The demise of the desktop has been predicted for decades, as thin clients, notebooks, netbooks and a variety of other devices were set to take over from this stalwart of computing. Yet the desktop remains, and has even seen a resurgence in the last couple of years for a number of reasons. While it will eventually become redundant technology, this will not be for the foreseeable future, and we can expect some evolution and advancements in this space as it continues to be a solid option for years to come.
When the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit and the world went into rapid lockdown, laptops were the go-to technology to enable a remote workforce. More than two years on, however, this view has altered somewhat. The work from home situation is here to stay, but many organisations have realised that a desktop for an employee’s home office will work just as well, if not better, than a laptop, and that they are less expensive too.
Most work from home staff do not actually need to be able to work from anywhere or on the move, and a desktop with a large monitor, an external keyboard and a mouse actually improves productivity. Not only is it easier to work on a larger screen with ergonomic accessories, desktops are also typically a lot more powerful than notebooks. For employees working with large data sets, spreadsheets and intensive applications, this extra power is hugely valuable and saves a lot of time and frustration.
The other element to the continued relevance of the desktop PC in recent years is also related to the pandemic, but this time on the side of supply and demand. The worldwide component shortage means that laptops and portable computers are simply not as readily available, and are also becoming more expensive.
According to research firm Canalys, “The PC market has undergone a two-year CAGR of 9% from Q3 2019 and grew 5% in Q3 2021, flying in the face of predictions from 2019 that the end of the desktop was finally here. Apple also aligns with this trajectory, with a growth of 11% in Mac sales in Q3 2021”. This trend is likely to continue as the component shortage will impact the availability of laptops for several years at least.
The reality is that smartphones and tablets have become so powerful and multifunctional that a portable computer is redundant for many people. In South Africa, with our volatile currency and logistics and supply chain challenges, we can also expect the component shortage to have a protracted impact. When working from home, a desktop is more comfortable, more powerful, cheaper and more productive, and is likely here to stay. This is not to say they will not evolve, as they will undoubtedly continue to become smaller, faster and more powerful, and taking up less of a footprint in the home office while peripherals become more ergonomic. Long live the desktop.