Mac laptop and desktop death watch unwarranted

Mobile computing options are definitely on the rise, but reports of the death of the laptop and desktop are premature. Erik Eckel explains why.

I regularly read headlines announcing the days of desktops and laptops are numbered. They are not.

Just last week I attended a presentation in which technology providers demonstrated impressive telephony performance using iPads. Some providers feel such innovations are necessary because desktop and laptop computers are going away and users may soon no longer even possess desktop or laptop computers.

Why the laptop and desktop death watch?

A few years ago Apple shortened its name, officially removing Computer from its moniker. Some observers believed the move portended the end of Mac desktops and laptops, with the firm instead dedicating efforts to iPhones, iPods and other devices.

There's no denying demand for mobile computing technology, which typically leverages smaller, more portable formats such as smartphones and tablet computers. Apple's helped rewrite mobile computing rules, and sales of such devices continue skyrocketing, and for good reason. They are, indeed, changing the way we all work (and play). Apple's iPad almost single handedly terminated the short-lived netbook fad, too. Such is the power of effective mobile computing platforms.

It's not over yet

But while many believe the smartphone and tablet popularity will be the end of traditional Mac desktops and laptops, the logic just doesn't hold. Both business and residential users will continue possessing the need for full-sized keyboards, terabytes of storage, local availability of large data files (think photos, video, audio files and databases, among others), and more power and performance than mobile platforms reasonably deliver.

Most users, an absolute vast percentage in my experience supporting hundreds of businesses, remain dependent upon a "mothership" laptop or desktop? Why? Traditional laptops and desktops are required for long term file storage, database-driven applications, proprietary software use, workstation-level performance capacity, file storage, email archives, video editing, audio production, graphic design, large-format publishing, and numerous other tasks.

I've heard for years that smaller more lightweight systems would be the end of desktop computing. Thin clients had their shot. They failed to kill the traditional computer. Anyone who thinks thin clients are still going to take the world over (in our lifetime) by moving everything to the cloud is mistaken; clients still possess demands for other localized file stores and performance capacity that thin clients and most mobile devices just can't match.

Screen size is another limitation. The majority of businesses my firm supports have migrated users to operating multiple widescreen displays. Multiple external monitors and high-powered graphics processors, not too mention considerable processing capacity (and quite a bit of electricity), is required to power such setups. Your phone isn't taking those tasks over anytime soon. Trust me.

Apple's investments continue

New iMac desktops confirm Apple's commitment to desktops, as do continued efforts to engineer workstation-class performance and cutting edge display technology in MacBook Pros. The popularity of MacBook Airs, meanwhile, further exemplifies the demand the manufacturer receives for full-form systems packed into a more portable form factor.

Just recently Apple even announced it will begin manufacturing iMacs in the United States. Global firms don't look to reposition investment unless they have larger and well-considered plans. Consider GE as an example.

Certainly, the mobile computing platform is going to continue to grow in importance. Apple is going to plow continued investment into smartphones and iPads. But I'm confident it's a safe bet Mac desktops and laptops will continue to be available, and in demand, for decades.


Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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