Is This the End of the Desktop Computer?
Is the era of the desktop computer over? Is it time to rip the bandage off and ditch the traditional bulky tower, cables, and monitors for something sleeker, lighter, and more specialized?
If you know me at all, you know I love technology. I usually like to check out the newest, latest gadgets. At the same time, I’m also very skeptical about overcomplicating my life, and adding unneeded security risks to the equation. It’s like two polar opposites are at war in my head at all times—I want to play with shiny new technology but not risk my overall cybersecurity. Plus, I don’t want to move forward at the expense of losing something I once had.
Here’s a perfect example: Back in the Windows 7 days, I had this really great set of apps that let you customize my Start Menu. It made it really easy to get the apps and documents I needed, and it made sense to me based on how my mind works. These applications were no longer supported for Windows 10, so when we upgraded, I lost those features and had to get used to living without them.
Being used to the traditional desktop with multiple monitors and plenty of screen real estate, the idea of switching to a laptop or tablet sounds like a downgrade to many, but we’ve been at the point where laptops and even tablets are about as capable as their desktop equivalents.
Modern laptops are powerhouses that can compete with most modern desktops until you really need the most powerful hardware for high-end gaming and video editing. Even then, a high-end laptop will suffice, but the cost goes up, as does the overall weight of the device. That said, mid-range portable devices like ultrabooks tend to be able to handle everything most people would throw at them.
A Real-World Example of a Laptop that Replaced a Desktop
An acquaintance of mine is a digital artist/graphic designer. I remember seeing her setup a handful of years ago—she had a big desktop computer, two big monitors, and an enormous Wacom Cintiq. The Wacom Cintiq is an artist’s drawing tablet. Hers was a big 24-inch screen that she could draw on using a special pen. The work she was doing required a pretty beefy desktop. It was definitely more powerful than the typical office workstation. She could have used a laptop instead of the desktop, but she’d still be chained to the desk in order to use the drawing tablet, and back then, the price tag for a laptop with that kind of power was substantially higher than the desktop.
A few years ago, she showed me her new setup. She had switched over to a high-end laptop that had the Wacom technology built into the screen. She could set it up at her desk and give herself an extra monitor, but while traveling she could manage with just the laptop.
I remember asking her “does it still run all of your programs?” She had told me it honestly ran them better than her aging desktop.
This wasn’t a big bulky laptop either - it was a 12-inch Thinkpad, and she had mentioned she was torn between that and a Surface Pro at the time. She went with the Thinkpad because she liked the keyboard better.
Why This Story Matters
Technology has been changing fast over the years, and it’s important to realize that every few years, the way we do things could potentially change for the better. By switching to a laptop form-factor, she didn’t lose much, but she gained portability. If she had continued to assume that she needed a big desktop and a big expensive Wacom Cintiq, she wouldn’t be able to take her work on the road or illustrate while traveling.
You can look at your business technology the same way. It’s worth looking at the capabilities modern technology has, because if you stick with what’s traditional you might miss out on huge life-changing opportunities.
The Next Generation of Change
Our story isn’t finished though—my friend just replaced her laptop. It served her well for five years, and now her kid uses it for school work. She was pretty excited to tell me about the device she replaced it with…
An Android tablet.
This might not sound like a big deal to some of you, but let’s put it all in perspective.
Several years ago, she needed a massive, high-end PC to do her work. Attached to that PC was an expensive specialized piece of hardware in the form of a drawing tablet.
She replaced it with a nice, although costly, laptop that had the drawing tablet capabilities built-in.
Now she’s using a razor-thin Android tablet and claiming that she’s getting the same use out of it.
I have nothing against Android—it’s an amazing operating system for mobile devices. I usually don’t picture Android as a replacement for a Windows PC, though.
I had to grill her on it. I had so many questions! I think she was ready for me this time.
She told me that it ran all of her apps. She had to make some concessions, since the Android versions of Photoshop and Illustrator were a little different, but it didn’t change what she could do once she established a new workflow. She said that she even found that some of the Android-based apps that weren’t available on PC were even better than some of the programs she used on her desktop and laptop.
She handles her email on it, her documents are in OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud-based storage), and she stores her artwork and graphic design projects in the cloud as well. She can literally access them from anywhere, on any device.
Here’s the kicker. I’m not a graphics person so I probably don’t even understand the full scope of this, but she said it was huge:
Her tablet allows her to easily work at documents that are four times larger than what she could work on with her laptop, and the screen has a higher resolution and better color accuracy than her laptop did. This means she can work effectively with larger projects faster and more accurately than ever before.
On a tablet!
To be fair, she did mention that modern-day desktops and the newer Wacom tablets were still great to use, but she didn’t want to invest in a device that she couldn’t easily travel with.
Be willing to look outside of the familiar with your technology—there are so many new and exciting ways to get the same work done. Think about the businesses that already had a mobile-ready or remote workforce before the pandemic.
I don’t think it’s the end of an era for the desktop necessarily, but I do think it’s time we all look at the decisions we make and the things we invest in, and ask ourselves if there is a better, more innovative way.
These days, there usually is!
P.S. I was asked what kind of tablet my graphic designer friend switched to. She said she is using a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, and for those of you who prefer Apple products, the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is a good device. Normally we’re pretty agnostic about the devices and brands, so I encourage you to do your research, as there are plenty of great choices out there.
If you need help choosing your next device to get the most out of your talent, don’t hesitate to reach out to White Mountain IT Services at 603-889-0800!