Friday, August 31, 2007

The big changes occurring in the PC market

Has anyone else noticed the big changes that are happening in the PC market? I was at Staples the other day, and was looking at their selection of Desktop computers. Compact and small, with special niches to hide the keyboard in, touch sensitive monitors... they are starting to look like props in a Star Trek movie. Here are two of the computers I saw:

The HP TouchSmart IQ770 and the HP Pavilion Slimline s3100y

But its not just the look, its also the function and technology. These things have ports on them for connecting to HD TV, and all sorts of other things.

This article at has a look at the current trends, and where they are taking the PC computer market. Some excerpts:

The State of the Desktop
The laptop computer has been gaining on traditional desktop PCs for some time. Replacing one's desktop completely with a portable computer that has enough power to handle any common task is now a feasible option for consumers, and more are heading that direction. Laptops are siphoning off sales of desktops.

As more and more customers look to smaller computing solutions, desktops are undergoing a transition. With many models, manufacturers are turning away from big, clunky, energy-hogging boxes to smaller, thinner and more energy efficient solutions.

The desktop computer market is facing a replenishment phase. Continued purchases of desktop PCs will be primarily made by existing desktop owners who need to upgrade their hardware, though more and more frequently, those consumers will seriously consider and in fact decide to spend their money on a fully powered laptop instead, according to industry analysts.


About a decade ago, computer manufacturers had few new roads to explore, having sold PCs to nearly all of the 850 million people worldwide who wanted and could afford a machine, according to Stephen Dukker, chairman of NComputing and former CEO of Emachines. Citing a Gartner Research report, Dukker said there is a potential for 755 million new computer users who can't afford desktops as they are priced today.

"The desktop market has not been growing until recently with the rise of developing countries," Dukker told TechNewsWorld.


"Green PCs use less power and give more performance," Steve Bulling, senior product manager for professional desktops and displays for Gateway, told TechNewsWorld.

For instance, new technologies are reducing power specifications for desktop PCs from 95 watts to 60 watts while still maintaining performance, he explained.

Related to the green PC influences are shifting attitudes over outfitting every computer user with top-of-the-line performance. There is a growing viewpoint in corporate management circles that few workers need maximum features and power to do their jobs, Bulling said.

"Consumers are starting to want smaller form factors and are becoming receptive to energy efficiency with the ability to put the box under the desk or behind other items on the desk surface," suggested Bulling.


"Emachine took the (US)$800 PC and sold it for $400. That was the last major expansion in user base. People still pay today about $700. The cost to build hasn't changed. Only the performance has changed," Dukker explained.

By comparison, today's PCs are supercomputers with 1,000 times more power than 10 years ago, he said. Now PC makers have to worry about a trend for all applications going to the Web.

"Nobody can make any money selling desktops. The margin is 6 percent. There is so little money that Emachines had to sell out to a competitor in a similar fashion to Compaq being absorbed by HP," Dukker said.

(bold emphasis mine) The article also gives more details about new innovations, such as terminals that run off a central PC, that only draw 6 watts of power, yet can deliver a full featured PC experience. Compared to the standard 200 watts that powers a desktop PC, by using several terminals per PC instead, the cost savings could be enormous. Then of course there are trends like Linux, as people look for cheaper options than being forced to updgrade to Windows Vista when Microsft ends support for Windows XP. Read the whole thing if you want a look into the future of computing.

The following is a link to a compilation of post I've done about the big changes occurring in laptop market place, and the changes we will being seeing soon.


MAX Redline said...

Oh heck. I build my own systems. Why would I pay double the cost to have some "professional" company build it for me?

As far as the "new innovations, such as terminals that run off a central pc" - it's not new, nor innovative. In the 1970's, many computers worked that way, and the results were entirely underwhelming. That's why personal computers came into being in the first place. Sure, the terminals ran off mainframes, but the result was the same: in each case, it breaks out into the "sharing of resources" paradigm, and that has never been especially successful. What has proven arguably more successful has been the trend toward linking one high-end pc with others that have their own memory and drive capabilities. This form of networking sucks far fewer central resources, and permits computing operations to be carried out - in most cases - in a largely "real-time" environment.

By the way, if you have a 200 watt power supply in your pc, you are way underpowered. My primary system has a 500 watt power supply, 2 Gbytes ram, 0.75 Tbytes disk storage space, and acts as the server for the other five systems in the house. It cost me about $400 to build.

I can run Linux, XP, or other OS with no trouble - in fact, the other systems on the network run on Win Pro 2000, Win ME, Win 95, SuSe, and Win XP. It's less a matter of cost than a matter of experience.

Chas said...


It's nice that you can build your own systems. But not everyone has the know-how, or the time to learn what's needed to make the best choices to do it yourself.

At our local Staples store I've found good deals on HP computers. They've been Linux compatible, and I've had no problems adding things like 2nd Hard drives or whatever I need, so it's worked well for me. I may have spent a bit more than I would doing a do it yourself project, but I also saved some time. I also haven't felt comfortable dealing with any of the small computer parts shops locally, and I don't like buying computer equipment through the mail. Staples and HP works for me.

"Terminals" as a concept certainly isn't new. But the terminals mentioned in the article are not like the terminals of the 1970s. There can be a lot of variety as to what is called a terminal nowadays; some of them are more autonomous than others - much like you explained, actually. That's rather what they were talking about.

I could have gone into more detail about what the article said, (some interesting options from a company called NComputing) but then I would have ended up reprinting most of the article. "Fair Use" dictates I can only use a portion of it.

The energy savings in a corporate environment can add up to quite a lot. If you can get the same performance for less electricity, why not? Apparently it's something a lot of people want. On a laptop or notebook PC it would extend the life of batteries too.

For my own situation, if I'm underpowered, I'm not feeling it. :)