Ars Technica posted a commentary piece over the weekend about how laptops will replace desktops, which provoked a certain amount of bafflement. That’s not because the argument’s bogus (it’s not), but instead because it’s pointing out the obvious, and the trend is well beyond the point where it’s worth commenting on. 2lmc are, admittedly, kind of leading edge in stuff like this, but crumbs, laptops started outnumbering desktops as primary machines in the house somewhere around 2003.
(Admittedly, this is for personal machines. I’m sure that business still prefer cheap desktops, for most staff anyway; laptops are also seen as status symbols. I don’t care too much about corporate computing though, and for personal use, I’m sure laptops outnumbered desktops in machines sold last year).
No, the real trend I’ve noticed after the last year is how laptops are becoming increasingly tethered to desks, while the new breed of Eee-class laptops are going around and about. For example, the two trips candace has taken this year have both been accompanied by her Eee, while I left my 15” laptop behind on the first and lugged it around for the second. Meanwhile, her MacBook rarely moves further than from her study to the bedroom. Somehow, I doubt she’s unique in this.
Now, some people will find that their mobile phone - especially if it’s got a screen like the iPhone’s - is fine for reading (if not writing) while on the move. However, the market for 7”-10” laptops as truly portable devices is bound to get bigger.
Meanwhile, I’m sure people will still choose laptops over desktops for the home; they’re more sociable (you can sit and watch TV on a laptop) and, as the Ars article noted, they’re less underpowered than they used to be. (On the Apple side, especially, given two of the three desktops - the iMac and Mac mini - are effectively portables inside). Oh, and the only people who need a desktop for gaming any more are irredeemable FPS nerds.
So when I say that “Laptops are the new desktops”, I mean that they’re replacing them in many ways, while they themselves are replaced by smaller devices. Maybe in another ten years the cycle will repeat again, but with wearable computers. That seems a little unlikely, though.
(While we’re on the subject of small laptops, is there a better name for them than “webtops”, which is a bit silly, or “ultra-mobile PCs”, which ignores the fact that the same name is applied to ridiculously expensive (but very thin) full-screen-size laptops (why yes, I am thinking of the MacBook Air and various Sony devices)? No? OK, I was just wondering.)