Are Desktop PCs Doomed?
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The age of the desktop PC appears to be over as its more portable cousin, the laptop, surges ahead with consumers clamoring for light-weight computers in funky designs for use at home, in cafes and on the train to work.
Not a single desktop model figured on online shopping portal Amazon.com's top 10 selling PC and hardware list the weekend before Christmas, while seven laptop models made the list.
It was yet another sign that the former dominance of desktop PCs is fading as wireless advances and lower prices make laptops the preferred option for millions of PC users around the world.
"On both price and performance, laptops are so competitive now it's surprising they weren't able to catch up with desktops even earlier," said iSuppli analyst Peter Lin.
"The ability to surf the Internet wirelessly at public places, the need to be able to take your office out with you when you travel, and an increasing range of notebook computers have all led to lower desktop sales."
Laptops posted a milestone in the third quarter of 2008, passing desktop PC sales for the first time, according to research group iSuppli.
With an entry level price of $300 for some basic models, laptops should bolster their position in 2009. They are forecast to take up about 55 percent of all computer shipments, according to data tracking firm IDC.
Many companies eagerly awaiting the era of the laptop are in Taiwan, maker of about 80 percent of the world's laptop PCs. They include the world's top two contract manufacturers, Quanta and Compal Electronics, and two of the most aggressive laptop brands, Acer and Asustek.
While those firms have seen their market share rise, the world's top two PC makers overall, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, have seen their share shrink.
Other companies that produce parts such as motherboards for bulky desktop PCs are already switching production to parts for other electronic gadgets such as iPhones.
While laptops used to cost more than double that of a desktop with equivalent processing power, advances in technology and economies of scale have dragged prices down so much that little price differentiation exists today for most consumers looking for a daily use PC, analysts say.
"It's just evolutionary I suppose," said Gartner analyst Tracy Tsai. "Things have reached a point where the price difference is no longer as pronounced as before for many consumers, and the average person is more likely to choose the option that offers him portability over the one that doesn't."