Are desktops and notebooks doomed?

There are many people – me included – who feel very comfortable using desktop or notebook computers (laptops to use the old term), but if you were to believe all the hype from the press and sellers of computing devices in general, you’d think we are all moving to tablets.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no doubt that for many tasks like quickly checking emails, browsing the ‘net, watching YouTube videos, playing games or keeping up with news – a tablet like an iPad or Android device is fantastic. The convenience of a light, fast booting touch screen tablet can’t be faulted and for many travellers, it beats a notebook hands down especially when you consider the much longer battery life.

While I love tablets and find them very useful and easy to use, I could never use one for many computing tasks I need to perform every day, especially when working. Like what? I hear you say…
Here’s my list – and some or all may apply to you.

  1. Writing. Anything more than a paragraph or two requires a decent keyboard. I even struggle sometimes with my notebook keyboard and it’s a decent Compaq with a separate number pad.
  2. Editing graphics or photos. You have to use a mouse or ideally a pen tablet for any kind of serious graphic work.
  3. Filling out forms on web pages. How many times have you attempted to enter text or even select an item from a drop down list on a web page using a tablet only to find it an exercise in frustration? Sure, web designers try to make it possible for tablet users but we can’t make forms usable on every type of device out there.
  4. Any kind of work (or play) that requires a lot of mouse movements. Sure, many game designers have added touch control and for some types of game play tablets are great, but there are still a significant number of programs and games that need a mouse to use them effectively.

With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft has signaled (rightly or wrongly) that the future focus for consumer products is firmly on touch screen devices. I, like many others in the industry, believe they are making a huge mistake in this assumption. Not that touch screen devices will be very popular (they are) but that people will be prepared to completely change how they use computers for work. They won’t – plain and simple. They will just find an alternative, like an Apple notebook or desktop or change to a Linux-based operating system like Mint (my current favourite).

So, how will this change affect you? If you like Windows but want to continue working much the same as you currently do, upgrade your current PC to Windows 7 or buy a new computer with Windows 7. I will be able to sell Windows 7 computers for the foreseeable future and Microsoft will, I believe, continue to support this version for years to come as it will be used exclusively by business and corporate users. I doubt very much that businesses will ever seriously use Windows 8 in any quantity.

If you are particularly attached to an older Windows XP computer it probably won’t be able to be upgraded to run Windows 7, but the free alternative, Linux Mint, runs very well, is stable and most importantly – doesn’t need antivirus software. I’ve installed this on a range of older notebooks and computers without any problems and there is equivalent (free) software available for nearly every required program. I would ditch Windows altogether except I still need it for two programs I use in my business.

In these days we throwaway perfectly usable devices just because they are superceded, not because they are faulty. I believe we should all do our bit by not adding to landfill but reusing technology we have in innovative, new ways. Doing small things like recycling printer cartridges and getting years more life out of older notebooks and computers by wiping Windows off them and installing a free alternative just makes sense to me.

As I’ve said from the outset, tablets, smartphones and notebook computers are here to stay and I believe desktop computers are too. Maybe not in the same form as currently – for example, All-In-One desktops are proving very popular as they do away with most of the wires and take up a lot less space. Each device has it’s strengths and weaknesses certainly but they each have their place in the 21st Century.

Andy

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