Technology is constantly evolving, which means that people need to re-evaluate the devices used for each task from time to time. Desktop computers are on a decline, but will there be a point at which the decline will plateau or instead lead them to be completely obsolete?
There has been an increasing demand for remote working solutions from the modern workforce in the recent past, which has pressured tech giants to develop solutions to meet these growing demands.
Whether or not desktop computers are becoming obsolete is debatable, as advances in technology have allowed the creation of smaller and lighter computers and other devices. However, desktop computers are still necessary, and the advantages can not be easily replaced.
One side of this debate argues that desktop computers are becoming obsolete. In contrast, the other side argues that they are a necessary corner of the market and are not going anywhere.
Let us dig deeper and find out if desktop computers are dying out, or if they are here to stay.
What is the future of desktop computers?
When making a judgment on a question like this, it is good to view things from both perspectives. So, let’s have a look at the fate of desktop computers.
Why desktop computers might be becoming obsolete
Technology phases out very quickly. Today’s industry standard might be old-fashioned tomorrow and thrown out the day after as new software and hardware inventions emerge every day.
The evolution of technology
Today, desktop computers are not as popular as 30 years ago. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, desktop computers were a staple for both offices and homes, when the internet became more popular.
There were very few portable devices then, and laptops were still as big as Herman Munster’s lunch box.
With the introduction of smartphones, laptops, and tablets, many people feel that desktop computers are too cumbersome, especially now that all the available portable options can complete most tasks that a desktop computer can.
Manufacturers are always trying to outdo each other to see who will come up with the next big thing. For example, rotary phones and floppy disks were once top-rated, but today, not very many people know what these things are without looking them up online.
Smartphones replaced the cell phone, which in turn replaced home phones. There may be a chance that the same could happen to desktop computers.
There is a probable scenario that desktop computers may get smaller over time, much like the mini PC.
Eventually, those would shrink down in size as they get better, leaving one small device similar to a smartphone.
This universal mobile device could end up doing it all. I perhaps envision a device that can connect to any display wirelessly, making a large screen always accessible and with enough computing power to do almost anything.
Screens or displays could also, as we know them look very different in the future, leaving new ways to see our virtual workspace.
Thus forming a merging of the two ends of the spectrum rather than desktops falling off the end of the earth overnight seems like a more likely scenario.
Demand for mobile computers and smartphones in business
For the modern workforce, remote working is a revolution, and many prefer to bring work to wherever they are instead of being confined to a single location.
That’s not to say that having a desktop computer for specific types of jobs isn’t essential for someone who wants to work from home. So working from home is not entirely exclusive to mobile phones and laptops.
With laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, people can access the internet and do their work whenever and wherever without being at a particular spot to use a computer.
As a result, desktop computers lose their popularity with the modern workforce for companies that don’t require desktop computers to complete the work.
As a result of the increase in demand, technological advances happen slightly faster, making these portable devices more efficient and capable over time, thanks to the constant hardware and software improvements.
For example, many improvements were made in memory capacity and graphics abilities. Some smartphones in the market have multicore processors, huge RAM, and robust graphics hardware that make them somewhat comparable to mid-range desktop computers.
Despite their small portable sizes, these devices are slowly replacing the desktop in some cases. The competitor to the desktop computer is not only the laptop but tablets and smartphones too.
A survey done by Statista shows that the desktop computers market has been declining since the mid-2000s and will continue to decline as the market is moving toward portable devices like mobile PC and laptops.
Some laptops have similar performance, power, and efficiency without any extra weight to the hardware.
Like any other argument, there are two sides to a story, as some data show that desktop computers’ lifeline is dying, while other data show they are hard to replace.
I think that a large contributor to this is the consumer cost to own a computing device. Some smartphones are very affordable, especially older models, and financing through mobile networks makes it so easy to get the latest versions.
Why desktop computers aren’t becoming obsolete and might be here to stay
Despite some decline in demand for desktop computers, big technology companies like Microsoft are still developing ways to improve and market their desktop computers. New updates often keep encouraging people to continue using desktops.
As a result of these updates, desktop computers have become more powerful, with better software and hardware. It has become much easier to upgrade memory capacity, resolution display, components, etc.
Despite laptops and tablets becoming more prevalent, some are still fans of desktop computers. They believe that these screens are here to stay and will not give in to the ‘portable wave’ anytime soon.
Those who have experienced our own fully immersive gaming experience with a high-quality PC will agree, especially those who have built our own.
Some people, who abhor Microsoft, will keep older desktops running on Linux, which is open-source software that anyone can download and use for free.
Any contributions made to the Linux code become public property, so it is continuously updated and ready for use. Linux makes older computers usable again and keeps them out of the landfill, which is better for the environment.
Here are some of the reasons why some people do not agree that desktop computer days are numbered.
- Affordable: Desktop computers offer more excellent value for less, and until portable gadgets can deliver the same level of performance, efficiency, and customization features at the same affordable prices, desktop computers will not go anywhere.
- Large screen: Some people prefer desktop computers because they have large screens. For example, gamers will choose to game on a big screen compared to a small screen on a portable device. Or people might not be able to see small screens very well and prefer the larger screens.
- Better hardware: There are some features that you can only get with desktop computers. For example, most desktops have a memory card slot that can increase memory capacity. They also come with a wide range of slots and other types of ports to allow you to add additional peripherals easily.
- Durability: Thanks to their stable construction, desktop computers are more durable than their portable counterparts. The cost of repairs or replacement is reduced significantly compared to mobile devices that are more prone to accidents and theft/loss.
- Stability: Desktop computers have more resilience to run apps than mobile devices efficiently. For example, for some apps that require colossal memory, desktop computers can only achieve this stability, e.g., gaming apps or some business apps need high-performance machines to run efficiently. Experts believe that desktop computers can only achieve this stability.
All-in-one computers first arrived in 1972 with the HP 9830. The technology became more widely used as the decades rolled by.
Seeing as the hardware is limited similar to laptops because of space constraints, it never could replace the desktop computer.
Do businesses prefer desktop computers over laptops?
Some businesses view desktops as a necessity, mainly due to their durability, colossal storage, and security. But the increasing need for remote working and work-as-you-go has slowly made desktop computers cumbersome for some businesses.
New technology introduced in the last decade has also affected the popularity of desktop computers among some business owners. Cloud computing and AI technology could contribute to this.
With this cutting-edge technology, the need for ample storage and memory in the device has been reduced significantly. Smaller devices are now operating more efficiently with no storage worries.
Cloud computing also allows employees to access and share documents with colleagues and bosses without physically being in the office and can be accessed from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.
However, cloud computing also has some disadvantages. The cost could be one of them depending on your business requirements.
Another solution that is becoming popular with businesses is the thin client software. Although not as efficient as cloud computing, thin client software allows ultra-compact computers to connect to a shared network, which helps reduce the need for significant memory and storage as all the data is shared through the web.
An excellent example of a ‘thin client’ software is Chromebook by Google.
These remote working solutions are becoming popular and quickly becoming the preferred mode of working by many employers.
It reduces energy consumption in the offices, reduces clutter, and creates more personal space, enhancing productivity.
Also, with the freedom to work from home, employees feel more valued as they spend more time with family and have a healthy work-life balance, which is especially important for parents with small kids or people with other personal needs who need to work remotely.
It seems like desktop computers are gradually losing popularity in the business world for some types of businesses. However, many business requirements are still being fulfilled by desktop computers.
While the portable machines give users the luxury of working from anywhere, they can not be compared to a desktop in terms of efficiency and power in performing bulky transactions.
But there is no winner for this in the business world. Both choices have pros and cons, and none negates the other.
So businesses should find a way to harmonize both for the benefit of the whole business world.
How wireless internet connectivity affected desktop computer popularity
Initially, before the invention of WIFI hotspots, you needed a LAN cable to use the internet. Your entire desktop computer and office space would need to be where the internet LAN cable was to use the internet.
This was fine with desktop computers because once the internet was fixed, there was no need to move the computer anywhere.
But with WIFI hotspots and mobile internet, you no longer need to be at a stationary place. You can access the internet from anywhere, which has significantly contributed to the popularity of mobile devices.
For a long time, sitting in the same place is now considered suffocating and counterproductive, or so many younger employees might think despite any work requiring you to sit in one comfortable location.
Side Note: Nowadays motherboard manufacturers include built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to help with the number of cables to be run for connectivity.
Do I need a desktop computer anymore?
Unless you are a big business or you have special requirements, there is no need for you to have a desktop computer in this era. Because for small users, many of the specs that you might need from a desktop computer you can get from a laptop, tablet, or in some cases, your mobile phone.
The following reasons are why you might not need a desktop computer today:
Performance can be similar between portable and desktop computers
The main argument for pro-desktops is that performance and power are superior to portable devices. While this is still the case, many devices can deliver similar desktop-like performance with the current technological advances.
You can game on a laptop
Some games can require powerful machines. But many portable devices currently in the market are good enough to handle this amount of work. For example, Alienware and MSI have introduced laptops that are equipped to handle high-level gaming.
However, if you want top-tier performance, there is no substitute for a desktop computer. Graphics cards built for desktops will offer the best performance money can buy if you compare them equally by their GPU model.
Some low-end mobile computers can be cost-effective
Most of the time, desktop computers offer the best value for money. But currently, the market is flooded with affordable portable devices closing the gap with capability compared with some desktop computers.
For example, Chromebook is perfect for running Google’s cloud-based operating system and can perform an impressive array of tasks.
Choosing between a desktop computer and a portable device
Do you need a laptop or a desktop computer? The answer depends on your needs and preferences.
When buying a new device, you first need to understand its utility, such as what function and purpose it will serve.
With this in mind, you will need to do your research and find out what options you have and their features.
Try understanding each side and then decide which benefits you should forego and which ones you will best benefit from.
When to choose a desktop computer
Although there are laptops with high performance in the market, desktop computers will have a performance advantage, especially if you have bulky memory needs.
For example, desktop computers are best for gaming due to their superior processing power.
If you are very much into gaming, a laptop won’t cut it, unless it has enough performance capability to run a large monitor smoothly.
Some desktops also have big screens and more ports for people looking to connect multiple devices. For example, many content creators prefer desktops for their big screen and high efficiency.
People using resource-intensive applications tend to prefer desktops as they are easier to configure with processors to increase performance.
Easy and low-cost repairs
The other great advantage that a desktop has is that when a particular hardware component fails, you only have to replace that one component.
Most internal components, even the monitor, is easily accessible and cost-effective to replace. With a limited amount of knowledge and some money, you can easily have your computer up and running the very next day.
Each component offers a variety of choices to suit your budget. So if you are down on some spare cash, you can easily pop in the most affordable component to see you through until you can afford the component of choice.
There are many choices for buying components for a computer, and yes, even second-hand ones.
When one of the many tiny integrated components inside a mobile computer goes faulty, you will either have to replace the whole motherboard with everything on it or hope that your machine is still under warranty.
The same holds true about the screen. It’s a lot harder to replace the internal display of any mobile device compared with a desktop monitor.
Keeping a desktop computer’s parts cool is a far easier job than a laptop or any other mobile device. This means that you could argue that desktop computers have a slightly higher chance of having a longer lifespan.
Keeping it clean is easy
A desktop computer is also easier to keep clean inside. You can open the case up, take it outside with some compressed air, and give it a good clean-out without much hassle.
It generally has to be taken apart once a year to ensure all the cooling parts are cleaned properly when it comes to laptop servicing.
These will be areas like vents, air channels, heatsinks, and cooling fans.
When to choose a laptop
The main advantage of portable devices over desktop computers is portability. Some laptops, for example, perform precisely the same as some desktops and still have the advantage of being small and compact.
Many argue that desktops have better memory and processing power, but new technology like cloud computing has allowed laptops to work almost as efficiently as desktops.
It is, therefore, best to purchase a laptop if you like the flexibility that comes with it if your requirements are limited to this scope.
Signs that it is time to upgrade your desktop or laptop
If you have had your desktop computer for several years, you will notice some performance issues at some point, which is an indication that it is now time to upgrade.
Here are some of the signs that you need to start shopping for a new computer.
There are compatibility issues when you upgrade the hardware
Sometimes you might need to upgrade your RAM and change your motherboard and CPU to boost your machine’s performance.
Of course, this won’t be an option if you own a laptop.
If your machine’s security will not update no matter what you do, it is time to upgrade, which might be because your computer’s hardware is not compatible with the latest version of the operating system.
However, if you are somewhat proficient at alternative operating systems, you might switch to Linux and keep your computer safe for a longer time.
The cooling fans become boisterous
One of the first signs of old computer hardware is the fans will constantly ramp up in speed even when you are doing simple tasks on the computer.
This isn’t always an accurate way to determine whether your hardware is old, but it can be an indicator if your system has always been quiet through the years and has gradually gotten louder.
This could mean that the hardware cannot handle the workloads produced from the operating system or software.
When this happens, greater heat is produced from the hardware working harder, and the cooling fans have to increase their speed to cool things back down.
If the hardware is heating up, and if you notice this, it might meantime for an upgrade. However, it wouldn’t hurt checking over the thermal transfer paste on your CPU and GPU components.
Additionally, making sure that fan speeds are correctly set in the computer’s BIOS or other software is also worth looking at.
Very slow processor
An aging computer will take ages to load a single task. This is a slightly more reliable way to determine whether or not your computer requires an upgrade.
The computer will be a lot slower if you try running the latest version of the operating system, which is a sign that it needs replacing.
Of course, you might be able to replace the processor, RAM, and motherboard if you know what you’re doing. This can be a cheaper option compared with buying a new computer or laptop.
The computer struggles to handle multiple tasks
You might notice that the computer slows down if you have more than one application running or cannot jump quickly from one application to another.
Sometimes, a similar problem might occur when switching between two tabs in the same application.
You might have insufficient RAM or a poor performing hard drive which you should investigate first, but it might also be time to get a new computer.
Here are a few tips in my other article that can help you speed up Windows 10.
Some people still believe that desktop computers are here to stay, while others think that the ‘portable wave’ has taken over desktop computers’ popularity—each to their own.
Desktop computers have the advantage of providing the best performance money can buy. Hardware manufacturers can pack a lot more computing power into each component using the larger surface area at their disposal.
Mobile versions of the same chip model do not perform the same as the desktop version.
For example, an NVidia RTX3080 GPU for the desktop will outperform the mobile equivalent. There are different qualities surrounding power and cooling. The limitation of space for the mobile version always ends up in a compromise somewhere.
Although there is undoubtedly a downward trend for desktop computers, there is no way they are becoming obsolete anytime soon. They have the advantages that set them apart from the rest, and it is up to you to pick what device works best for you and your business.
So are desktop computers becoming obsolete? Not for a while, but over a period of some years, maybe a decade or two, it is a probability.
From here, you can read about why laptops are more expensive compared with desktops in another article I wrote over here.