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Will notebooks ever replace the desktop PC?

Question from the Hardware 2.0 mailbag:Will notebooks replace the desktop PC?

Question from the Hardware 2.0 mailbag:

Will notebooks replace the desktop PC?

Interesting question.

There's no doubt that notebooks are the area where PC shipments are growing the fastest. In fact, it's fair to say that desktop sales are stagnating. People and businesses spending their hard-earned cash are being tempted by the mobile aspect of notebooks and are choosing these over desktop-based silicon.

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But it's easy to read too much into short-term sales figures. My take on notebook sales is that there are two factors that are causing sales figures to shift in favor of the notebook:

  • First off, price. It's not that long ago that you were paying a very hefty premium for a notebook compared to a desktop PC. Notebooks were seen as a business tool, and as such commanded a business price tag. Over the past few years this has changed and as the price has dropped the notebook market has expanded to include home users. People who only a few years ago could dream of owning a notebook have now discovered that the dream has become a reality.
  • Secondly, we're seeing the Apple effect. There's no doubt that thanks to the halo effect of the iPod and the iPhone, that Apple products are hot (some of this might also be down to the bad rep that Vista has been receiving). Apple has done more to push users to notebooks than any other OEM.

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OK, but will the notebook replace the desktop PC? Personally, I think that this answer depends on the type of user. The low-end budget and high-end enthusiast will always be drawn to the desktop PC because this is where they get the best or biggest bang-for-the-buck. But for that huge swathe of middle-of-the-road users, these users will be tempted one way or another depending on their wants and needs at the time of purchase. Here is where notebooks are really selling, and it is here that they will continue to dominate.

For me, I'd love a portable machine that was as powerful as my desktop, but that reality is years away. I love having masses of storage, powerful GPUs, multiple optical drives, dual screens, comfortable keyboard and mouse and the ability to chop and change components as my needs (and whims) dictate. Yes, I own a notebook (and an iPod touch, and soon a Nokia N71) but this doesn't come close to doing what my main desktop system does.

Thoughts?