Monday, March 29, 2010

Will Desktops Become Obsolete?

I have recently seen an article claiming that desktops will become obsolete in a few years. Obviously, the mobile screen is the latest battleground in high tech, seen by many as a chance to finally dethrone Microsoft from its stronghold on the desktop market after almost 30 years of dominance.

I don’t quite agree with this assertion. I believe that computer tasks fall into three main categories:

1.Authoring – this is the original creation of information by a human, typically done by a desktop application such as Office, Photoshop, AutoCAD, Eclipse, etc. These tasks usually involve expertise and creativity and the trend so far has been towards emerging experience leveraging the largest possible screen – just think of the laptops with a 17” screen.

2.Participating – this is any task that involves any step in a business process, structured or unstructured. Users here are approving, submitting, initiating, or reviewing information previously created or they create small amounts of original information - e.g. comments, markups, social media interactions or microblog entries fall into this category. Submitting a video on YouTube falls into this category of tasks as the initial authoring requiring creativity and expertise occurred when you operated the camera.

3.Consuming – these are the tasks related to receiving and using the information in its final form. The information can be received via a variety of channels ranging from print, online experience, streaming media, to mobile devices, etc.

Mobile devices have been successfully replacing desktops for a while for the consuming tasks and the new breed of smart devices and applications have now successfully shifted the participating tasks onto a mobile device too. That said I remain skeptical about our ability or willingness to move many of the authoring tasks to a mobile screen and keyboard. Sure we can author e-mails, although most users write only short ones on their BlackBerry, while the longer ones usually have to wait until you get to your laptop.

But wait, you might say. How about a plug-in keyboard and a monitor/projector screen for a mobile device? Well, we will see. First, if you have to plug in a mouse, keyboard and a monitor/projector into a docking station you lose mobility. And yes, maybe we really move away from keyboard entry towards speech recognition and mouse and keyboard become obsolete. But for now, I don’t see any Photoshop artists or AutoCAD designers abandoning their Macs and workstations.

1 comment:

  1. We would agree to this. There is nothing like the larger screen and the wider key-board. In fact, we were considering buying the netbooks - but later on decided on entry level laptops, precisely for this reason! Mobiles need to come a long way before they could hope to de-throne Microsoft from its strong hold. But that can also happen if the cloud, which Google is betting on, becomes a success on the desktop!

    Probably, if we could get fold-able mobile screens and keyboards, perhaps then we might see some transition happening!