Every man, woman and child has written an article proclaiming the death of the PC and that this is the post-PC era that prefers tablets and mobile phones instead.
While you can’t argue people definitely love their shiny pieces of brushed aluminimum and our phones can do what computers were only able to do 10 years ago, computers aren’t dead.
There are a lot of misguided facts but the key misguided fact is slower computer and processor sales. This can be attributed to the fact global economies are going down the toilet (Europe and the United States especially), people can no longer afford the convenience of upgrading whenever they want.
Yes, computer sales have been consistently dropping. But when you factor in a bad economy and the fact that companies like Intel aren’t really breaking boundaries with new CPU releases, computing power is at a point now where a core i7 desktop machine will at least last another 5 or 6 years.
Why would you buy a brand new computer when your current computer can run the latest games, can surf the Internet and do everything you want? It’s a waste of money most people don’t have. Unless you are a hardcore gamer and even then the only part that matters is your RAM, hard drive and graphics card.
Things Tablets/Phones Cannot Do or Offer
Tablets given their relatively small form factors utilise flash memory. Flash memory is volatile and unreliable, desktop solid state drives have proven not only is flash memory overly expensive but the technology is vulnerable to lifespan limiting factors such as use, temperature and environment.
Battery Life vs Power Supply
A desktop computer has the advantage of using mains power without reliance on lithium ion batteries which are not only dangerous (they’ve been known to explode) but the lifespan of a lithium ion battery vs a desktop power supply is substantially lower. Laptops have the advantage of being able to run on battery and electicity power, if the battery fails the laptop can still be used.
Large Cheap Storage
Touching upon the first point tablets use flash memory which is expensive and unreliable. At the moment flash storage is dollars on the gigabyte as opposed to cents per gig for conventional desktop/laptop hard drives. You can get a 1tb drive for about $65 AUD these days. The largest storage you tend to find on a tablet is around 64gb, sometimes 128gb if you’re lucky.
Tablets Are Prone To Damage
Tablets being touch screen devices are comprised of a metal or plastic enclosure with a large thin piece of glass. iPad’s are notoriously weak and I’ve broken my fair share of iPad screens before which can cost $100 – $150 to get replaced if you can’t do it yourself. It’s a lot harder to damage a desktop PC that’s in an enclosure or laptop.
The Price Gap Is High
As you can see in the below images, a 64gb iPad (Wifi) will set you back $759 AUD. Comparatively, you can get touch screen capable laptop with real keyboard for $799 AUD. For $40AUD more you can get a Core i5 laptop capable of doing more than an iPad is capable of doing.
In the US at Bestbuy you can get a 17.3″ laptop with 8gb of ram, 750gb hard drive and a core i7 CPU for $700. Cheaper than an iPad and once more, a whole lot more future proof and capable.
Desktop computers are even cheaper. For the same price as one of those aforementioned laptops, you can get yourself a core i7 desktop with 1tb drive, 8gb of ram and a decent screen (usually even cheaper).
Cannot Be Upgraded
Tablets are not future proof. They are built to last for a limited amount of time before they can no longer run applications nor efficiently achieve simple tasks. In the case of an iPad you are locked into a particular browser and way of doing certain things. Web browser performance is also deliberately limited.
You cannot upgrade any of the components inside a tablet (definitely not an iPad) as they’re made to be thrown away. A laptop or desktop computer offers options for adding more memory, storage and functionality in the form of hardware cards.
Programming on a tablet: Not happening
Being a developer having access to an IDE, FTP client as well as SCP, terminal access for interacting with servers and being able to use source control like Git is important to me.
As far as I know it’s easy to install an FTP client on an iPad, but opening files of varying file extensions is not. Not to mention can you imagine writing code on a touch-screen? Sure you can buy a keyboard, but it’s another expense that isn’t require on a computer.
If you are a web developer you cannot install multiple browsers on an iPad, Android you can. If you’re a software developer and use a particular debugging environment, chances are it’s not available on your tablet. Not to mention limiting factors like storage and RAM mean if your application requires a lot of memory you’re out of luck.
Freely Downloading and Consuming Media (Legally and Illegally)
If you’re a citizen of the US or Europe your choices for legal music and video content streaming are much higher than a citizen of Australia. Evident by the fact Australia is the largest consumer of illegal bittorrent downloads for hit TV shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. On an iPad you cannot use bittorrent in any way, on Android tablets you can, but space is a limiting factor.
Not Just About Tablets
While most of my examples have referenced tablets, smartphones, smartwatches and any other portable connected device is also included. Smaller portable devices do serve a purpose, some peoples needs are met with a tablet or their phone. However for many professionals in the IT world especially, computers will continually play an important part.