work and socialize on laptops and cell phones, what will happen to the desktop PC? Will it eventually just go away completely?
In 2006, Ask Slashdot posed this very question (can't find the article--if someone wants to put it in the comments, that'd be great!), and the answers were interesting. There were lots of speculations about how the traditional desktop would be relegated to menial labor as a home automation server, or a Home Theater PC. While either of these options is possible and people are occasionally doing these things, I think it's unlikely to catch on for mainstream consumers. Each computer in the home requires an operating system, periodic maintenance, updates or upgrades, and configuring for a specific task. Heaven forbid your home automation system should get a virus while you're away on vacation! In many of these cases, the desktop computer is overkill for these tasks, too time consuming to set up, and it's a hassle if something goes wrong.
I used to believe that in the very near future (5-10 years), our homes would have large, flat screen monitors with built-in computers--sort of like a giant iMac that hangs from the wall. Except I thought it would come from Gateway, because in the late 90's they were marketing desktops and monitors that were specialized for media delivery (these included remote mouse and keyboard, so you could surf the web from your couch). What will the form factor be for 21st century computers? I've added a poll to let you pick the from some scenarios, and please feel free to add any ideas in the comments section.
The Little Book of Contentment
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