Happiness is a new computer

Happiness is a new computer

Summary: Buying the latest iPad may not excite the imagination, but a new high-performance desktop gets everybody excited.

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There might be a lot of commentary here on ZDNet about living in the post-PC world, but the responses from my friends and colleagues to some new computing hardware that I've acquired this week leads me to believe that  the PC is alive and well.  It's always interesting to see how the non-technical community responds to technology advances, and is a good reminder of how those of us in the technology business tend to be somewhat isolated from the real world user.  And by non-technical community I simply mean people whose jobs are not IT focused.

I like to think I have a good idea of how the mythical average computer user feels about new technologies; my consulting business, focused on the SMB market) is oddly fragmented between clients who are up to date on the latest technology issues and have large investments in computing hardware, datacenter colo's, and are looking for more cost effective solutions, and companies who generate significant revenue without having any major computing infrastructure and are looking to grow to the next level.  This gives me a pretty good overall view of how technologies are used and accepted by business consumers.

Yet when I posted on a few social networking sites I frequent about the new computing tools arriving this week, I didn't get exactly the response I expected. The first thing I posted was a quick screen shot of my order confirmation for the new iPad.  This garnered a few likes and some comments that indicated surprise that I had jumped on the iPad bandwagon.

Much like my colleague David Gewirtz, I'm buying the iPad only because I need to own and use one to talk and write about it intelligently, and I have at least one client that wants me to evaluate it for deployment in their business. Posting the information that I was buying one also resulted in a few client phone calls asking me about my motivations for the purchase, but all in all the response was somewhat ho hum.  Perhaps there was simply the expectation that an iPad was something that I would have given its high profile in the technical community.

A few days after my iPad order, my new primary desktop computer showed up, custom built to my specs, it had been ordered a month previously.  Unlike the gadget flavor of the month, I tend to use my desktop computer for four or five years, for everything from my daily work, to occasional gaming, to rendering the video projects that make up about 20% of my consulting business. This being the case I try to buy fairly high-end systems so I don't get too far behind the curve over the useful life of the box (the computer being replaced was a top of the line Dell XPS 720).

Posting about this new desktop, on the same social networking sites, resulted in no less than 200 comments from various people, ranging from comments on my choice of components to questions about the software I use for rendering and the relative performance of the new system versus the old. What was also surprising were many of the technical discussions that were spun off from my posts (merits of Sandy Bridge-E vs. Sandy Bridge, why not wait for Ivy Bridge, processor water cooling for day to day use, and many others).

This was from a much broader audience, not primarily technology driven, and yet they wee extremely interested in many of the technologies involved, software choices for photo and video editing, and a plethora of things that you won't be doing on a tablet anytime soon. Direct questions ran from why I did a custom build to why I chose to use four 24" 1900 x 1200 monitors as my standard display setup. And for you hardcore overclocking fans, I've dropped the OC to 44 * 100 with a vCore of 1.375 volts for daily use, stability tested with both Intel Burn Test and Prime95.

So what did I take away from this week?  While it seems that tablet announcements may draw all the press, to the average user, they've moved into the commodity category.  Maybe that's a good thing for Apple and a bad thing for Android. If non-fan boy users (on either side of the aisle) just have an expectation of tablet performance and usability (once you remove all the press hoopla) tablets may become as ubiquitous as a TV set.  But it seems that hot PC hardware still can excite the imagination of many desktop computing users.

Topics: iPad, CXO, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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32 comments
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  • YES! Nothing like being able to customize to YOUR needs.

    There's always a need to idiot-proof product configuration. (e.g. iPad) But having the ability to get it all, to the very last detail, EXACTLY how you want it is, is, well "powerlicious." (sorry about that.) p.s. please notice I didn't say anything about the OS, the "best" OS does not exist.
    Bruce Lang
    • Applications

      It's applications that matter, not the hardware or the OS; they just enable the applications.

      Really nobody buys a computer to run the OS (do they?) even a developer will buy the computer to run the developer environment (IDE, Languages, Frameworks).

      Specifying the exact this or that doohicky in your computer is rather beside the point, is it ISV certified for the application you want to run? If not, then it's at best a gamble, at worst a toy.
      jeremychappell
      • Half-Truth

        I appreciate the complete and easy solution that Apple brings to the table, however, the OS does make the difference depending on what you use it for. If all you are using it for is to play games, then the OS doesn't matter. If it's being used as your central hub for information dissemination, then I'd be inclined to disagree. When I unlock my tablet, do I want to see a row of icons with 10 different places to gather my information, or do I want to see a dashboard with the latest information compiled in one neatly organized display?

        In my scenario, the OS does make all the difference.
        thoiness
      • "Toyz"

        Intel i7 2600k (AmTech Custom Computers)
        P67 ASRock
        DDR3 1333CL7
        (2X) AMD HD 6870
        SSD 128GB
        WD 320GB
        Samsung Bluray
        Sony DVD
        Gold+ 850w PSU
        Creative Complete Sound/Speakers

        AMD Athlon II 455 (Service Computer)
        Foxconn A88MV
        DDR3 1600CL8
        AMD HD 6850
        ASUS DVD
        Thermaltake Silver 500w PSU
        Samsung Spin point 320GB
        WD 500GB

        "Apple stuff is on track to be an enterprise standard; and with metro coming Linux Wine may very well be my next platform for home fun."
        Zurk_Orkin
    • The "best" OS, does exist; what does not exist is the "perfect" OS;

      and there never will be a perfect OS.

      When comparing things, the best is the one that performs according to specifications and expectations of the particular user/consumer. And, there will be different "bests" out there, because, not everyone has the same perception and/or the same expectations.
      adornoe
  • err...

    Trouble is "post-PC" doesn't mean what you think it does. You think "post-PC" means the PC is "dead". That's not what it means. It means the PC is no longer the centre of things. Apple called this "the digital hub", with the PC at its centre (even if that PC was a Mac!)

    Clearly we ARE living in a "post-PC" world. We all use the Internet as the centre more and more. We store information there, and it doesn't matter if we access it through a PC, and Smartphone or a "post-PC device".

    So should your "hot new desktop" be interesting? Sure, why not? But don't be surprised when your blog is read by a significant (and increasing) number of "post-PC" devices.

    The iPad is to the PC as the Walkman was to the turntable.

    Apple don't want to replace the PC - they make money off them, even if they are Macs!

    Also, pretty much everything in Apple's various online stores was created on a PC (even if ... you get the idea) Without this the iPad is much less compelling. But the PC does exist, and the iPad is very, very compelling.
    jeremychappell
    • When you can create and build the next gen iPad on an iPad

      then the PC is dead.
      William Farrel
      • If...

        If you run Xcode, or iBooks Author, or Final Cut Pro X, or Logic Pro on a Mac today, you'd probably think that the iPad still needs those tools to exist (for Windows equivalents - where they exist). I know I do. That's not even thinking about things outside the Apple ecosystem. What about professional web development tools? Could you really create dynamic compelling web experiences on a 9.7" screen?

        Some people think the need for a PC (or Mac) makes the iPad useless, but I think the truth is quite different. The iPad extends the realm of the digital beyond the PC and smartphone - using it to deliver database applications direct to workers "in the field" for example.

        I see it used for business applications everyday, but those desktops and laptops still have a place, and not just in the server room.
        jeremychappell
      • The PC is a post-PC device too by this definition

        It too is an internet appliance.
        Schoolboy Bob
    • err... NOT even close...

      "post PC" is a term, invented to try to make a dream come true, and wishing to make things happen, is not the same as it being true.

      "post PC" is not even close, and it may never happen. In fact, in the view of many, it's impossible for it to happen, because, the tablets, which are supposed to supplant the "PCs", are the new PCs, with the difference being, the tablets are designed with mobility in mind. Furthermore, the more those tablets mature, the more they become like the older PCs, because, they're getting upgraded to be like the laptops, with more features that will eventually make them the "newer generation" of PCs, but with a lot more portability. In fact, it's the newer generation of the "real" PCs, that are becoming more like tablets, with the Mac Airs and the "ultrabooks", which are highly portable and still packing a lot more power than the tablets, and with full-featured OSes. There is a line in the middle at which both form-factors are destined to meet, with PCs gaining a lot of the portability features of the tablets, and the tablets gaining some of the more powerful features of the PCs. In essence, PCs of the future are what the tablets are becoming.

      However, if one were to examine the whole PC/tablet scenario vs the silly "post PC" term, it never really was anything more than a PC, because, the tablets of today are a lot more powerful than the PCs of ten years ago, yet 10 years ago, they were still being called PCs. Apple execs felt the need to differentiate their tech from the rest of the pack, mostly as a sales and marketing gimmick. But, the reality is that, they're still PCs; they're still PCs because, they're intended to accomplish most or all of the same tasks as the more established PC form factor.

      Having said all of that, the PC will still be king, because, the portable form factors won't be able to replace the reasons that people want the more powerful machines, with their terabyte storage, and many gigabytes main memory, and the many ports, and the huge screens which can also be used for just about any media need, such as watching movies and TV; no tablet (or laptop), can replace the experience of viewing a movie or TV station on a large screen.

      But, you "post PC" terminology advocates can keep trying, and perhaps someday, you'll come up with a real "post PC" device to replace the current crop of PCs, but, it better have a highly portable 42 inch monitor, at least 12 terabytes of storage, 32 gigabytes of main memory, a few ports for connectivity, unlimited broadband access at a very reasonable price per month ($45/month?). (Perhaps the 42" monitor is too much, but, perhaps a 37" monitor that can be "folded" into a tiny package, or at least a built-in projector?) ;)
      adornoe
  • This.

    I was way more giddy getting a shiny new laptop or building a desktop than I did getting my iPad 2. I admit, I bought into the hype, used the iPad for a little while, then gave it away to my dad because everything else I had did the job a hundred times better. Even if it's just manipulating a website. The web in general just feels clunky on a tablet. Give me a mouse and keyboard any day of the week.
    Aerowind
    • That.

      "then gave it away to my dad because..."
      What did your dad do with it? Trash it or, like my family members, finally happy that he has a computer that he can use to do things without having to do the computer things?
      jgpmolloy
      • That's the differentiation...

        Between a techie and a consumer. The consumer just wants something that will get them through what we would consider droll utilization. The tablet is amply suited for this, however, a common consumer may find the onscreen keyboard less than suitable for their needs.

        The average consumer, on the other hand, is not normally bouncing around tech blogs.
        thoiness
      • The problem with marketing departments

        For some reason marketing people don't think techies are consumers.
        tkejlboom
      • @tkejlboom

        Techies aren't the majority consumer.
        thoiness
  • Forgive me, but I just have to ask

    Win you win a game of Solataire, do the cards really tumble down to the bottom faster than any previously owned desktop system.

    For my money, that is the only true Performance Test of any Windows desktop system. Forget about those other benchmark tests. Let's see how fast those cards fly!
    kenosha77a
  • Excitement

    I think people get more excited about a new PC than a tablet because, tablets have already been relegated to the "appliance" category, like smartphones. You get a new one of those, you get an initial "cool" and, that's it. Tablets, while new to the real word, are old hat in the fictional world (Star Trek, CSI, etc). So, since folks have seen them from week to week on TV, its no big thing.

    A PC is like buying new car or TV set. Everyone wants to know what it can do, what does it got, and so on. Plus, its a more tangible investment than a tablet is.

    Also, I just got a new PC myself, an HP Pavillion Phoenix h9xt, delivered today. The same processor (i7 3930K), 8Gb memory (I'm adding another 8) and an nVidia GeForce GTX 550Ti (I'm adding a second one in SLI mode).

    And, yes, I'm excited! :-)
    CptMatt
  • RE: This article...

    The reason that people are more interested in your computer than your tablet is that there is nothing new under the sun for your tablet. It's essentially the same thing repackaged with a shiny new screen slapped on it. We, in the tech industry, are inundated with hordes of blogs and posts about why the iPad is so amazing (with mind numbing commentary from the peanut gallery - read: "fanboyism"), and yet, from one tablet to the next, there is little to no differentiation. A few more whiz bang features that woo our sense of impulsiveness for a fleeting moment, and then the honeymoon ends.

    A PC/Laptop is more of a diverse field where things can vary greatly, and becomes an expression of the person utilizing it. In the tech industry, you can create the processing power of a supercomputer in the array of chosen video cards alone (especially when running in SLI/XFire). The amount of RAM is variable from machine to machine, and the number of cores is reaching heights of allowing the end user to benefit from having 12 individual machines of yesterday in one computer today.

    There is no greater testament to the glory of technology than is expressed in the beauty of a modern, "decked out" machine. The processing capability surpasses, with each passing day, that of which we only dreamed possible.

    The tablet, on the other hand, is still playing catch-up on our machines of yesteryear. While it's amazing to have that kind of processing power in a hand-held device, it is still not on the same playing field as the monster under our desks (and never will be).
    thoiness
  • Can I have your PC in the next 5 years?

    I would do well with the 32 GBs of RAM.
    adacosta38
  • Agreed

    Tablets are mainly just toys designed for purchasing content- [b]especially[/b] the iPad. The iPad in fact, mainly relies on it's fanboys/fangirls, not on the quality of it's design.
    PS: I'm thinking of buying a new Linux desktop as well, and one thing I must mention: if you truly want number-crunching power, it's the GPU(s) that matter more. GPUs have a lot more FLOPS than CPUs, and if you want to bruteforce the passwords on government computers, three GTX 580s will do much better than a 990X (or even 8150) .
    marc van hoff