Dead for all but the hardcore PC enthusiasts
As an IT pro, gamer, and someone who's built PCs for both business and personal use, I was really excited to moderate this Great Debate.
Before I render my decision, it's important to provide a bit more clarity on this Great Debate's topic. Our debaters were arguing the pros and cons of building vs. buying desktop PCs. They weren't addressing custom-built network and datacenter hardware, such as Google's Pluto Switch, or open networking technology, such as Facebook's Open Compute Project (OCP) or Google OpenFlow protocol. That kind of "whitebox" hardware is a topic for another debate.
So does it still make sense for businesses or individuals to build their own PCs? Most debate voters and forum participants certainly think so. And Andrian made an impassioned argument that homebrewing is still practical--but only in a few narrow business situations and for the PC enthusiast.
"First off," Adrian wrote, "while I'm a huge DIY PC advocate, I'm not suggesting that business build every PC they need." Adrian also acknowledges that off-the-shelf PCs are less expensive, writing that "if you want a bunch of cheap PCs for regular desktop usage, then it's always going to be quicker and cheaper to buy these off–the-shelf than it is to build them."
Along with price, other trends are pushing the homebrew market further into obscurity. PC sales are declining. Hardware manufacturers are slowly, but surely moving away from discrete components. And consumers are migrating en masse to mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and laptops.
This doesn't mean the homebrew market will disappear tomorrow. As Jason noted, there are individuals who are "permanently fixated in a DIY worldview who can never be convinced to buy systems from OEMs." But this group of PC builders is a "small and ever declining portion of the PC using population."
For all intents and purposes, the homebrew PC is dead within the business and dying (albeit slowly) within the consumer market. I side with Jason.