If you have an internet connection, you’ll probably have seen at least one over-enthusiastic blogger claiming that Windows 8 will kill the laptop, or that the ultrabook has killed the need for a desktop PC, and that we’re about to be consumed in a fiery lake of smartphones. Or something like that. These claims are almost universally melodramatic and untrue. Instead of the desktop, laptop, or tablet either dying or dominating the market any time soon, it’s much more likely for these devices to begin to develop in a symbiotic continuum. All of these devices are “dying” as they become more integrated.
The most recent (and probably the most ridiculous) trend in this kind of gadget-eschatology is the almost entirely illusory debate on the merits of tablet versus laptops. It was claimed when tablets first began to see major popularity that the laptop was doomed as a mobile computing device. It is true that PC sales as a whole have been declining while tablet and smartphone sales have gone up, but we must remember that tablets and smartphones are a relatively recent innovation. The reason people are buying fewer laptops or desktops is largely attributable to the fact that they already have one, and they’re now supplementing this with tablets and smartphones to achieve better results.
We should also remember that all four of these devices are fundamentally different and serve different purposes. Tablets and smartphones, for instance, are mostly consumption-based devices, and are best used for reading and assessing rather than for processing. The obvious exception to this rule comes in the art world, which has been quick to adapt the tablet to its unique needs. For those who need the portability of a tablet with the sheer processing power of a more traditional desktop, you’re usually just one app away from being able to link up all your devices in an exponentially powerful computing centipede. Rather than asking if you need one or the other, you should really be asking yourself if you need both, depending on the kind of work you need to do on them.
This trend of course does have a few apparent casualties. One of the most obvious is PC gaming, which has been stated to be “dead” for years. The truth of the matter, however, is that the style of gaming possible and desirable on PCs has simply changed radically because “PC” is an increasingly invalid concept. Hands up how many of you think of a bunch of large grey boxes in the corner of the room when we say “computer”? For the vast majority of you, the answer is probably no. Since gaming has always been a secondary purpose for “grown up” computing, it has been forced to adapt to the changing nature of the technology it uses.
The important thing to take from all this is that you shouldn’t declare your laptop worthless or dead any time soon. If you’re planning to buy a tablet in the near future, keep the laptop behind and convert it into a desktop. If you have a desktop, you can convert it into a server, or use it as the hub for your own personal mini-cloud without too much hassle. Take what you hear about “deaths” in technological trends with a pinch of salt, and remember that the only things which have actually “died” completely in living memory are WAP and the fax machine, and in both cases there were huge systemic changes in the technological landscape behind those deaths (and in some parts of the world they are not dead, and still an important part of the technological landscape).