The Not So Imminent Death of the Desktop PC

You don’t have to look very hard to find articles that claim the writing is on the wall for the desktop PC. There is no lack of certainty that the monitor, keyboard, mouse and box combination is a relic, soon to be seen only in a glass case at your local history museum.

Plenty of reasons are given for these omens but most reference the explosion in growth of new mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones and the response to this change from the old guard such as Microsoft and Intel as they scramble to understand why they no longer dominate the market.

Death of The Desktop

There is no doubt that the desktop computer will never have the dominance of the computer marketplace it once had in the same way the development of the auto-mobile meant trains were no longer the only way to travel.

Different products designed for specific applications will naturally take up that market share where that particular application is required. If you need a computer that you can easily move around you will of course buy a laptop or a tablet over a desktop.

Some of the areas in which the desktop computer wins out are obvious. They will always be able to provide more power which is particularly important for media applications such as video editing or 3D modelling. Upgrading components can be done more easily and to a far greater degree in a desktop than with any other type of computer. And when it comes to gaming the desktop PC provides unparalleled capabilities. Fundamentally it provides the most cost effective format.

However, apart from cost these factors could be seen as relatively niche applications. But there is one key factor that means the desktop will never die. That factor is you.

Form For All

To be more precise it’s your ergonomic form. The very shape of your body means that as long as humans have a relatively human shape the majority of computer users will use a desktop PC.

Of course, the exact form of the desktop might come to vary somewhat. The newest generation of consoles are more similar to the average desktop PC than ever before. All-in-one PCs provide a desktop platform in a more compact, tidier container. Smart TV’s provide some of the capacity of a desktop through the family television and wireless, transforming laptop/tablet combinations can potentially occupy the same desk set up that we are used to with our desktops.

In the early days of the computer most machines incorporated the monitor, the computer and the keyboard into a single unit somewhat like a modern laptop but much bulkier. By the late 1970’s anthropomorphic studies were already suggesting that the different elements be separated to allow better posture for those using the computer.

Since the early 1990’s there have been Europe wide legislative guidelines on the suitable layout of employee workstations requiring that employers take reasonable steps to ensure their employee workstations are not causing undue strain on the employee.

Even with these measurements in place, a desktop workstation still has the potential to result in repetitive strain injury, repetitive motion disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome but with laptops and smaller devices these are much more likely and result in more serious injury and strain.

For employers this represents a real problem. Not only can a repetitive strain injury put a valuable employee out of commission but the employer may even be made liable for the injury.

The Right Shape

Laptops and tablets are highly unsuited to our natural ergonomic form, particularly for long periods of work. The laptop with its monitor attached to the keyboard means we either have to crane our necks to keep our hands low or type with our hands suspended to have comfortable neck posture.

Tablets and smartphones are simply not suitable for efficient typing but even when they are used for long periods they result in similar straining to laptops as the arms are held up to touch the screen.

A desktop PC configuration allows for an almost endless variety of arrangements to suit every size and shape of person. With the use of monitor arms and keyboard desk mounts employees can easily adjust desktops allowing for hot-desk arrangements and standing configurations.

The desktop set-up that makes up most of the computer workstations in our offices is arranged that way for a very good reason. It has been the mainstay of the workplace for almost forty years. Unless our heads evolve to grow out of our chests the desktop PC is unlikely to go anywhere any time soon.
photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

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