The long term outlook for desktop computers continues to look grim. According to Slate Magazine, in the last decade, portable computers have erased many of the advantages that desktops once claimed while desktops have been unable to move past their primary drawback - they are tied to your desk because of their footprint.
In 2009, sales of laptops passed sales of desktops for the first time, and it's been projected that by 2015 desktops will constitute just 18% of the consumer PC market.
As this trend continues we will continue to see innovation in the mobile PC market. How long before we will have a hand held portable supercomputer?
I also find the results of this study relevant to desktop computing:
According to a recent 'Future of the Internet' study, a majority of technology experts and members of the general public believe cloud computing will mostly replace desktop computing by 2020.
* 72% of experts agreed with the statement that most people (in 2020) will do their work from internet and smartphone-based applications instead of their PC-running software
* 25% thought most people will still do their work from PC-running software, with internet and smartphone-based applications having some functionality
* 3% didn't respond
* 71% of the general respondent base agreed with the first statement
* 27% of the general respondent base agreed with the second statement
* 2% didn't respond
* Most respondents said that cloud computing has already been around and gaining influence for some time.
I think we need to differentiate between desktop computing, and power workstations. The laptop market will dominate end users, but power users would stay on workstations for sometime.
If the network does not become a bottleneck, I would see a trend towards desktop virtualization for power users and mobile devices for other users. Mind you that I see cloud as a way of virtualizing desktops, but internally rather than publicly.
The increasing capability of portable devices will lead to more fragmentation on the hardware side, certainly. Just as certainly, desktops will continue to be prized and used in the foreseeable future for the processing power, on-site storage capacity, display options, user interfaces, security and other advantages they inalienably possess over handhelds. Fragmentation is not good for desktop vendors, but it's not the end of the road either.
While I do not find it surprising that the desktop market is shrinking I do find the results from the second post a bit naive. I in no way believe that the "cloud" will take over in just 10 years. I believe that some applications are really a great fit for this model but many more are not.
Back on the original topic, as a person who does 99% of their work on a laptop and strictly uses a desktop as a server I think that it is only a matter of time before the desktop (as a consumer term) is obsolete. However, I also believe that the idea of a docking station may get some additional resurgence as mobile processing power increases and the desktops go away. This way you get the advantage of both a mobile platform and the advantage of a nice large screen without the added weight.
I agree with Sean on the large screen comment. The other thing that I do not like about laptops in that you got wires coming out of every direction: keyboard, mouse, etc… It doesn’t look that nice. If you go with a docking station, then your docking station – which adds a couple of hundred more to the cost is only usable for that vendor for only a couple of years. I am more inclined to say that dump terminals – virtualized desktops – is the way to go. :)