Why The Desktop Won’t (And Shouldn’t) Go Away

October 23, 2012


With the announcement of Apple’s iPad mini today, there is once again rampant speculation about the end of the desktop computer era. Sure, Apple released a new desktop today as well, but it came as a minor surprise to some people. For years industry executives have been trying to disprove the relevance of the desktop computer, and their predictions have yet to come true. Why? Because the desktop is still relevant, still viable, and still, very much a necessity for 90% of the population.

Don’t get me wrong, tablets are great. When you want to check email, browse through Facebook, or check Twitter – the tablet is probably THE device to use. Having the ability to “feel your way” through the web is a unique experience and I find that even for me (a desktop advocate), a tablet is my go-to device for the web.Thin iMac Aluminum New

But there are a lot of things a tablet either can’t do, or it can’t do it well. Some of the things that come to mind are:

  • Some websites just don’t work on tablets: This is probably more an issue with iOS since it fails to support Flash, but I’ve had my share of problems on the Nexus 7 Android tablet also. And  have you ever tried to fill out a lengthy survey or form using a tablet? There are times where the screen bounces all over the place and the “pop up” that allows you to sign-up or sign-in just vanishes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to do the tablet-to-desktop jump in order to save myself 20 minutes and a lot of aggravation.
  • Movie Editing: Possible on a tablet, but much easier and much better on a desktop computer. A desktop has a larger screen, more processing power, and a lot more tools for making your video look professional. Tablets are okay for quick clips and family-only viewings, but a desktop is a necessity if you want to do anything more.
  • Photo Editing: Editing photos on a tablet actually works pretty well, but it’s similar to movie editing in that it just doesn’t stack up to the desktop experience.
  • Audio Playback: I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, but having a desktop computer at your home significantly enhances your ability to maintain an amazing music database. Yes, you can still access and stream music to your tablet, but it’s just not the same as hoarding 65 GB on your desktop.

Work: Tablets are great for quick edits and maybe even note taking, but when it comes to getting some serious work done they don’t hold a candle to the desktop computer. Editing a Word document is one of the tablet’s true callings, but hand it a giant Excel spreadsheet with pivot tables and charts and everything grinds to a halt. I have Quickoffice installed on my iPad and I use it frequently, but only for quick edits and simple documents. I imagine this point also holds true with graphic designers and anyone who uses specialized software at their workplace.

I know a lot of people who saw the announcement of the new iMac today and aside from being “wowed” by its dimensions, they showed little interest in such a computer. Whether it’s an Apple, Windows, or Linux desktop, there is definitely value to be had in a desktop system.

I know tablets are the hot item right now, and I know they can be useful in a number of different scenarios. BUT – until they can do everything a desktop can do, I just don’t see them taking over the world.

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