Make the Case for Desktop Computing

Ubiquitous mobile computing is rapidly gaining adoption and will soon render desktops obsolete, believes the head of IT for Purdue University in Indiana. In an article over at ComputerWorld, Purdue CIO Gerry McCartney said the school is prepping for a desktop-less future:

McCartney doesn’t know what devices will dominate his campus in the years ahead — perhaps tablet computers, netbooks or some unknown device incubating in a lab somewhere. But there is one thing he does know about the future: It’s time to get rid of desktop PCs.

“This idea that I have to go to a PC and sit down and use it is as quaint as having to go to a phone to use a phone,” said McCartney, referring to land-line telephones.

Given that I dumped my last personal desktop in 2001, and returned my last “work-related” desktop at the end of 2007, right before I started at GigaOM, I am solidly in the mobile-only camp. Back in October 2008, I wrote how wireless was driving mobile computing, and laid out what it would mean for vendors such as Intel and ARM. A year later, I asked readers if the desktop had already become a dinosaur; some felt it had while others still saw it as a cheap way to manage home networks.

But if kids heading off to college these days are outfitted with tablets and notebooks, then I don’t see them electing to buy a desktop unless they’re issued one on the job — itself a decreasing possibility in an era of desktop virtualization, mobile workers and thin clients. I solicited opinions from the GigaOM team, and was surprised at how many are hanging onto the desktop as a media server, for ergonomic reasons, or because they wanted to the screen real estate and processing capability for video editing. So readers, what about y’all? Do you have a desktop? Will you buy one? What is the role of a desktop in a mobile computing world?

Image courtesy of Flickr user William Hook


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