The PC is not dead, and the obits we've been reading are laughable.
Despite my poverty, I have access to an iPad. Times being what they are, some people would rather pay me with kit than with money. I'm also getting a nice HD camcorder soon.
Do I use the tablet? Rarely.
That device is superb for reading books and playing games that involve catapulting birds. But the browsing experience stinks -- jeez, do the web pages have to reload every single time
I go back to a tab? The touchscreen makes it incredibly easy to activate some unintended button or field on the webpage, causing a long delay while you try to get back to where you were.
And typing is im-freaking-possible
. If you can't use the machine for so simple a task as writing, you can't use it for computing.
At the moment, I am at my desktop, doing several things at once -- writing a blog post, researching said post, listening to some music (Kurt Atterberg is the greatest composer you never heard of) -- and pretty soon, I may fire up Photoshop to put together an illustration.
Some folks will tell you that these activities constitute "power computing." No. It's just...computing. And you can't do them on any tablet, not all at once. You need an old-fashioned desktop system.
Why, then, have PC sales slacked off? Will Oremus, writing in Slate, offers the explanation that makes the most sense to me: Computers have gotten too good
. Why upgrade when you already have what you need?
In the past, you had to replace your computer every few years or else it would become hopelessly bogged down trying to deal with the latest desktop applications, operating systems, and Internet technologies. But thanks to Moore’s Law, your average PC’s processing power now exceeds most people’s daily needs by a healthy margin. Meanwhile, the rise of the cloud has reduced the need for extra memory.
Take my situation. I haven't upgraded my 'puter since -- what was it? 2009, methinks. Sure, I've heard the siren call drawing all gadget buffs to the more powerful modern systems. I'm feeling the itch, but I lack the scratch.
So one makes do with what one has. What one has is a system that used to be fairly impressive: A fast dual-core CPU, a nice Gigabyte mobo, and 8GBs of DDR2 RAM.
Of course, the tech heads who write for Tom's Hardware will try to convince you that you need an i7 3770 CPU with 32 gigs of RAM just to open up Notepad. But the truth is that the tower buzzing next to my left foot will probably suffice for years to come, at least in the realm of 2D graphics, which is my main "power" use. Photoshop still zooms along just fine even when several gargantuan files are open, and even when there's a YouTube lecture running on the second monitor.
The machine even suffices for video creation, although elaborate motion graphics really do warrant the above-described i7 dream system. I've been editing a rather elaborate HD video on this machine, and many sequences require color correction, glitzy effects, tricky transitions, and up to eight layers of video. True, this production is in "poor man's HD" -- 720p -- and playback sometimes stutters. But the job can
Decades ago, I noticed that there was no destination my brother could reach in his new Corvette that I could not reach in my ugly, aged VW bug.
We have entered a world in which consumer electronics boast specs that, not long ago, were considered "pros only" territory. And the consumer doesn't really feel much need to go pro.
Take, for example, that camcorder headin' toward yours truly. (Naturally, I've researched the hell out of this thing.) The Canon HF M50 is a consumer model, yet it has the same sensor used in some of that company's professional machines. The main differences between the pro camcorders and the M50 are these: 1. The pro camera will probably have interchangeable lenses while I must make do with Canon's built-in lenses (which everyone says are terrific) 2. The consumer camcorder makes you go through an annoying touch screen to get to the manual controls, while a pro camera will place more of those controls on the body, in the form of buttons and doohickeys. 3. The M50 cannot deliver something called 4:2:2 color, which is too complex a matter to explain here, and which is not really that
important. (Yet even a consumer camera can output 4:2:2 color via one of those cheap new external recorders, which I probably never will buy even though they're cheap.)
Pro or no-pro, the final image is 1920x1080, which would look just fine projected at the local bijou. At least one theatrically released action movie
was shot with a camcorder worse than my forthcoming prized possession. The footage looks good. I saw that same camera sell on ebay for about $150 bucks.
So camcorders are better than ever -- yet these wonder machines are, I'm told, having a rough sales year, just like the PC. Why? Because most consumers don't need to buy a device which -- if wisely used -- can create an image that more-or-less passes for Hollywood.
Your iPhone has a video camera. If all you want is a few shots of your kid's birthday party, you don't require another piece of equipment.
Similarly, the makers of desktop computers and laptops must learn that today's machines have become really, really good -- better than most people need. They do not require replacement every few years. Maybe once a decade. When you buy a high-quality raincoat, paintbrush, coffee table or carpet, you're investing in something built to last. So too, now, with computers.
Here's another reason PC sales have slowed: Windows 8 blows like a tornado and sucks like a black hole.