As I sit here, in front of my QWERTY-endowed, web-connected PC, chatting with my editor-in-chief via my Droid, I can’t help but wonder at the slow death smartphones are dealing to desktop PCs. We’ve all been hearing the doomsday reports that the desktop PC is dying. First it was PDAs, then laptops, and now smartphones and tablets have joined the fray. And we can’t forget the “PC gaming is the only thing keeping desktops alive—the PS3 and XBOX 360 have killed desktops!” declarations.
My argument has always been that you can’t kill the desktop, and it still stands—there will always, always be a need for high-end stationary computing, in the enterprise and geek worlds, if nowhere else. However, for the masses, I think we are finally seeing the actual end of desktops. Why, you may ask? The answer is complicated, but the highlights are speed, speed, speed, and convenience.
With the advent of large-scale LTE, mobile internet is actually faster than most standard wired internet. Take where I live, for example. I live smack inside of one of Verizon’s LTE clusters. Even on last-gen 3G, my speeds often top 1.3Mbps—better than many DSL connections, and better than anything offered at my “little house on the ranch.” Not only that, it’s at least $20 a month cheaper than my cheapest “standard” option.
What about Windows 8, you say? Many people are calling Windows 8 the savior of desktops, and laptops for that matter. I say laptops are saving laptops—you type on your dock-less tablet, I’ll type on my laptop. Loser buys dinner. But as far as Windows 8 riding to the rescue of desktops, I think the opposite is true. Microsoft is gently easing the remaining holdouts into a phone-friendly environment. Anybody familiar with Windows 8 will be able to pick up a Windows Phone for the first time and rock and roll within minutes—something that could never before be said before for that conversion.
That covers “speed” number one—LTE—and convenience—Windows 8, plus the ever-increasing user friendliness of smartphones in general. What about the other two speeds I mentioned? Speed two is fairly obvious. Seemingly every week somebody calls me and asks me to fix their ailing laptop or desktop, and you know what? No less than a third of the time my phone has equal to or greater processing power than said dysfunctional computer. Thank you Tegra 2—case closed.
The third speed is a bit more abstract, and is actually more a combination of the other two speeds. It involves the speed of user input. Ten years ago, typing anything more than a SMS message on a phone was something left to the ultra-geeks—if anybody. Even with the advent of QWERTY keyboards on phones—insert sentimental memory of my old Blackjack II here—doing much more than a quick email was almost unheard of. Now, however, all those teenagers who pioneered the ultra-texting group are growing up, and they are faster than ever. This is the third speed. Throw in things like voice dictation, voice actions, and “Swype” keyboards, and all of a sudden your “phone” becomes a computer killer.
The death of desktops has come, and its name is LTETegra3SwypeVoiceActionsWindows8. It is not Android, or any one OS. It is certainly not the iPad or any tablet. But as we see more versions of 4G (HSPA+ 42, LTE, LTE-A) ever-improved computing abilities, (can you say 1.5Ghz quad-core, anyone?) and brilliant new UIs that are both robust and easy to learn—Windows Phone 7 and Android ICS come to mind—it is undeniable that the time of the smartphone has come.