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Is the Home Desktop Going Away? 102

fishdan asks: "I recently wrote a lengthy reply to Doug Barney who had written an article saying that Apple and Linux were not trying to compete on the desktop. I saved my reply in my journal, if anyone is interested. However, this got me to thinking. Game makers have said that they are going to be developing for consoles like the Xbox or Playstation, first. Rich web applications like Writely are moving much of the standard functionality of the desktop online. Email is moving rapidly to mobile devices. Given your integrated Web/Media Center/TV that runs through your high resolution screen (that everyone will have in 10 years), what is the future of the home desktop?"
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Is the Home Desktop Going Away?

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  • Homework (eew!) (Score:2, Insightful)

    'Nuff said :)
  • SETI@Home (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpaceAdmiral ( 869318 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:32PM (#14847302) Homepage
    I can't wait until I don't need to use my desktops for anything, 'cause my SETI@Home Average Credit will shoot through the roof! Soon afterwards, I will get credited for discovering the Tralfamadoreans, who, coincidently, like to give huge sums of gold to people who discover them.

    I'll just sit back and wait.
  • Same old same old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Siguy ( 634325 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:33PM (#14847309)
    We've been hearing about the death of the home desktop for the last 15 years it seems, and it never seems to get any closer.

    I'm sure that EVENTUALLY with media centers and portable tablet/handhelds getting move advanced it might become a reasonable notion, but until we're all walking around with Star Trek-esque super computers the size of a notepad, I'm not sure I see any obvious reason for the desktop to disappear anytime soon.

    • by the-amazing-blob ( 917722 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:16PM (#14847534) Journal
      I personally enjoy my desktop here. It's really nice, and I plan on using it for many more years. I don't like the idea of using mobile devices. I can't sit in my comfy chair while moving. Believe me, I've tried. Stairs and my chair do not agree.
    • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:32PM (#14847615)

      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/20/151424 4 [slashdot.org]

      With that, "ubiquitous computing" may morph into personal computers merely being interfaces for The Grid, essentially providing the basis for _all_ applications to scale like Seti@Home. Perhaps that's also why Google is interested in electronic micropayments...and it could all happen very, very quickly.

      • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Friday March 03, 2006 @09:14PM (#14847805) Homepage Journal
        The desktop is not going away any time soon. These amazing handheld all purpose gizmos are not about to replace the desktop until certain technologies are enhanced big time:

        - batteries. You can run a heavy, hot laptop for about 2-3 hours before needing a lengthy recharge. You can run a handheld PDA for roughly the same amount of time; current drain scales up proportionately. You are going to need a couple of orders of magnitude better power sources to replace a desktop; 12 hours of continuous use per day for several days, I would guess.

        - data input. The desktop/laptop has this amazing invention, the full size keyboard, that lets us enter tons of information more quickly and accurately than any other method. Having used a Palm handheld and mobile phone for years I can safely conclude that the keyboard is in no danger of being replaced. Speech recognition still sucks and that's the one possible alternative.

        - display. Desktops have awesome displays; it's not uncommon to have 19" or 24" displays these days, nice crisp LCD screens. Nothing compares to this. Teeny little 3" screens are not going to replace these any time soon.

        - storage. Desktops start at 40G of permanent storage and go up to terabytes. Nothing else can compare. What's more, our storage needs are growing, not shrinking. We're not going to switch to Pocket PC/Phone/consoles that have maybe a 10G memory card or a 30G hard disk and give up our 250 giggers.

        - connectivity. A desktop is on DSL or Cable or T1 or dial-up and is a reliable way to access the internet. Handheld devices have to be in range of a wireless hub or in network for cellular connections. The widely available connectivity for broadband handheld devices simply doesn't exist yet. My previous apartment was in some kind of Verizon dead zone, in a big suburb next to Boston so it would have been impossible to have handheld broadband or even handheld slow dialup. THere's a tremendous amount of infrastructure to be built, just to displace an existing infrastructure that works pretty well.

        As storage is further miniaturized and as voice input and battery technology improve, we will doubtless see a displacement of casual desktop/laptop use with handhelds, such as Blackberry-style email reading and Palm/PPC-style organizer functions, but for heavy lifting, the desktop will remain. When 8 megapixel cameras are the norm and everyone's using digital video cameras with their huge demand for disk space, we're going to want those capacious, fast desktops even more.

        Phones will probably get a little smarter but convergence tools such as the Treo can only do so much. People still want phones to act like phones. It's going to take a lot of tech to move us to the next level.
        • I could see laptops replacing docking stations. The Battery point is mute as you can use it while it's charging. Guess what, you can hook a laptop up to almost anything you can hook a desktop up to. Desktops do see high end tech before laptops, but they aren't far behind. My laptop may be considered a big boat of a space heater by some of you, but it does what I want it too. I can do anything I use my desktop for on my laptop and I can toss it in my backpack and take it anywhere I want. As for smaller
          • I agree with the grandpa post.

            Laptops will only replace desktops so long as they (unlike desktops, today, here in Australia) are recognized expenses for tax purposes. Otherwise, most people won't buy them because most people don't need them.

            Otherwise, given you move between an office and your home and don't really need a PC anywhere else, why pay for a machine of a family
            [a] inherently more expensive due to their monolithic construction
            [b] underpowered as compared to desktops (cpuwise, gpuwise, whether comp
            • [d] mechanically expire much sooner (from the keyboard to the optical drive to the plastic shell)

              Then I guess I must have been imagining my GRiD 1720 lasting almost fifteen years before it finally crashed back in '04. Now there's a machine you've got to admire – even with a 16MHz 286 and 4MB of RAM, it was still faster than most of the machines I own today.

              By the time the thing finally died – the hard disk and floppy drive eventually just simultaneously failed – the only "problem" with

              • the only "problem" with the entire system was a single small block of the LCD that was unreadable. (Which had been like that since we got the thing back in '95; that's what you get when you close over the screen with one of those BallPoint mice still attached...)

                With a desktop, you simply could have changed the monitor and keep the rest of the system, instead of suffering a broken display for 10 years. I call that an advantage of the desktop over the laptop.

                • “With a desktop, you simply could have changed the monitor and keep the rest of the system, instead of suffering a broken display for 10 years. I call that an advantage of the desktop over the laptop.”

                  Well, the thing is, when we got the thing it was the only one we could afford – and besides, by the time I got it (after we got a new family PC), I already had a couple desktop machines I was using anyway. The point of a laptop is that it's portable, and this one was pretty damn good consi

            • You're thinking of your own needs and priorities.

              People don't buy shiny tech for tax purposes.

              To address your points:

              [a] inherently more expensive due to their monolithic construction
              [b] underpowered as compared to desktops (cpuwise, gpuwise, whether comparing strongest models of each or same-costing models of each, you name it)

              Web and multimedia capable PCs have been pretty cheap for quite a while now...and laptops aren't much more expensive. The "underpowered" aspect just doesn't matter except for gamers
            • My home laptop means:

              * I can read my e-mail, sort photos from my camera, work on software... on the sofa with my girfriend.
              * I can run all sorts of slideshows and music at my Boys Brigade group.
              * I can do digital slideshows for friends and family whenever I want
              * I can catch up on personal projects wherever I am - on holiday, travelling with work...
              * I can run databases to let me score and manage Boys Brigade competitions wherever and whenevver I want, rather than having to do it all on paper. This weekends
          • You can see laptops replacing docking stations? What does that mean? I plug my laptop into a docking station when I am going to use it at my desk. What point is a docking station without a laptop to plug into it? I am confused. Did you mean something else?
        • > - batteries. You can run a heavy, hot laptop for about 2-3 hours before needing a lengthy recharge. You can run a handheld PDA for roughly the same amount of time; current drain scales up proportionately. You are going to need a couple of orders of magnitude better power sources to replace a desktop; 12 hours of continuous use per day for several days, I would guess.

          Laptops can connect to outlets too, but unlike desktops, they have their own battery in case no external power supplies are available, and
          • Laptops can connect to outlets too, but unlike desktops, they have their own battery in case no external power supplies are available, and that's an advantage, because no matter how bad a laptop's battery is, desktops don't even have one to compete.

            That's interesting, my desktop does - it's called a UPS. Still cost less than a comparable laptop for power and storage.

            Laptops can connect to desktop keyboards and mice too, but unlike desktops, they have their own input devices in case nothing better is availab
            • Portable hard drives are the solution for your storage problem, and unlike desktop hard drives, they are portable.
              And again usually cost from 30-40% more than the comparable internal drive, and are slower.

              You also forgot to mention that portable hard drives also work for desktops, so the GP's point is moot.

          • In the end laptops win, because they do everything desktops do and more.

            Except play games.

            Even if you're lucky enough to get a laptop with enough onboard graphics horsepower to play two-year-old 3D games, what are you going to do when you want to play the next crop of games? Buy a whole new laptop, that's what, because you sure aren't going to be able to upgrade it with a new video card.
        • The trend is already happening.

          - batteries. You can run a heavy, hot laptop for about 2-3 hours before needing a lengthy recharge. You can run a handheld PDA for roughly the same amount of time;

          A Nokia 9500 runs a full workday (and then some) on a single charge. Each newer device gets better, and soon all devices will carry enough juice for the average Joe.

          - data input. The desktop/laptop has this amazing invention, the full size keyboard, that lets us enter tons of information more quickly and a
        • Your battery argument is bogus. Laptops have infinitely better battery life than desktops, and work just as well when plugged in, which is how the vast majority are actually being used.

          Batteries are really one of the two main advantages of laptops, the other being the portability.

          The real anti battery argument you could have made (but didn't) is that in order to extend battery life, laptops get crippled versions of CPUs and other components, that bring down usefulnes even when plugged in.

        • I never said desktops would go away, just that their purpose as we recently have thought of it is already in the process of changing so drastically that the distinction between desktop, laptop, handheld and all manner of both stationary and mobile devices will become practically meaningless. Perhaps I did not say that in those words, but that was my point. So what if a device of any form, desktop included, has X amount of ram or processor speed if it can connect to a 1 million CPU grid with exabytes of stor
      • Yeah, which is to say simply that it is largely a matter of perception. When 51% of households have "media" PCs that "also" do PC stuff "on the site", I'm sure Time and Newsweek will have cover stories on the fascinating new "death of the PC".

        Probably a good thing, actually, because it will mark the point where PCs are an integrated and accepted appliance in the home of "Joe Average".

    • When we have Star Trek-esque super computers the size of a notepad, I'm sure that we'll have home desktop computers that have double, triple, or even quadruple the power of the "notedpads."
    • ... but until we're all walking around with Star Trek-esque super computers the size of a notepad, I'm not sure I see any obvious reason for the desktop to disappear anytime soon.

      Even then desktops will be around if only to start a web browser. So there will always be remote web applications as will be local binary applications. The only difference is which kind for what task.

      But what will change is that applications either on the web or local will become cross-platform since sooner or later nobody ca

    • I'm sure that EVENTUALLY with media centers and portable tablet/handhelds getting move advanced it might become a reasonable notion, but until we're all walking around with Star Trek-esque super computers the size of a notepad, I'm not sure I see any obvious reason for the desktop to disappear anytime soon.

      from my perspective, there still are problems with other technologies:

      LAPTOPS: There is a power and convenience vs. size and heat tradeoff. I personally don't like fast laptops for several reasons.

  • Man, they keep upping the specs on the video card, processor, memory, etc for all the games.

    But maybe by 2020 we'll see the home PC get phased out.

    I think we're more likely to see home PCs use more wireless keyboards and run off the HDTV screens, though, and as console game systems improve, we might see fewer people buy home PCs.
  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:34PM (#14847321)

    Both the desktop and BSD seem to be under the weather lately, and might be dying.
  • The desktop will only evolve. Eventually, of course, it may evolve to the point where it's no longer recognizable for its original form but I don't believe anything will dethrone the computer in its functionality and its versatility, despite how many can-do-great-things devices will be made. Hybrids will be made, and very niche-devices will be tailored to this-executive, and that-mother-of-four but I can't see anything just up and throwing the desktop computer way from being the central system to which all
    • I tend to agree, PC is the only game system to me. The only thing that concerns me when a new game comes out is when will it be out for PC. I find that sitting back in my comp chair, mouse in hand is much more comfortable than controller, hunched on the couch. I will never buy another console again. One other point, how can the PC die when so many people love them for more than just games, my penchant for upgrading borders on addiction. I love building systems and then tinkering/fucking around with them.
    • No, it's not going to evolve! It's going to be intelligently re-designed!
    • It already has! I used to have a PC in a full-sized ATX, big big black case with a lot of noisy fans... Now, I've got this 2" tall, 6.5" box [apple.com] on my desk. Trust me... THIS IS evolution!
  • I'm sure we're really not that far off from having every desk come standard with an embedded system built right into its top. Maybe with some sort of holographic projection instead of those old-school LCD flatscreens.

    My only real point: it's a total no-brainer that desktop computing systems, as we know them now, are going to disappear. Computer technology gets old, and it gets there fast.
    • I'm sure we're really not that far off from having every desk come standard with an embedded system built right into its top.

      MCP: I was planning to hit the Pentagon next week.
      Dillinger: The Pentagon?
      MCP: It shouldn't be any harder than any other company. But now, this is what I get for using humans.
      Dillinger: Now, wait a minute, I wrote you.
      MCP: I've gotten 2,415 times smarter since then.
  • by fractalrock ( 662410 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:41PM (#14847373)
    "Given your integrated Web/Media Center/TV that runs through your high resolution screen (that everyone will have in 10 years)"

    An "integrated Web/Media Center" that runs a high resolution screen sounds a lot like a personal computer. Are you simply inquiring as to the physical location of the typical home computer in the future? I'm guessing many people would be happy with only one computer, hooked up to a T.V....but any user who is even *remotely* hardcore will always have a computer at their desk. It's a tool, just like a pen or stapler.

    Plus, I doubt LCD TV or Plasma screens will ever be low enough that the average income...such as myself...can afford multiple displays (which I *need*) on their Media Center.
    • This is an excellent point. I like to do work in the office. I like to watch movies in the living room. Most likely, I'll need 2 boxes, and will buy boxes that suit my needs.

      That said, the idea of a tivo/cable box/media center thin client that runs firefox/writely/zimbra seems like it would work for a lot of people. That gmail thing seems to be catching on, too.

      Most likely, everyone here will have a destkop (or 2 or 3 or 4) for the forseeable future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:41PM (#14847374)
    There is no question in my mind that a "personal server" will emerge at some point. The key to this will be local data storage where all ajax-type web services will be centralized around an individual's network-aware, server-based, personal data store. It will likely be automatically redundant (as in a "personal grid"), and totally clustered. Many devices will just read from it. Why on earth does voice mail get stored at each wireless carrier's data center? What if you could have your devices just connect in and read from your personal server wirelessly instead of synchronizing? Anyone who has had to mess with any sort of synchronization tech. should recognize its shortcomings. So, if I wanted to get to my contacts from my mobile device, the device would just connect securely over the network into my personal server and show me a "view" of my contacts. Same thing for just about all data, except that certain large data types might have to have "personal" content delivery networking technology to facilitate availability to different edge devices, such as a MP3 player, a car, or a friend's livingroom as you show up for a party and want to have a smaller catalogue of the most recently played tracks available locally at their edge for quick access.

    Whatever the conjecture, we have entered the age of the personal server.
    • I don't think we will ever see average joe owning his own server. No matter how easy or cheap it gets servers are not a concept that the average person really gets and this isn't about to change in the next 15 years.

      I think your more likely to see diskless systems and fiber to the home. Hell ADSL is fast enough to stream better than cable quality xvid encoded video now. The powers at be don't want people to own massive collections of media and what else do you need all the HD space for on a Personal Compute
      • I don't think we will ever see average joe owning his own server.

        I disagree. My son (who uses the computer as a tool, not as a hobby or as a software geek) is living in a house with three other people, and between them they have I think it is 6 computers (laptops & desktops) hooked into a wireless LAN. It's all off-the-shelf stuff, with a little bit of help from the local geek (not me, although I did buy at leat one of the computers). None of them are computer geeks -- I'd put them all at the joe-

      • I disagree too. You're talking about current technology being no good for the average user to have a server. Which is true, sort of.

        Actually, I think the technology is just fine. The problem is the execution of it. Servers are SUPPOSED to be big and scary. Really though, what does the average user need in a home server? Fileserver. E-mail would be cool. From there you can add some things like a streaming music server, maybe video, whatever. But primarily they need the FILESERVER. Everything else i
  • Vista SP4 (Score:2, Funny)

    by shawn443 ( 882648 )
    The desktop in ten years will be a mundane announcement that Vista is no longer supported. Get your copy of Vista SP4 now.
  • Big Roadblocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HunterZ ( 20035 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:54PM (#14847436) Journal
    I'm somewhat opposed to the home desktop being replaced by a dumb terminal, mostly on the grounds that it will reduce user privacy and artifically limit the scope of possible use. There are a couple of factors to consider, however:

    1. At least in the U.S., there just isn't a good enough broadband Internet infrastructure to handle the bandwidth required to drive a dumb terminal and provide anything near the current desktop experience with games, movies, etc.

    2. Even if point 1 wasn't an issue, it'd still be a gradual process to get people to switch to something like that, plus it would take time for various service providers to come up with the hardware and software infrastructure to do it, and finally there'd be a big market war.

    3. There's also the point to be made that Microsoft still maintains its industry presence largely via Windows, and a move to dumb terminals plugged into a server-side experience would cause a dramatic shift in Windows' - and thus Microsoft's - role (if not toss it right out the window, pun intended).

    Bottom line: I give desktops at least another 10-20 years before someone vaulted into the future from today would have a hard time recognizing a home computer.
    • Re:Big Roadblocks (Score:4, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @09:33PM (#14847876) Journal
      1. At least in the U.S., there just isn't a good enough broadband Internet infrastructure to handle the bandwidth required to drive a dumb terminal and provide anything near the current desktop experience with games, movies, etc.

      There's more than enough bandwidth for remote desktops. Video is a slightly more difficult issue, but that could be EASILY handled by on-the-fly MPEG-2 compression at the datacenter, and a dirt-cheap MPEG-2 decoding chip in the thin clients. Games are a non-starter, but other than that, I think we're ready to go.

      2. Even if point 1 wasn't an issue, it'd still be a gradual process to get people to switch to something like that,

      Actually, I think you could get a very large number of people to switch right away. Offer them an "internet computer" (read thin client) for free, and only slightly higher broadband fees to cover the ISP's costs. Advertise it to the people that don't know which end of a computer is up, as something they can't possibly make a mistake on (and "low power" and "all the software you'll ever need, built-in"), and you'd have a good-sized market, almost instantly.

      plus it would take time for various service providers to come up with the hardware and software infrastructure to do it, and finally there'd be a big market war.

      When there's money to be made, believe me, the service providers can do it at record-breaking speeds. 99% of the software already exists, they'd just have to expand their datacenters, wire them up in a cluster for failover, reasonable back-ups, etc. I really can't see any reason they couldn't put this all together, and start signing customers within 6 months.

      I know I'd never sign-up for anything like that, but I know a lot of people that would fit into this model perfectly, provide there are good terms in place, and getting copies of your own data (eg. on DVD-Rs) isn't too expensive.
      • Why MPEG 2 and not MPEG 4?

        I think the selling point is going to be no more data loss and no more malware. Most average consume types I talk to find that all of this security stuff is confusing and are tired of loosing files. Thin clients put all the hardwork in security and reliablity in the datacenter.

        The whole thing has to be sold as one simple package for a reasonable price. The package must include internet, voice, media, office applications, personal webspace(blog, photo albums, shared documents, etc.
        • Why MPEG 2 and not MPEG 4?

          Because the hardware/software for encoding/decoding MPEG-2 is far cheaper, and the patent fees are significantly less as well. The bandwidth really shouldn't be an issue.

          Also thin client is not the same as VNC or remote desktop,

          It certainly is. Thin clients aren't dumb terminals. The client is only doing some basic compression/decompression. You can easily find RDP/Citrix thin clients. Unfortunately, I haven't seen VNC thin clients yet, most likely because dirt-cheap (old) har

        • Sorry but you can't use video compression on the internet. That idea has been patented and this company will sue you: http://www.acaciatechnologies.com/ [acaciatechnologies.com]
      • Advertise it to the people that don't know which end of a computer is up, as something they can't possibly make a mistake on (and "low power" and "all the software you'll ever need, built-in"), and you'd have a good-sized market, almost instantly.

        Haven't they done this multiple times before - say like the iOpener or WebTV? Why has it never taken off?
        • Haven't they done this multiple times before - say like the iOpener or WebTV?

          No. Those were browser-only computers. They couldn't be used to put together documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, watch videos (let alone re-encoding). Hell, you couldn't even store anything except your bookmarks on those things.

          Unlike those "web applicances" this will be a full-fledged (managed) computer, it will just be at the datacenter, instead of being in your house.

  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:54PM (#14847437)
    ... was that isp's would start offering completely managed hosted desktops for people (rdp, X, vnc, whatever). The idea is that for many many internet users (eg computer illiterate moms and dads keeping in touch with the kids and grandkids), the entire set of applications they use consist of a web browser, an email client, and solitaire.

    For a few extra dollars a month, the isp would provide them with a thin client (either a complete hardware and software package or a cd that would boot on an existing pc), and they'd never have to worry about anything like backups and security again. Email and documents would be stored at the ISP (but readily accessible somehow...). If they botch their browser or email config or something, the ISP would be able to fix it with a few button clicks.

    Obviously you'd have to place some trust in the ISP to adequately protect your data etc, but if your data consists of emails like 'little johnny took his first steps today, here's a picture', then it's of limited value to anyone anyway.

    Hasn't happened yet though.

    • We can only hope. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aprilsound ( 412645 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:23PM (#14847569) Homepage
      The idea is that for many many internet users (eg computer illiterate moms and dads keeping in touch with the kids and grandkids), the entire set of applications they use consist of a web browser, an email client, and solitaire. ... For a few extra dollars a month, the isp would provide them with a thin client (either a complete hardware and software package or a cd that would boot on an existing pc)

      Remember WebTV? It was supposed to be the internet for people too dumb/old/poor for a PC. I remember we got it for my grandmother. It sucked pretty bad, and the fact that it only did the basic things was still too much for her. The problem was that no one else knew how to use it either, since everyone else has a PC.

      Now she has a PC that's riddled with spyware. What she should have is a machine with a smallish(5G), noexec hard drive + smaller (1G) HD for swap space, in a $100 box that runs BOOTP or something to her ISP. Every morning, she turns it on and it pulls down the OS image, in fact the same OS image that every client of the ISP gets. Tech support becomes "Reboot the box."

      That's all 90% of home PCs need to be. But then those semi-tech literate kids at Best Buy wouldn't have anyone to lecture about spyware anymore. Very sad.

      • Tech support becomes "Reboot the box."

        Isn't that the default scripted instruction from 1st level support anyway? :)
        • Scripted or not, isn't it true that simply rebooting fixes a whole host of Windows problems. It's the first thing done because that's often all that's needed.
          • <pedantic>It might fix the symptom of the underlying problem, but not the problem itself. Fortunately, most people don't know that :)</pedantic>

            There was a dilbert cartoon that went something like this:
            Dogbert: Picks up phone. Answers with "shutup and reboot". Hangs up
            Dogbert: <repeat of above>
            Dogbert: . o O {hmmm... my call times are improving}

            that always springs to mind when I hear of someone instructing a user to reboot a computer to fix a problem :)
      • Strip out the hard disks and what you have described is an ISP-model Sun Ray configuration. The "computer" becomes a cellphone-like appliance that can be swapped in or out; everything runs on the ISP's computer.

        Of course, people won't go for it when money becomes an issue.

      • My aunt has a webTV and she still uses it. It is a web and email terminal. It never needs technical support. It hasn't crashed or needed support in 4 years. The cost of ownership has been exactly equal to the monthly payments which is half the cost of the add-on for a cable modem. She's checks her email and replies within 24 hours.

        For somebody who doesn't need to create content and is complacent with not having to watch movies, play music, or put up with pop-ups, virus plan renewals, etc... the WebTV
      • You could create something like this for her without too much hassle.
        Just find an old system and put Ubuntu on it. Set it to do an apt-get every night at like 4 am and you are all set.
        If you want to ditch the drives put a USB pen drive on it. A small flashed based system isn't that hard to make anymore.
      • Every morning, she turns it on and it pulls down the OS image, in fact the same OS image that every client of the ISP gets. Tech support becomes "Reboot the box."

        The vast majority of tech support these days is *already*, "Reboot the box."

        With your proposed thin client, that would have a much better chance of working!

    • Hasn't happened yet? Are you kidding? That's AOL.
    • The idea is that for many many internet users (eg computer illiterate moms and dads keeping in touch with the kids and grandkids), the entire set of applications they use consist of a web browser, an email client, and solitaire. For a few extra dollars a month, the isp would provide them with a thin client ..., and they'd never have to worry about anything like backups and security again.
      The people you're describing don't understand what a backup is, or how to approach security. These are the people who
    • We tried to do that with the Dot.Station, but it didn't sell in the U.S. we did get a good size customer in Spain though. There was no Microsoft involved, everything was managed at the Network Operation Center. It was designed for upgrades, multi-language, and seemed fairly easy to use.
      By the end of the project, it was broadband enabled and quite nice. I keep expecting some other group to resurrect it into an even better system.

      Something like that would be perfect for my Parents. Remote desktop over dia
  • by Spock the Baptist ( 455355 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @07:57PM (#14847451) Journal
    I'm sitting at home right now typing this post on a G5 PowerMac. Sitting next to me is my cousin's new Mac Mini. I'm waiting on a 20" Apple flat panel display before setting things up at her house. Here's the deal: The Mac Mini will be in placed in my cousin's cupboard, with all the wiring hidden. The flatpanel will be attached to the wall to the side of the cupboard, and a small cantilevered ledge, that has already been built will serve as the home to the keyboard, and optical trackball. This whole set up is very easily to get to, and is situated so that you almost must be able to view the flatpanel if you are in the kitchen. My cousin and her family will use this set up to do most of their online activities, e-mail, web surfing etc.. It will also serve as a bulletin board, family calender etc., and my cousin will have all her recipes stored on the beast. She'll be able to read them from anywhere in the kitchen with out her glasses. (Yes that means large print.) They will also have an nice speaker system in the kitchen and use iTunes for music. If they so choose, they can also view DVDs with their meals. So then where is the desktop? The only 'top' is the small ledge for the keyboard, and trackball, and there's no way that I'd call that a desktop as there's no desk just the small ledge.
  • by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:08PM (#14847491)
    I've got about as many computers as anyone normally does --- I admit there's a guy who works for me who has 20-odd Sun servers at home, but that's certainly an outlier --- and I tend, increasingly, to do the daily basic stuff on web applications: Basecamp, spongecell, gmail, a web-enabled exchange email (ick), Writely, celtx, iJot ....

    I program on my local box, I do heavy graphics on my local box, but those are't the usual day to day applications.

    Using web apps means my data is accessible from nearly anywhere. If I'm really concerned about privacy, I keep it on a thumb drive, but there's darn little that I worry about.

    I'm not sure why an ordinary civilian user needs a desktop.
  • Considering the difference in speed in photo-processing between the two 2GHz computers, especially with ever increasing Megapixel count, my desktop is here to stay for the long term. On top of that, other than MacBooks, how many other laptop will be able to drive dual-link DVI monitors? My Dell laptop is sitting by my bed and getting utilized maybe 1/10th as much as my desktop. I don't see a laptop fast enough to replace my current desktop in photo-processing for another 3 years or so...

    Dell 700m - 2.0GHz P
  • by AEther141 ( 585834 ) on Friday March 03, 2006 @08:37PM (#14847637)
    I bought my current laptop several years ago and can't see myself ever needing anything more powerful. I've recorded an album on it, I've edited high-definition video on it and photoshopped 22 megapixel stills. 99% of the time however, I use it simply because it's convenient and fits in with the rest of my life, it's little more than a marginally intelligent terminal. Anything of any importance comes from somewhere else - most of the time the laptop is just a box with a KVM, a web browser and a terminal emulator and wildly overspecced for that role. The personal file server stashed under my bed holds my record and movie collection, my colocated virtual server holds my work files, runs my mailserver and provides mutt, vim and everything else I really need via SSH. Fingers crossed, 'normal people' will start switching on to the idea that they're better off leaving someone else to run their software and store their files, a glorious return to the mainframe era and a huge leap towards computing that 'just works. Services like Gmail are spreading the meme, I reckon the next IT boom will be in web-based apps.

    I have no problem finding public terminals in libraries, friends houses and coffeeshops that I can boot from a USB key or a businesscard CD, so perversely don't take my laptop on the road. I could be rendered homeless tomorrow and my clients wouldn't notice. It's a barely perceptible but immensely powerful change in the world - net access isn't ubiquitous, but it can be found for free or at nominal cost just about anywhere in the developed (or even semi-developed) world, as easily found as a public restroom or a dumpster full of yesterday's bagels [kuro5hin.org]. People like the homeless guy [blogspot.com] are as much a part of the information age as the rest of us. That's world-changing stuff that no-one really notices.

    • There is a massive market of people out there with a computer that is good enough now.

      What do most adults do with their home PC? Edit photos, home accounts, type a letter or two, use a browser, collect their email.

      We have PCs that are "good enough". The interfaces are "good enough" (wifi, USB2), the recording media devices are "good enough" (recordable DVD, flash drives), and the PCs in terms of speed are now just waiting for the users.

      This doesn't bode well for Microsoft's home market, because I real

  • Given your integrated Web/Media Center/TV that runs through your high resolution screen (that everyone will have in 10 years), ...that mythological "convergence device", that'll bring together everything in this wonderful media center? Sorry, I've sorta stopped believing in that. the whole wording is like "when we in 10 years all have flying cars..." I imagine I'll maybe have a separate HiDef player, a console for games, a PVR in my satellite/cable reciever... but I still imagine a computer will be invaluab
  • nope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by illuminatedwax ( 537131 ) <stdrange@@@alumni...uchicago...edu> on Friday March 03, 2006 @09:36PM (#14847884) Journal
    It's not going to happen, not in America, ever. Maybe the "desktop" will disappear, but the "home computer that contains everything " will not. Why? We don't like not being in control. There are problems with having a computer based on network computing: 1) It requires constant access to use; 2) You don't keep your data. Everyone likes having their Own Stuff, and desktops are not going to disappear for the same reason that people will never completely stop driving and start using public transportation. You want the freedom that desktop computers allow you: privacy, ease of use, and personalization. Who wants to be tethered to the internet all the time? What I do see in the future is an easier way to store data online so that it is retreivable everywhere. Already many people don't use portable storage anymore - they just save it on the net and download it from wherever they are going. If network speed increases faster than our average file size, portable storage will disappear completely. And what's more is that you will probably have a large portion of your hard drive mirrored somewhere, or alternatively, people will learn to run servers (or they will be made easy to use) so they can download files themselves. Although this should be obvious already.
    • for the same reason that people will never completely stop driving and start using public transportation.

      I'm going to go off-topic a bit here. I'm not sure I buy your reasoning behind why people will never rely solely on public transportation. It's not because we like to have our own cars, or our privacy, or our own schedule. It is, but that's not the deal-breaker. More people would use public transportation significantly more if a few key pieces are put in place:

      • More service. Busses and trains n
      • Oddly enough, Bangalore's suburbs have a far higher population density than the central city. This is mostly because the new housing in the suburbs is multi-storeyed buildings, while the old town is single houses.
      • Yes, but people sure as hell still use cars in New York. In fact, so many do that's why people prefer to take the subway.

        Japan I think has a different mindset. How many people in rural areas have the ability to carpool but don't? Japan has railways that will take you to just about anywhere you might possibly want to go in the entire country. America doesn't. There's something impeding the transition from highways to public transit, and it's not necessarily that there's not enough transportation - it's a chi
    • That, and probably like public transportation, it won't provide as nice an experience. I would think about some remote terminal kind of computing if I got as good or better an experience than with dedicated hardware. But that'll never happen. What will happen is it'll be oversubscribed and overused. It has to be to make it worth while. You can't afford to give me a whole dedicated desktop's worth of power and not charge me a desktop's worth of money. So it'll be a situation that you'll maybe have more peak
  • I don't know what the device will be in 10 years, but I know I'll use it in my home office. I've got my house set up for a place to work - and I'll want a computing device in there. 10 years isn't going to change that, I like my desk too much.

    Will it be the same device that I play video games with in my living room? Maybe, but I know I'm not going to email in my home theater room.

    The device might converge, but my life isn't going to.
  • Yeah...cyberbrains, the computer implanted directly to the brain in the Ghost In The Shell anime series. Now THAT would rock.
  • Home desktops aren't going away so much as they're evolving to fill new roles and needs, as they've done for twenty years now. First they adapted to BBS, then to the Internet with modems, then to the Internet with broadband. Now with mulitmedia becoming essentially computerized, PCs are simply becoming hub controllers for our home electronics systems. We will indeed see many "Internet Appliances" become successful, but none of them will replace the PC entirely. Your PC will likely be your home manager, runn
  • The future of the desktop is healthy.
  • The future home desktop is a cell phone sitting in a docking station running vncviewer (or similar) to a session server available for a monthly fee. The applications are pretty much the same - you just don't have to worry about system configuration, backups, hardware/software upgrades, power outages, computing resource limitations, spyware, or virus protection. Anywhere you go, you'll be able to access this data and your session will never end.

  • by eechuah ( 30147 )
    I don't have a desktop anymore. Both myself and my wife use laptops, and the living room contains a heavy duty Linux box with Mythtv on it. When I need to do something heavy duty, I ssh/vnc to that box. Otherwise, the laptop is great. The only drawback is games... but I'm only pretty much playing MAME nowadays.
  • The days of the Large desktop are numbered... It's the small machines [wikipedia.org]that will take over the home.
    Your wife will love them as you can build it into the decor.
  • Gaming (Score:3, Informative)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @02:21AM (#14848850) Homepage
    Game makers have said that they are going to be developing for consoles like the Xbox or Playstation, first.

    As a former games programmer, I'll respond to this. Games firms always start out on the open PC platform, then try to graduate into the more profitable and high-end console business. It's deceptive, because at the same time there are new games developers popping up to add other PC games.

    It's like interviewing college students, finding that they all want to graduate and get a job, and concluding that soon no one will be attending college.

  • Split the desktop computer into various parts. These parts then combine to give us a fuller, more powerful computing experience.

    My ideal world (in terms of computing):

    My PDA (not much smaller than today's cellphones) has the ability to display a keyboard on any surface (this exists today). It can somehow emulate a screen in the air (holographic technology) or transmit video signals directly to my retinas (this exists today as well). The wireless network (WiMax anyone?) will be powerful enough to pi
    • There seem to be two worlds here - what we can do and what the commercial companies will actually do. Looking idealistically into the future we will have one centralised storage computer and just ways of accessing this data on a TV, PDA etc. But looking at what is really happening for commercial money making reasons is that we are getting even more incompatible machines thrust upon us such as numerous game consoles that are outdated within a few years and then the pc/apple incompatibility issue. Then Micros
  • I can see this happening, however I do not think that desktop computers will become totally extinct. I do think however that they will become less-used. These days, many people who own full desktop computers don't even need all of the things they have. Many people are quite satisfied with a web browser, email, and maybe an IM client or a data organizer. Depending on their needs, office suites might also be needed.

    But really, that is the extent of many peoples computer usage. I hear this a lot when

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