When my friends ask for laptop-buying advice I tell them if they like the keyboard and screen, then its just plain hard to be disappointed with anything new.
I think I can pinpoint when this happened - It was the SSD. Getting an SSD was the last upgrade I ever needed.
Above that, PCs aren't necessary for a lot of people, because people do not need $2000 Facebook and email machines. For the median person, if you bought a PC in 2006, then got an iPad (as a gift or for yourself) and started using it a lot, you might find that you stopped turning on your PC. How could you justify the price of a new one then?
Yet if there was a major cultural shift to just tablets (which are great devices in their own right), I would be very worried. It's hard(er) to create new content on a tablet, and I don't really want that becoming the default computer for any generation.
I think its extremely healthy to have the lowest bar possible to go from "Hey I like that" to "Can I do that? Can I make it myself?"
I think its something hackers, especially those with children should ask themselves: Would I still be me, if I had grown up around primarily content consumption computing devices instead of more general purpose laptops and desktops?
Tablets are knocking the sales off of low-end PCs, but we as a society need the cheap PC to remain viable, if we want to turn as many children as possible into creators, engineers, tinkerers, and hackers.
The way forward isn't to try and keep cheap PCs viable for creativity's sake, but to ensure that creative desires are being met on the newer devices. Would I have learned memory management and dual booting if I'd had a tablet instead of a 386? Probably not. But now that same money buys a high end tablet and a pile of hours for an EC2 micro instance.
Would I still be me? No, I would be even better. All those weeks wasted fighting with modem racks for my BBS I'd gladly trade for weeks spent on a Nexus 10 and a linode.
As a result, I spent all of my childhood and teenage years reading (mostly fantasy and sci-fi; several books a week, at my peak) and programming. I taught myself programming in 7th grade because I really wanted to play Sim City, but having no gaming computers/consoles, I couldn't. However, I did have a programmable calculator for my math class.
I spent all of middle school and high school programming my own games on this underpowered (a few mhz of CPU and a few kb of memory), inconvenient (typing thousands of lines of code on this tiny keyboard is a feat) device (and yes, I did make a turn-by-turn Sim City for the TI-82). While I was doing this, a lot of my friends were playing Warcraft 3, The Sims, and watching dumb TV shows (early to mid 2000s, reality TV was just becoming big in France).
Similarly, my girlfriend's parents were very anti-TV etc. As a result, she spent her childhood and teenage years drawing, and eventually she went to a top art school (RISD) and now makes a living from her illustration and teaching art.
I'm not sure who I would be if I had grown up with an iPad and a playstation, or who my girlfriend would be if her parents had let her watch TV; no one can tell. However, I think our situations worked out really well for us; and when I have kids/teenagers (not for another decade or so), I will most definitely give them a life analog to what I experienced rather than a media-consumption heavy one. For instance, I haven't had TV ever since I moved out of my parent's house (I do have a projector for watching movies from the computer), and intend to keep it that way.
I obviously have a fairly tech heavy life right now, as a tech worker in SF, but I am trying to cut down. I am noticing that I whip out my phone every time I have a spare 30 seconds, I have several laptops and iPads laying around the house, etc. - and I like it less and less. I'm slowly selling away my excess devices, and am thinking of getting rid of my iPhone when my contract runs out (and just get a dumbphone as a replacement for emergencies). I bought a really cheap netbook, installed archlinux+xmonad on it, and am using it as my primary machine at home for web browsing + programming + LaTeX. It's harder to get distracted with this machine.
In 2011, Tom Preston-Werner said the only hardware he had at home were a waffle maker, a microwave and a bike- I like that mentality.
19 year old me would have pre-ordered a Google Glass from day one and used it with religious fervor; now, I am absolutely not interested in such a device, as I know it is just the ad billboard of the 21st century manufactured by Google.
I still have a few guilty digital pleasures; for example, I buy a lot of used video games that I wanted to play in my childhood and never could (mostly Game Boy Advance/Game Cube- the upside is that you can get 20 of those games used on Amazon for the price of 3 new current-gen games).
My hope is that over the next few months and years, I will revert to reading as much as I used to, and spend less time on Facebook/Twitter/etc. (HN is not completely in that bucket, as it leads me to write introspective comments like this, which I think is good). I think a big part of it is removing the devices that will call for your attention. My Game Boy Advance or MP3 player will never call for my attention- it just waits for me to use it. However, my iPad or iPhone will call for my attention every few minutes, which is not liberating at all. Tech should be liberating.
I've got something of a different view. I was never limited TV or game consumption. My parents had the mindset of 'you'll have to learn to self moderation at some point, better to do it when the stakes are small'. They wanted me to learn to recognize when something I enjoyed was having a negative impact. They would guide me subtly by asking me to think about time spent in various areas and what that meant. Now as an adult I've not struggled with moderation in any area. Never got pulled into MMO style games, diet isn't a challenge etc... My biggest worry is that I work too much and don't make enough time for fun.
I remember finding it odd when I'd visit a friends house and they were only allowed a certain number of sodas per day, and had regimented rules about computer time. Later on as adults, these friends almost universally struggled with various addictions real and digital (I've seen lives ruined by MMOs). To me it appeared that they weren't able to manage their own desires without outside inputs. Obviously it was a different experience for you.
My younger brother always had a really hard time with the constraints my parent set - he would watch TV and play video games in secret, and even sneakily used their credit cards to pay for the MMO he played (he was in his early teens, and my parents didn't give us any allowance- they'd just give us some money if we wanted to go out with friends, or if we wanted a book they'd buy it for us. That worked for me, but not him). At some point my parents did try to not set any limits on his TV watching habits etc., thinking he would learn to self-moderate, as you described; for those few years, he basically spent his life in front of the TV and video games, doing literally nothing else. He's in his early 20s now, and still having a hard time with such matters.
What worked for you may or may not have worked for me, and definitely didn't work on my brother; what worked for me would have probably not worked for you, and definitely did not work for my brother.
Humans are interesting creatures, aren't they :)
I had one or two good friends whose parents were more like yours, and I loved going to their house because we would play video games until 4am and eat pizza and drink unlimited Coca Cola. Doing this once or twice a month was like heaven for me, and my parents were aware of it but were fine with it happening- I guess they thought "as long as it's not in my house and not too often, it's fine". However, one of those friends did not do immensely well later in college/life, to which my parents respond "I'm not surprised".
How I wish those questions had clear cut black/white answers :P
The reason I occasionally let him stay with friends for the junk food/games/TV binge with friends is so that he learns all types of experiences. I don't believe in banning anything, just regulating. How else can we understand our world if we don't experience it for ourselves?
If I were to host the junk food/TV/games binges, I'd have to buy the console and games and stock the junk food ... Things that I just don't want to do .. So it's easier to let someone else do it.
In return, I take others kids on bush walks, to BBQs, roller skating, etc - so their kids get to do something different too.
There may be some "it doesn't happen in my house" as you suggest, but it's not my primary or secondary motivator.
You mention the gaming binges at friend's houses. If you have the opportunity, ask the parents if those marathon sessions happen on a normal night. There are a few instances in my youth were I recall overindulgence, and most were at the urging of friends. Friends who were manic in their desire to get as much time in as possible before their parents returned. The idea of 'limits against overuse don't apply the second you leave my house' is precisely what got many of my friends in trouble later in life. Merely trying to assist with perspective. Please don't take this as a critique of your view (as I'm in agreement) or parenting ability (congrats on the high test scores).
>I'm dubious about your claim, particularly as most levels of freedom and responsibility are gradual with most kids ... But I have seen stranger things.
I'd like to point out that the scenario I describe wasn't a free for all. Falling short of expectations was met with discipline and restrictions as any child could expect. Simply that regulation of tv/game time was a personal choice provided that expectations were met.
The important part is the guidance. Finding the best way to show the kiddos how to recognize a bad habit. I'm thinking a good middle ground would be a discussion where the time limits are decided, but then applied universally. Something doesn't stop being a bad habit just because you're at a friends house.
It's becoming increasingly important to get college right the first time through if only because of insane, rising costs. If it were cheap, I could probably find a class on self-moderation.
On the bright side, I find most of today's games boring, so it's rather easy to get productive.
There is some special about introducing yourself to programming on limited hardware like that. It's the sort of device that you can grow into, and which challenges you to get innovative when you start to reach its limitations. I don't believe that sort of environment is the only environment that somebody with a hacker mentality and approach can be created, but it does seem to be a good way to do it.
Iphones are great for tourtists. Unneccesary otherwise.
But I also spent so much of my time drawing, painting, and programming because I love creating things. I am unsure if TV had any negative effects. The ownership and pleasure you get from your own creations is unlike anything that TV or games can provide, and it is utterly addictive.
This feeling has been creeping on me ever since I succumbed to a smartphone for work a few years ago.
Instead of releasing me from some of the lower-level tasks I deal with day to day, this phone, these devices, nag me to pay attention to all of my friends back home, all of my old classmates, former colleagues, and all of the things they're producing / forwarding / commenting on.
I moved out of the US this summer and it took me a while to get a SIM here. I had roaming data on my work phone but couldn't use it much for the obvious cost.
It's been liberating to just live inside my head and in my immediate environment these past months. When I finally got a local number, I put the SIM in a 20EUR Samsung flip phone. I find few issues with eventually just living with that phone.
I think what I've feeling, and trying to describe, is a rejection of expanding my consciousness into the Internet. A large portion of my social groups use those social networks as extensions of themselves, for communication and interaction.
With immediate access to those channels it's difficult to ignore the draw of that technology. And not using those services regularly ends up being the same as not using them at all.
I've got a 4th gen iPad, a laptop, an external monitor + kb + mouse and a Lumia 920 right now. I still wonder at times if I should cut back a bit, but most of these devices have their uses for me.
Same here by the way, no tv, my laptops are my wife second hand ones, never owned an Apple device.
But if that is your final point, I very much disagree. Besides the fact that a computer keyboard and mouse are often vastly superior to the cramped peripherals you typically see connected to a tablet, large screens and user interfaces designed for large screens often have a huge ergonomic and productivity advantage over the tiny, touch centric interfaces for tablets.
Note: the previous paragraph only applies to the current state of apps for creative and engineering activities. It could be that five years from now, tablets and their software for creating content have evolved to a point where they rival or surpass desktop software. Or they might not. Either way, my point is that we're not there now, and creating software etc on tablets is a sub optimal experience today.
Maybe with some sort of accessory keyboard, but then you are looking at more of an ad hoc laptop than a pure tablet.
Having a 1.5 or 2 pound laptop, with a 12 hour battery life that you can detach the keyboard from for $300 is a much better form factor than the current typical laptop. Many of these tablets also come with wacom pen digitizers or touch, allowing a creative input that is missing in many laptop form factors.
I won't be surprised to see full IDEs that could be viable in creating general purpose apps in near future. I really think Android & iOS will eventually become the next 'desktop' OS with a full suite of apps as powerful as the current desktop set of applications. Concerns about tablets as consumption only devices will go away probably within the next decade as the world transitions to these 'mobile' OSes.
The main downsides of these devices for programming is screen real estate, CPU speed, and support from major IDE/compiler vendors.
Devil's advocate: if that is true, then why are macbook pros such a hot sell? I'm typing this here in a college library's lobby. When I look around, I see roughly 3/4 of the laptop-using students are using a macbook pro, with a few macbook airs littered around. If I were to walk around and glance at what people were working on, it'd probably be something like 70% youtube/facebook and 30% using some word processor.
My point is that the consumer's decision to buy or abandon a product isn't solely driven by how good the product is, the value of the new item as a "status icon" also has to be taken into account. All you need to get the customer to justify that $2000 price tag is a culture of rabid consumerism and the garauntee that they will be cooler than their friends if they buy this extremely expensive laptop that does all sorts of things they will never ever use.
In your example involving the 2006 PC and the new iPad, I would argue that a huge contributor to the consumer's abandoning of the PC is because it's nowhere near the potency of a status icon as an iPad is.
Phones satisfy the mobile convergence thing between organisers, phones, cameras and handheld games. Tablets satisfy the "computer as a bicycle" vision of Jobs and bring portable computing to the masses. But neither are really full featured enough for a developer or a college student.
When it comes to a full featured, keyboard equipped, programmable device there is bugger all that is light, powerful, has a long battery life and ships with a decent environment (posix, term, ssh) out of the box. Dell's XPS 13 DE delivers a bit of the picture but it doesn't have the quality bundled iWork apps that would appeal to a student and has worse battery life. They are getting there though.
The rest of the laptop market is hindered by shipping with Windows only and the difficulty of getting pre and post-sales driver support for the developers and students who require an environment like Linux. The industry has really fucked themselves trying to keep to the model of the glory days.
Hopefully Steam will help set things straight by creating a large mainstream market that more niche users like developers, students and scientists can benefit from.
Manufacturers are going to have to stop the race to the bottom and start building less models, higher quality and in bigger volume if they are to compete with Apple in price, quality and profitability. And they are going to have to explore well integrated Chrome OS and Linux packages and work on developing drivers with better performance and power efficiency.
They are fine machines, but if you don't care about subjective things, like how a laptop looks, how much it weighs (an extra pound or 2 never really genuinely matters to a use case), and you only care about getting exactly what you need (not want) for the lowest price, then there is no way you would ever buy a MBP. They are a product that we convince ourselves that we need or deserve because we lust after it, even when a cheaper alternative would do just fine.
I have bought macs for a while, but if I have to be really honest with myself there was always a cheaper alternative that was 'good enough', it's just that I subjectively want apple's products because they are 'nicer'.
Quite good for those of us that work across multiple OSs.
Just install GNU/Linux on VMWare with CPU virtualization enabled and get two OS in a laptop with the minimum of fuss.
And far less battery life.
I often run Ubuntu or Windows on my MBA with VMWare to compile some software. It's one of the best methods to soak your battery empty quickly.
I use GNU/Linux since 1995 and on a laptop still looks like 1995 to me, in terms of graphics card, battery, hibernation and wireless support.
My Asus, which was sold with a supported Linux hardware, does not hibernate.
In terms of battery life I am yet to find a laptop where GNU/Linux lasts longer than Windows.
Who would be more popular?
A) A rich guy who thinks he can buy friends, by inviting everybody to an expensive cocktail to an exclusive restaurant?
B) A guy who own lots of expensive high-tech and luxury car + his own house?
C) A guy with charme and charisma, who can make anyone feel special, or have a fun time, even in the dirtiest place?
Choose yourself. I believe you all experienced A,B and C already. But I would rely on the scientific evidence that C) has a higher long term chance of staying an attractor of popularity. (I'm sorry, I couldn't put the references together, but hope you understand)
Side story: A weird guy in my old class possessed a bluetooth wireless headphones with integrated mp3 player in 2006, a 3000EUR laptop and all sorts of other very expensive gimmickry. That didn't make him cooler at all. People still didn't like him and it just made him more vulnerable to attacks of the some of the more primitive pupils.
Trust me, you can buy social status. If you pay enough, you have the status.
> Someone can be butt ugly, poor and stupid, but still have the highest social status and popularity in most social environments.
Most social environments he exposes himself to, yes. Most social environments, no.
edit: parent comment has completely changed since I replied
In Marin, I see so many attractive women who settled for some fugly dude just because he has money. Maybe, that's what keeps guy's striving for the next Facebook?
I could go on and on about this subject, but I'll get
My grandma taught me the saying "More money than sense." . It's proven incredibly wise
That's exactly what I'm disappointed with on everything new. The Thinkpad T60p, from 2006 remains superior on both points to everything new from my point of view.
While a very fine machine in it's day, the screen, battery life, processing power, disk speed, size, and lack of heat on a modern machine like the 13" Retina MacBook Pro are on another level. You're talking about 7 years of evolution.
I've used a 15" Retina Macbook Pro. The screen is not better. Sure, it's higher density and brighter, but the viewing angles are not better. Subjectively, I'd say the color reproduction is worse (I used them next to each other). Reflections, glare and fingerprints are significantly worse on the MBP.
I have a one year old MBP that I haven't used much; I'm
not sure why, but the screens seem the same?
I do know one thing about most old laptops; they were made
to last longer than 2 years.
That said--HP--as made crappy laptops for quite some time.
I bought one a few years ago and it was horrid on an
engineering basis, but it looked Slick.
Getting back to the original story, I don't think I've bought a desktop since 2003. I prefer using them, but laptops are just so convenient.
They've done some deep level fixes which just makes everything flow and stick together as one "netbook" user-experience in a much better way.
My experience is mostly from Asus Tarnsformer type devices and not regular X86 laptop hardware, but I suspect the same improvements should be valid in X86 country. You certainly have nothing to lose by trying it .
My 2 cents.
In spite of the problems, it's amazingly fast and usable, esp. compared to Windows/Ubuntu.
running the stable android-x86 on a Samsung NB505
How hard can it be to design keyboards with all keys in the correct place? Thinkpads used to be the only ones which got this design issue right.
The problem with that is Thinkpads were never meant for mainstream consumers, Lenovo isn't going to out-Apple Apple, and if it wanted to try, it would do better using a model line that doesn't have a business-oriented reputation going back decades.
Don't get me started on the single audio socket for both recording and playback.
I'm only 28, and I do it, too-- e.g., how will kids expand their imagination and learn about the world without only having paper books to immerse themselves in for hours at a time? How will anyone learn the basics of programming without finding QuickBASIC on an old Packard-Bell 386, playing around with Gorillas or Snakes, or entering their own code from books in the library?
I think there will be a sufficient number of hacker types around for the cynical and simple reason that corporations need to inspire kids to learn how to code so that they can hire folks in two decades. This ought to inspire a token amount of educational support and tool building so that entry-level development will always be accessible to kids.
I dunno, Facebook and GMail seem to get slower each month. They're unusably slow, even in Chrome on Windows, on both my and my wife's circa-2008 machines.
I haven't used a Puget machine myself, but I've relied on Silent PC Review's component recommendations for nearly a decade, and never been disappointed.
Until the dust hits it...
Teach me oh great one. Honestly I've never managed to clean a fan. You can brush off the obvious dust but the noise comes from dust getting into the fan itself.
That exactly is the issue. They don't just mysteriously develop bearing failure / wobble...they do so because dust gets into the bearings. And that exactly is my point...no amount of compressed air can fix dust in the ball bearing grease. I just end up replacing all the fans after a few years...
Buying these as stand-alone components seems to be more of a challenge.
It's completely silent, you can only tell that it's on by looking at LEDs.
The social implications worry me -- mainly that the most popular handheld devices (iOS) are _locked down_, you can't actually install whatever software you want on it.
I don't know if the actual experience of using Android, for non-techies, might end up seeming similar?
The social implications of this worry me. We spend increasing amounts of time on our computers, and have decreasing power and freedom over what software they run how.
I think your concern about it being harder to create on tablets, and the social implications therein -- is also legit, but it worries me less than the loss of control over our devices. People will find a way to create, although the nature of what they create will be affected by the affordances of the device, for sure. (there will be a lot more 140 char poetry, heheh)
mainly that the most popular handheld devices (iOS) are _locked down_
With a 80% market-share I think it's safe to safe Android is by far the most popular handheld platform, with iOS being for the niche market.
High-end for 4:3 was 2048x1536 (3 megapixels)
High-end for 16:10 was 1920x1200 (2.2 megapixels)
High-end for 16:9 was until very recently 1920x1080 (2 megapixels)
It's the exact sort of snobbery that has almost completely killed art, dance, drama and music in many schools, as if the only valuable acts of creation left to humanity are engineering and science (which, incidentally, are both wonderfully served by the innumerable education apps on these locked-down, post-apocalyptic devices).
You might type stuff in OK, but manipulating text is awful.
At the same time, I think even the "average" person would want more than a 128gb ssd, and therefore today's entry-level harddrives equipped with these small ssd's won't age that well. I know, I know, ssd's come in larger sizes --- but they become significantly more expensive, and most entry-level notebooks (with ssd's) come with 128gb. As a comparison, it's almost weird that years ago you could get a 500gb harddrive without giving it a second financial thought. As such, I think that if there is anything that a normal person might want, it's more harddrive space as they fill up their small-ish SSDs --- so that they don't need to worry about deleting things when they have too many pictures, games, etc. The average person won't want chrome to take half the number of milliseconds to open a new tab, or their games to go from 40 fps to 60fps. But, to me it seems easy to fill up these smaller harddrives, and many people might be looking for a new computer to deal with that.
Before someone mentions it: YES, cloud solutions and external solutions exist. But is it part of mainstream usage to store your stuff on an external hdd? Also, wouldn't people anyway want a future computer where they didn't need to do that? I'm not claiming they have terabytes of data, but I think over the course of 3-4 years, people could pretty easily accumulate > 256gb of data. Otherwise, is there a free and easy cloud solution that gives > 50gb of space that people use a lot today? (Not to my knowledge)
Actually, this isn't entirely true; a few months ago, my WinXP install started to play up, to I bought an SSD and installed Win7 on it. Now it runs better than ever. A recent OS helps a lot, as does a SSD.
I can see one reason why I might still want to upgrade, though: The Witcher 3. I doubt it's going to run well on my by then 6 year old machine. But maybe a new graphics card is all I'll need. Or maybe it'll even just work.
My Macbook Pro is a lot more recent, but it also feels like it might last forever. It can handle everything I throw at it. Why would I ever need something more powerful than this?
If I want anything new from my computers now, it's stuff like smaller size, less noise, less power use, etc. They're powerful enough.
But another thing to consider is that the console release cycle has also slowed down, because there's less of a need to upgrade there as well. So you see the lack of desire to upgrade trend emerging for consoles as well as PCs.
I do think that nearly everyone who wants a PC has one at this point. That plus no desire to upgrade means slower sales. If people were actually ditching their PCs entirely, that would be a different story.
I will continue to upgrade my laptop frequently. Lighter, smaller, faster, longer lived, more durable. Every new laptop has increased my productivity, flexibility.
I just bought a 2013 MBA 13". Most amazing machine I've ever had. Now that I'm accustomed to 13" (vs 15"), I will likely buy a 2013 MBP 13" retina. I'm certain that I'll be very happy.
There are programmers, mathematical and financial users who are still stretching their desktops, but for most of the rest of us the need to upgrade is going away. It's almost like it's time to upgrade when there's just too much clutter on the old machine.
I wanted a gaming laptop, but once I got into that category, I'll be honest--the deciding factor for me was keyboard layout. I'm a developer so it's really important to me to have special keys in the right place, and to have them easily distinguishable by touch.
Nothing is worse than arrow keys with no gap separating them, or an F5 that blends in, or page up/down in some unusable position.
Got some Asus model, and it's great.
I agree with your post but just wanted to point out a Facebook/Email PC does not cost 2000 dollars anymore (and has never cost that much for a long time) :) You can get around with a 300 dollars laptop just fine of that kind of usage.
What's your framerate in Battlefield 3 on a 64 player map at 1920x1080, high settings? Or Crysis 3?
A brand new general-purpose PC handles that situation equally well--unplayable.
You can have double speed.
The limiting factor is if your computer's feedback loop is tighter than your brain's perception loop. If you can type a letter and the letter appears, your computer is fast enough for word processing. But, if you can run a data analysis job and it's done before you release the "enter" key, it just means you should really be doing better analyses over more data. Certain use cases grow like goldfish to the limits of their environment.
I fit into a lot of the special cases here: Developer, gamer, amateur photographer with many gigabytes of RAW files and even I don't feel the need to upgrade systems like I used to. Now it is about an every 3-4 year thing whereas previously it was yearly or more.
for example: random forest, gradient boosting, gam, etc -- you will typically do parameter searches and the models you get are as good as your willingness to wait. Good software will run at a significant fraction of memory bus speed and the faster that bus goes the better your models will be.
eg: most CPU memory traffic is in "cachelines" size chunks so you're best off trying to organize information so you can use all bandwidth! I've a few ideas on this i'm trying to bake into an array/matrix library i hope to release soon. :)
The naive obvious "dot product" matrix mult of two Row Major matrices is 100-1000x slower than somewhat fancier layouts, or even simply transposing the right hand matrix can make a significant difference, let alone more fancy things.
Often the biggest throughput bottleneck for CPU bound algorithms in a numerical setting is the quality of the memory locality (because the CPU can chew through data faster than you can feed it). Its actually really really hard to get C / C++ to help you write code with suitably fancy layouts that are easy to use.
Amusingly, I also think most auto vectorization approaches to SIMD actually miss the best way to use SIMD registers! I've actually some cute small matrix kernels where by using the AVX SIMD registers as a "L0" cache, I get a 1.5x perf boost!
Still I don't see the connection to Haskell, can you elaborate ?
1) i've been slowly working on a numerical computing / data analysis substrate for haskell for over a year now.
2) the haskell c ffi is probably the nicest c ffi you'll ever see. Also pretty fast, basically just a known jump/funcall! And no marshaling overhead too!
3) theres a lot of current and pending over the next year work to make it easy to write HPC grade code using haskell. Some approaches involve interesting libs for runtime code gen (the llvm-general lib for haskell is AMAZING).
Theres also a number of ways where ghc haskell will likely get some great performance improvements for numerical code over the next 1-2 years! (i've a few ideas for improving the native code gen / SIMD support over the next year that I hope to experiment with as time permits)
just plain ole mathematical modeling / machine learning, and associated duct taping the tubes.
I am also going to be releasing the start of a "Numerical Haskell" tool chain sometime (hopefully this fall, but life happens and all that jazz)
Regular users don't know or care about memory management, they don't even close old windows or tabs, its about convenience. That's not a problem in mobile where the need is the mother of invention so mem management is automatic and chrome reopens the tabs you had by itself, but in a desktop environment (specially windows) one wrong click and the session restore in chrome wipes your previous session.
But it was cheap, cheaper than an unlocked iphone and it gets the job done so its ok for her.
I suspect a few people on HN will be reluctant to see their role in this arrangement. ducks
We built really powerful computers and decided the best way to use them was to run web apps consisting of a poor performance scripting language with a poor performance visual-rendering language and half the people who build with it seem to think that anything done in a web browser is free.
I have better system performance when running a Windows 7 VM, a semi-bulky image editor, or compiling the kernel than I do with a few bulky webapps in Firefox. And this is on a desktop built just 4 years ago.
I have a light-weight Linux setup that uses 80MB of RAM after logging in. It has 1GB of RAM. I can't run GMail and Facebook Firefox and browse the Internet at the same time with minimal open tabs. It's sad.
I know that some newer frameworks take advantage of GPU features (actually I used to work as a dev in the Windows org) but guess what, GDI is still faster.
As a data point: Safari is using 600+MB now with just HN and GitHub open. It's using more memory than all the other apps (editor, terminal, mail, Rdio, Skype) combined. 600MB is not much by today's standards, but comparatively, is ridiculously wasteful. It's a damn CD.
Hope the Mavericks update improves this a bit since I'm short on RAM on this machine (4GB).
My MBA has 4GB and I constantly forget, because it is enough, and I am constantly surprised that it doesn't have 8GB.
All modern web browsers save and restore sessions across restarts.
I always up-to-date Firefox, so hopefully the memory leaks are minimal. I reboot my Linux machine every month-ish and don't exit Firefox unless necessary. I always keep a few "app" tabs pinned, only a couple of them are heavy. I have 4GB of RAM and turned swap off for an experiment. Sure enough, after a couple weeks of browsing and keeping about 25 tabs open, Firefox's memory consumption would creep up and up and eventually it would crash.
I can only guess/hope that there are memory leaks involved.
Why should they? If a tab's "dormant", the browser can just quiesce JS timeouts and let the tab's memory get swapped out. Not a problem anymore.
That most (all?) web browsers don't do this currently isn't the user's fault.
That's the problem in this type of "PCs are fine, people just don't have to upgrade" argument. (And I've made it myself, before I really worked it through and took stock of just how far tablets have already come.)
The use cases satisfied by an old PC could all be satisfied just as well by today's tablets. Yes, the software support for keyboards, external displays and server-type services isn't quite there. But that's solely a software limitation. Not a limitation of the hardware platform. It will be addressed and more PC sales will disappear.
And the actual remaining PC-justifying use cases are precisely those where an old core2duo isn't "good enough" and simply buying some more RAM or even an SSD isn't going to obviate the need for new hardware for 5+ years.
So inasmuch as people still need PCs, they have to show up in the sales charts. And inasmuch as we don't, mobile devices are going to eat that market as the software evolves.
There's really no way around it.
Frankly, I think android and/or iOS are one good upgrade-cycle away from decimating laptop sales. If either or both really focus on the 'docked' use case -- better support for external displays and keyboard support to facilitate top-flight bulk text entry/editing -- laptops are dead to the general public.
If a student can so much as use a keyboard case and tablet to write a term paper or code up some homework as easily as on a laptop, it's over. And there's no hardware preventing that. It's software. If Microsoft wasn't so inept, they'd have been way out ahead on this.
And, frankly, between the potential of the docked use case and "BYOD" policies, mobile devices could seriously eat into the enterprise desktop market as well.
You build a device cradle, that connects to an external display, power and a keyboard/trackpad, and enables the OS and apps to automatically sense that connection and shift their interfaces accordingly and you'll see how few people truly need a PC anymore.
I think docks have some hurdles to jump in the consumer market, though. They're unsexy - I think most people associate them with boring enterprise computers and boring enterprise work, and they tend to be big and ugly. They're expensive too, considering that most people view them as nothing but plastic with a few connectors and wires inside.
If someone can figure out how to jump those hurdles, though, and make docks sexy to the consumer market, beige-box sales will plummet. Make them smaller, easier, cheaper. Make them less proprietary - at the very least, a Company XYZ consumer dock should be compatible with all/most of of Company XYZ's portable offerings. Make them wireless and automatic (OK, I realize this conflicts with "cheaper")! Let me drop my Win8 tablet on my desk and immediately have it display to my dual monitors and let me use it with my mouse, keyboard, printer, big external drive and wired network connection. Let me press a button and have it display to my TV or play to my big speakers. Have your cake and eat it too.
I mention Win8 specifically because the whole idea of it is that it's a tablet and a desktop OS in one. Why on earth is there no Microsoft-produced drop-in docking solution for the Surface so it can actually be both?! The consumer potential is crazy - got a crusty old desktop PC laying around? Toss it, keep the peripherals, buy a Surface+dock and you've got a new tablet/laptop and desktop. You can "dock" a Surface as-is with two cables (a micro HDMI and a USB hub with all your desktop peripherals wired in), but that leaves out wired network (maybe important), certain peripherals like speakers (maybe important), and power (critical), and even two cables is two too many.
Most people who say they need a PC don't need a beige box, they need a keyboard, mouse and monitors on a desk where they can work. The form factor of the box that the CPU, disk and memory come in doesn't matter when you're at the desk, so it might as well take the form of something you can take with you and use when you're not at the desk: a laptop, tablet or phone.
My tablet can connect to my wifi when I come home and sit at my desk. There's no reason at all why it can't connect to my mouse+keyboard at the same moment; so someone needs to solve the technical problems of it being able to connect to my large monitor wirelessly, and we're set.
The PC market has relied on end users - consumers and business users - for it's growth engine for decades, and that appears to be drying up. One of the reasons for that is outlined in the article, for most use cases we don't need faster.
Faster CPUs, more memory, and faster storage are always welcome. I look forward to the day when Eclipse and other IDEs really start taking advantage of GPU stream processors for indexing and validation.
A lot of people don't want to cook, so are happy with smartphones and tablets.
Why buy a desktop or laptop when an iPad will do everything you need for a fraction of the price? That's what people mean when they sound the death knell for the PC.
People who cheerfully proclaim that PCs are dead forger that PCs aren't just devices, they also attained a certain level of cultural significance. IF the death of PCs also means the death of PC culture (which involves things like game modding, hobby website making and so on), then the death of PCs is a really, really bad thing.
Plenty of people are too busy with other aspects of their lives — doing things which may, for all we know, be of great cultural significance — to spend time being a producer in the digital sphere as well.
Some people devote their lives to cooking for others; others devote their lives to other pursuits, and only ever consume food produced by others.
In any case, I think you're underestimating the number of people who never cook, or cook very infrequently. In your average family household, one person typically cooks the vast majority of the meals.
To clarify, by cooking I mean real cooking — beginning with raw ingredients, going through numerous stages of preparation requiring some degree of skill, etc.
I really don’t see why everyone should use a computer, given the wealth of possibilities out there.
Also, I’m pretty sure the death of the PC doesn’t mean any of what you are insinuating. It will be more like the death of horse riding after the advent of the car. (If I want to go horse riding there is a club that offers that not five minutes from where I’m living. Horse riding is dead – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or even hard to go horse riding today.) Only that PCs will probably be an order of magnitude more relevant than horses are today and, while not always as relevant as in the past in certain contexts (at home), they will still be relevant in others (some work, academia, …).
I’m still pretty confident in the prediction that the PC at home will die. (Which will not mean that no one will have one at home. Just far less people than today.) I’m also pretty sure that the PC at work and in academia will not die.
A 64gb model of the iPad costs $700 (because 48gb of storage should cost $200 to pad those juicy margins).
I bought an amazing desktop from HP last year on a black friday sale for $779. For what's in it, you couldn't have assembled it from Newegg at that price.
In another generation or two the typical Chromebook will be superior to the iPad on performance, while being half the price.
You should buy a desktop or laptop because you get drastically more computing power at the same price.
Thank goodness for tablets with full XWindows support to my desktop and the university supercomputer. I like broken metaphors.
To me a tablet is a cramped working space (small screen, limited memory), difficult to use (requiring additional utensils like a keyboard, mouse to make certain tasks bearable), with limited storage space (no cupboards), limited processing power (more like a camp stove than an oven), and only usable in short bursts.
Edit: In any case, the analogy is as much about the time, effort and skill required to cook as it is about having the relevant equipment at your disposal.
The Post-PC devices (tablets / smartphones) are it for the majority of folks from here on out. They are easier to own since the upgrade path is heading to buy new device and type in my password to have all my stuff load on it. If I want to watch something on the big screen, I just put a device on my TV. Need to type, add a keyboard.
The scary part of all this is that some of the culture of the post-PC devices are infecting the PCs. We see the restrictions on Windows 8.x with the RT framework (both x86/ARM), all ARM machine requirements, and secure boot. We see the OS X 10.8+ with gatekeeper, sandboxing, and app store requirements with iCloud.
The PC culture was defined by hobbyists before the consumers came. The post-PC world is defined by security over flexibility. Honestly, 99% of the folks are happier this way. They want their stuff to work and not be a worry, and if getting rid of the hobbyist does that then fine. PC security is still a joke and viruses are still a daily part of life even if switching the OS would mitigate some of the problems.
I truly wish someone was set to keep building something for the hobbyist, but I am a bit scared at the prospects.
1) Yes, I'm one of those that mark the post-PC devices as starting with the iPhone in 2007. It brought the parts we see together: tactile UI, communications, PC-like web browsing, and ecosystem (having inherited the iPods).
2) I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if the HP-16c had kept evolving.
I really don't understand your concern.
Hobbists have a wider selection of computing tools than ever before (altough, that statement was true at any time since the 50's). We have the entire arduino ecosystem for hardware hobbists, throwaway PCs like the Raspberry Pi for embebbing real computers everywhere, several different standards of desktop-capable parts for more powerfull systems, and the server ecosystem for the real beefy ones.
Most of those computer types aren't even able to run Windows or OSX. iCloud and Secureboot won't make them go away.
I don't think that's quite true. We had Heath kits and a lot more variety of computers from the late 70's to the early 90's. There is no under $200 computer sold at major retailers like there was in the 80's.
* Well, there is a perfectly rational reason for that, and it is not really a problem for hobbists. But that's the fact.
There are LOTS of under-$570 computers sold at major retailers today.
$570 is a lot father out of reach today for many than $200 in the 80's.
It's unfair to say that they don't get cheaper considering that a Mac Mini is an entirely different class of machine from an Apple II, in so many ways that it's ridiculous to even try to list them here.
As for your statement about $570 vs $200... what do you base that on?
The only time I felt like I've needed an upgrade is while playing Planetside 2, which is/was very CPU bound for my setup. However, when it was initially released, Planetside 2 ran like a three-legged dog even on some higher end rigs. It's much better after a few rounds of optimizations by the developers, with more scheduled for the next month or two.
I dual boot Linux boot on the same machine for my day job, 5 days a week all year. For this purpose it has actually been getting faster with time as the environment I run matures and gets optimized.
As good as it is now, I remember struggling to keep up with a two year old machine in 2003.
AAA games mostly target the console. Look at GTA5, which isn't even out on the PC. Most AAA games will run on a PS3, which came out in 2006, and has 512MB of RAM (combined system / graphics).
That said, there's a point of diminishing returns - making games look much more realistic will take obscene amounts of resources.
Planetside 2 is a weird example, though. I don't think there will be many games that have a 1-year+ delay from landing on PC before they hit consoles.
I trolled around Newegg looking for upper-middle tier components with a higher quantity of good reviews. A lot of the times you won't see a lot of the recently released stuff with useful reviews, so some of the parts were actually circa 2009'ish instead of being latest and greatest (2010).
I didn't splurge for a super expensive case, and my power supply wasn't modular (making it pretty cheap). i7 with a decent mobo. Went AMD for the GPU since (at the time) they were the best bang for buck. Got some cheaper G.SKILL 1600mhz DDR3 RAM (which has worked awesomely for me) for next to nothing, and I was ready to roll.
2010 $1000 rig running all 2013 AAA titles at the highest settings sounds unlikely to me…
EDIT: don't know my full specs offhand; i5, gtx 460, either 4 or 8 gigs RAM (4 I think), a 120gb SSD and 2G HD
I don't doubt the OPs rig is powerful enough to play modern games, but I seriously question the "any modern game at highest settings" statement.
FWIW, I built a rig a great rig in 2010 which I still use from time to time. i7 920, 12GB DDR3, SSD, SLI GTX 460 2GB.
Happily ran BF4 beta on High/Ultra 2x MSAA at 1080P.
I go with generally mid range components with my gaming machine. Even then, I upgrade every 3 generations for CPU and every other generation for video card. CPU performance doesn't impact gaming as much as it used to.
This gives me reasonable performance in most games around high to ultra on a 1920x1080 monitor.
I still use an AMD processor on my gaming/development rig, because upgrading to a better Intel CPU would have cost me nearly twice as much (I already had an AMD motherboard, so that helped). I don't notice a bottleneck in most games.
I think the best strategy is to get mid-range components and just upgrade more often. You get way more bang for your buck, and you can always sell the old components on eBay or whatever.
If you're doing multi-monitor or >1080p resolutions, then you might need to get something better than the 580 however.
Maybe the OP doesnt play some of the most demanding games?
I play some pretty demanding games, but I was able to get a lot of performance per dollar building custom. I knew where it was OK to spend more/less and did a lot of research/shopping around.
In fact the only thing I really want a faster machine for is some of the latest emulation techniques (Higan) and a vague desire to play around with some virtualization odds and ends.
Like another poster said, with "game" terms replacing "data": " But, if you can run a [game] and it's [good framerate], it just means you should really be doing better [gaming] over more [pixels]."
My dad went to Walmart and bought a computer (why he didn't just ask me to either advise him, or ask if he could have one of my spare/old ones I don't know) and monitor for $399.
It's an HP powered by a AMD E1-1500. It's awfully slow. Chokes on YouTube half the time. My dad is new to the online experience, so he basically uses it for watching streaming content.
I could have grabbed him a $99 Athlon X4 or C2D on craigslist and it would better than this thing. I'm not sure if he'll ever experience a faster computer so I don't think he'll ever get frustrated with this machine, but it's amazing that they sell an utter piece of shit like this as a new machine.
Did he buy a notebook? I've never even heard of the AMD E1-1500 before today. Everything I see says that its a notebook processor, and a pretty terrible one at that. (2cores/2threads, and only 512kb of L2 cache!?)
What's worse is that it's a BGA package, meaning it can never be upgraded. If that's really a desktop machine (and not some form of "all in one") that's vendor lock-in at its absolute worst. They've ensured that instead of buying a $99 processor he has to go out and buy a brand new machine.
That's just awful. In 2013 you shouldn't be able to buy a computer that can't stream 1080p movies with ease.
Just because it doesn't sit in a big box doesn't mean it's a different class of system. The difference is really the openness of the platform, comparing something like iOS to Win 8 pro.
That said, many tablets are basically what we would have thought of as PCs before. Consider something like the Samsung 500T or similar, or thinkpad helix. Components are small and cheap enough that they can be packed behind the LCD, and you have essentially a laptop that doesn't need it's keyboard.
Will iPads take over PCs? No. They are too limited, not because of hardware, but because of OS limitations. Will tablets take their place though? Quite possibly. The portability is quite handy. That I can dock a tablet with a keyboard and have a normal PC experience, but have it portable when I need it is a selling feature.
The obvious cavaet is that a limited OS is fine as long as the majority of data is cloud based. In that case even development can be done on a closed platform, and the tablet becomes something more akin to a monitor or keyboard. More of a peripheral than a computing device. We might get to that point, but that's not the cause of the current trend.
Input and output is the major differentiator, not the processor or OS.
In high school I recall lusting after a $4,500 486DX2 66Mhz machine with an astounding 16MB (not GB) of RAM, and a 250MB hard drive. A few months ago I spent a little less than that on a laptop with 2,000X that amount of RAM, 8,000X that amount of hard drive space, and a processor that would have not so long ago been considered a supercomputer.
I for one am glad that we have continued to innovate, even when things were good enough.
The computer was a great invention. The Internet also is a big enabler. But the latest computers and phones are hardly innovative: Compared to what you got 5 years ago, they might be smaller and have better power efficiency. But on the grand scale, how does that matter?
If you see the latest Macbooks being introduced, you probably want to get one. It's very shiny and the Retina screen will allow you to experience computing in a great way. People try to become happy by spending money for experiences. Tourism, iPhones, hipster coffee shops. They don't do it because it's the universal recipe for happiness and living your life, but because it's what capitalist societies expect you to do. Most "innovation" and "disruption" only leads to zero-sum money shifts inside this system. If you think that a retina screen is innovative, i think you need to get some perspective.
The same goes for cars. The Germans (where I come from) think that they're innovative because we have a few luxury car makers here. Cars in general are great, they provide mobility and that's useful. But how are the new cars better than what was available 30 years ago? They're not even more fuel efficient.
Bill Gates seems to have got it when he stopped working full-time at Microsoft. All over the world people are using their software, but if we were using OS/2 and Lotus instead of Windows and Office nothing would change. It went very well for him and his company, but nothing they ever did was as important for humankind as what Bill Gates is doing now: giving life to millions by completely eliminating malaria and polio from the planet and supporting AIDS and TB research with huge sums.
I do not want to get a Macbook. They are vastly overpriced and underpowered. If I ran a movie studio, I might buy a Mac Pro. But that's about it.
Cars in general are great, they provide mobility and that's useful. But how are the new cars better than what was available 30 years ago? They're not even more fuel efficient.
Look at traffic fatality numbers over the last 30 years, and tell me that we haven't made innovations that haven't impacted lives. How many kids have parents that were able to raise them because they didn't die in a traffic accident that they would have died in before?
This is insane, wrong, and dishonest. How old are you? I'm 30 and during my adult life (the past decade, basically) we've gone from phones that were essentially unreliable walkie-talkies with shitty battery life to ultra fast portable computers with 10 megabit internet connections and 4 or 5 different onboard technologies (gps, camera, etc).
WTF are you talking about sir. Do we live on the same planet?
By the way, the mobile phones that I had 10 years ago (Sony Ericsson, Siemens) were quite reliable and had good battery life.
I think that if everyone adopted the author's attitude, we get innovation where it is needed most... Which is exactly what is happening: there has been a shift in the focus of processor development over the last ten years or so from "make it as fast as possible and who cares about the power consumption" to a more performance-per-watt oriented approach.
edit: worldsayshi got there first.
- Genuine loathing for the blog post OP
- Smarmy "I'm better than you" attitude
- Examples of how you aren't like OP
- Call out to historic reasons why OP's mindset is terrible
- Multiple over-the-top statements ("If everyone adopted the attitude of the author..." is my favorite!)
I was just about to say that about your response. All I said was that if everyone adopted the "good enough" attitude, innovation might have stopped before we ever had computers. You somehow used that to call me a smarmy scumbag. Are you somehow related to the author?
Needing more RAM and more HD space (especially in order to offer the same feature set) is not innovation.
It's that when tablets hit the scene, people realized they don't need their PC for 90% of what they do on a "computer". Email, social networking, shopping, music, video etc.
Us old geeks who swap hardware, play PC games, tweak OS settings and generally use yesterday's general purpose PC will be the ones remaining who keep buying new hardware and complete machines.
The general public meanwhile will only buy a PC if their tablet/smartphone/phablet needs expand beyond those platforms.
The market will shrink but it will turn more "pro". The quicker MS evolves into a modern IBM the better.
The rest is a matter of taste, I personally prefer PCs (well, Macs) but I can definitely understand people preferring tablets, if only because they are so much cheaper, and generally so much easier to use (to my astonishment my daughter figured out how to use my iPad to watch videos on YouTube while she was still 0 years old, before she could even speak...).
When it comes to work I need a computer. And event that might change in the future .
Easy copy pasting, selecting specific parts of a document... basically anything requiring precision and speed. You can add a keyboard and a mouse to it I suppose, but at that point you may as well have got a laptop.
My grandfather (89 years old today) switched to the iPad. He was one of the pioneer of computer usage in France (in the steal industry)... at a time when programs were punched on cards! He retired before the mouse/keyboard thingy became popular, and never quite managed to fully grasp it when he got a computer ten years ago. He is not switching back, the iPad is way easier for him.
My parents went full iPad without knowing it: after getting one a year ago they realized that they just aren't using their laptops anymore. The iPad is just much nicer to browse the internet. In short the iPad is better for them 80% of the time, and worse 20% of the time. It can only get better with time, as we get better at making touch interfaces.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating anything, I just think that's where the market is heading, and it's not coming back to the PC world I (and probably you) grew up in. I for one will keep using my laptop... but I know I'm in the minority.
So yes, I'd say that there's a large market of people who would rather shell out $X00 for a little bit of convenience rather than $Y00 for something that will be totally unfit for their application. "it's not coming back to the PC world I grew up in" is a truism, but no indicator of the future market shares of PCs and tablets. Also, is there any basis to the claim that you are in the minority?
That's exactly what I see everywhere. People still need a PC for the 10% of the tasks they can't do on a tablet. So, they'll keep a good enough PC around all the times.
What is a different situation from a few years ago, when people were buying a PC for each family member. Now, it's a tablet for each person, a PC for each home, and spare space at the desks.
They bought a windows machine for what to them is a lot of money (more than a iPad), it didn't last long before it slow and it's got extra toolbars and all sorts of rubbish. What's worse is that this happened last time they bought a PC and the time before and the time before that. They are not going to add a SSD because that's not how they think + they don't how + it's throwing good money after bad + they are dubious of the benefits.
The iPad in contrast exceeded expectations and in the year or two they've had it they had a better experience. They can't get excited about a another windows machine because it's expensive, more of the same and not worth it really.
Games can always use more resources. AFAIK there is still a lot of progress being made with GPUs. 60fps on a 4K display will be a good benchmark. The funny thing is that GPU makers have taken to literally just renaming and repackaging their old GPUs, e.g. the R9. As for the game itself, there is a looming revolution in gaming when Carmack (or someone equally genius-y) really figures out how to coordinate multiple cores for gaming.
But yeah, most everything else runs fine on machines from 2006 and on, including most development tasks. That's why Intel in particular has been focused more on efficiency than power.
 Tom's Hardware R9 review: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-r9-280x-r9-270x-r...
 Carmack at QuakeCon talking about functional programming (Haskell!) for games and multi-core issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PhArSujR_A&feature=youtu.be...
Back in Q1 2010 I got an Intel Core i7 980X which benchmarked at 8911 according to http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i7+X+980+...
Now in Q2 2013 (3 years later) the very top of the line processor available, an Intel Xeon E5-2690 v2, is only twice as fast at 16164: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Xeon+E5-2690+v...
It used to be that things got faster at a much faster rate. And until this new E5-2690 v2 was released, the fastest CPU was only 14000 or so, which is less than 2x as fast.
Depending on what you're doing with CPUs there have been improvements, even at the high end between Nehalem and Haswell (on the Intel side). Anandtech's data shows a nearly 2x improvement between those generations for certain tasks.
But the reality is that for other tasks (e.g. the winrar compression benchmark) the speedup is minimal compared to previous years (see Haswell vs Prescott). In many cases where there is a speedup, performance is already so good that you wouldn't notice.
It's pretty crazy to see that in the consumer world, not even games are demanding so much performance from our CPUs.
I have water cooled 2600k at 5GHz running 24/7. Bigger GPU and more cores brings additional complexity and more heat. No other CPU can handle this without blowing up.
If you plan on overclocking your CPU it's probably a good idea to get a slightly better CPU cooler than the standard one anyway.
The C2D to i7 jump was pretty significant as well.
This is the number one reason why I love the PC above any other kind of computing machine. Need more disk space? Sure, go get a new disk, you may not even need to remove any of the others. Want a better graphics card for that new game? Easy as pie. Your processor died because the fan was malfunctioning? Too bad, but luckily those two are the only things you'll have to pay for. The list goes on.
I bought my current PC on 2009. The previous one still had some components from 2002.
In the emerging post-PC world you just sell your old device and get a new one, not unlike how cars are treated. I doubt anyone has trouble unloading their old iPad 3, they probably get a decent amount of money for it if it's in good condition. This just does not happen with homebrew systems, the risk is too high.
I'm still running fine with my 2007 Macbook, but I think my iPhone has extended its life because now my laptop almost never leaves the house and sometimes doesn't even get used in a day, whereas pre-smartphone I used to cart my laptop around rather frequently and use it every day.
I will use my 2011 smart phone until it physically breaks. If a 1.2GHz device with a 300MHz GPU, 1280x720 screen, and 1GB of RAM can't make calls and do a decent job of browsing the web, that's a problem with today's software engineering, not with the hardware.
And if Google decides to doom my perfectly good device to planned obsolence, fuck them, I will put Ubuntu Touch of Firefox OS on it. The day of disposable mobiles is over, we have alternatives now just like we do on PCs.
The motherboards for PCs built 5 years ago are completely different from those built today, and the CPU sockets have changed every other year. New processors from Intel will be soldered on.
The performance of a PC from five years ago is probably adequate for web browsing and office tasks. For anything more demanding, the advances in power consumption, execution efficiency and process node are huge leaps from five years ago.
In 2000, a three-year-old PC couldn't run modern games. Today, a three-year-old PC simply forces you to switch to lower graphical settings. The race for hogging all the hardware resources did slow down in the past years, which is a good thing for consumers.
Anecdotally, my machine is approaching four years old and I can still run just about every new game on the highest settings. At just under $1,000 at the time, this isn't a luxury yacht type rig, either.
For them the choice is between keeping an old computer, on which they already know how to send emails and compose documents, and buying a new tablet on which they will need to learn a whole new set of UI idioms. In addition, physical keyboards and larger screens (and no "ipad neck") make laptops and desktop computers more attractive.
Dell, Lenovo Toshiba and HP all report sales of laptops are increasing; 3.5% in the last quarter.
Death doesn't sound too bad.
i agree that the increased (functional) life of pcs is a contributing factor to slowing unit sales, but its laughable to attribute it to the idea that people who once would have bought a new pc are now just buying more ram and upgrading internals.
the percentage of people who would have any idea how to do that, or even consider it as a viable option, is far to small to have any real impact on demand..
The CPU is slow by current standards, but a Core2Duo isn't slower than the low-clock CPUs in many Ultrabooks. The 3 hour battery life could be better, but I can swap batteries and many new laptops can't. The GPU sucks, but I don't play many games anyway. DDR2 is pricey these days, but I already have my 8gb. SATA2 is slower than SATA3, but I'm still regularly amazed at how much faster my SSD is than spinning rust. It's a little heavy, but really, I can lift six pounds with one finger.
So the bad parts aren't so bad, but nothing new matches the good parts. The screen is IPS, matte, 15" and 1600x1200. Aside from huge monster gaming laptops, nothing has a screen this tall (in inches, not pixels) anymore. I can have two normal-width source files or other text content side by side comfortably. The keyboard is the classic Thinkpad keyboard with 7 rows and what many people find to be the best feel on a laptop. The trackpoint has physical buttons, which are missing from the latest generation of Thinkpads. There's an LED in the screen bezel so I can view papers, credit cards and such that I might copy information from in the dark, also missing from the latest Thinkpads.
Yes, PCs aren't ageing as fast as they used to.
But they are obsolete beyond 'not being portable'.
Here is why tablets are winning:
1. Instant on. I can keep my thoughts in tact and act on them immediately. No booting, no memory lags, no millions of tabs open in a browser.
2. Focus. Desktop interfaces seem to be desperate to put everything onto one screen. I have a PC and a Mac (both laptops). I prefer the PC to the Mac; better memory management for photoshop and browsing, and I love Snap. But that's where the usefulness stops. With an ipad, I have no distractions on the screen.
3. Bigger isn't better. That includes screens. Steve Jobs was wrong. The iPad Mini is better than the bigger variants. Hands down. Same goes for desktop screens. I want a big TV, because I'm watching with loads of people. I don't need a big screen for a PC because the resolution isn't better than an ipad and I'm using it solo. Google Glass could quite possibly be the next advancement in this theme.
4. Build quality. PCs look and feel cheap. Including my beloved Sony Vaio Z. The ipad in my hand could never be criticised for build quality.
5. Price. The ipad doesn't do more than 10% of what I need to do. But, I do those 10% of things 90% of the time. So why pay more for a PC when the ipad has no performance issues and takes care of me 90% of the time.
I used to think shoehorning a full desktop OS into a tablet is what I wanted. Seeing Surface, I can happily say I was wrong. I don't want to do the 90% of things I do 10% of the time. That's inefficient and frankly boring. PCs and Macs are boring. Tablets are fun. There's one last point why tablets are winning:
6. Always connected. It strikes me as absurd seeing laptops on the trains with dongles sticking out. It takes ages for those dongles to boot up. I used to spend 5-10 minutes of a train journey waiting for the laptop to be ready. My ipad mini with LTE is ever ready. And cheaper. And built better. And more fun.
The PC isn't dead, but it will have next to no investment going forward, so will suffer a mediocre retirement in homes and offices across the world.
Note: I love my PC. I just love my ipad mini more.
What's ironic, though, is OS X out pop-ups Windows 7/8 with annoying prompts and notifications.
Again, tablet OSs just aren't prone to this, so people 'feel' more comfortable using them.
Suspend to RAM, 8 GB of RAM and as many tabs open as I like (usually none, but Opera appears to handle 100s quite well, too). You must be using PCs wrong.
> 2. Focus. Desktop interfaces seem to be desperate to put everything onto one screen. I have a PC and a Mac (both laptops). I prefer the PC to the Mac; better memory management for photoshop and browsing, and I love Snap. But that's where the usefulness stops. With an ipad, I have no distractions on the screen.
I also have no distractions on the screen if I don’t want them. You must be using PCs wrong.
> 3. \…] The iPad Mini is better than the bigger variants. […] I don't need a big screen for a PC because the resolution isn't better than an ipad and I'm using it solo. Google Glass could quite possibly be the next advancement in this theme.
The iPad mini has a resolution of 1024x768, roughly the same as my X41. If your current PC doesn’t have a higher resolution, you must be using PCs wrong – I expect at least 1200 pixels vertically and 1400 horizontally if I am expected to do any work at this thing. 900 vertically might be enough for casual browsing, but it does feel inferior.
> 4. Build quality. PCs look and feel cheap. Including my beloved Sony Vaio Z. The ipad in my hand could never be criticised for build quality.
I tend to be very wary around Apple hardware, seeing how people put them into protective sleeves, pockets and all other assortments of stuff. I don’t think a tablet would survive the things my T410s survived.
> 5. Price. The ipad doesn't do more than 10% of what I need to do. But, I do those 10% of things 90% of the time. So why pay more for a PC when the ipad has no performance issues and takes care of me 90% of the time.
I won’t argue about performance issues (the iPad lacks the software to even test performance properly…) and at least I pay for a PC because I want 100%, not 90%, of the job done.
> 6. Always connected. It strikes me as absurd seeing laptops on the trains with dongles sticking out. It takes ages for those dongles to boot up. I used to spend 5-10 minutes of a train journey waiting for the laptop to be ready. My ipad mini with LTE is ever ready. And cheaper. And built better. And more fun.
Time from button press to xscreensaver unlock window: 2s. Time to get LTE modem ready: 5s. Time to open 100s of tabs in Opera and decrypt email locally and do all other things I could possibly want to do: nearly instantaneously. With an iPad mini (which would most likely break in my backpack on the way to the train), I couldn’t even do half of these things – it admittedly might be cheaper, though, but 1600 € every four-or-so years vs. 480 € what appears like every year are roughly equivalent, wouldn’t you say?
As I said, if you settle with inferior stuff and use PCs as absurdly as described by you, I can see why you like tablets more.
As you suggest, I simply must be using PCs wrong. But then, the ipad doesn't need an instruction manual, or to be used perfectly, for me to use that right.
Of course, you should generally aim to use the tools that suit your needs and capabilities, but preferring a tablet over a proper PC strikes me as rather odd.
A car is fairly intuitive to drive. Driving licenses are required for safety.
The comments you make are akin to performing in a sports car, where concentration and accuracy is key.
You car analogy would fit if you had PCs as a F1 car and tablets as a Mini. F1 car is for speed and requires perfecting to get the tyres working right. A Mini, you can pretty much drive through all sorts of faults and be none-the-wiser, because performance just isn't an issue. Well, 90% of the time. :)
These days I just don't see that. Graphics cards seem to improve by 30-50% each generation, and because so many games are tied to consoles now, they often aren't even taking advantage of what's available. With multicore processors and the collapse of the GHZ race, there's no easy selling point as far as speed, and much less visible improvement (now all that useless crap can be offloaded to the second core!) and most consumers will never need more than two cores. Crysis felt like the last gasp of the old, engine-focused type of game that made you think "man, I really should upgrade to play this"... and that was released in 07. Without significant and obvious performance improvements, and software to take advantage, why bother upgrading?
Today, the calendar says it's time for me to upgrade again. Yet the pain of obsolescence of a five-year-old laptop in 2013 just isn't the same as in 2008: USB 3.0? What new applications is it enabling? Anything I need Thunderbolt for? Not yet. New Intel architectures and SSDs at least promise less waiting in everyday use... but I'm hardly unproductive with my old machine.
1. Buy mid range processor with a lot of L2 cache
2. Find mobo that supports lots of ram and stuff it to the max.
3. SSD is a must
4. Buy the second card of the high tier model (the cut chip from the most recent architecture (in their times that were 7950, 570 etc ... but with current branding of NVIDIA a total mess it may require some reading if you are on team green)
5. Any slow hard drive will be enough for torrents
6. In 2 1/2 years upgrade the video to the same class.
in 5 years ... if the market is the same repeat. If it is not - lets hope there are self assembled devices on the market non locked.
I have been doing that since 2004 and never had a slow or expensive machine.
Personally, I think of these hardware market developments with an eye toward interplay with the software market. Historically, software developers had to consider the capabilities of consumer hardware in determining feature scope and user experience. Hardware capabilities served as a restraint on the product, and ignoring them could effectively reduce market size. The effect was two-sided though, with new more demanding software driving consumers to upgrade. Currently, in this model, the hardware stagnation can be interpreted as mutually-reinforcing conditions of software developers not developing to the limit of current hardware to deliver marketable products, and consumers not feeling the need to upgrade. In a sense, the hardware demands of software have stagnated as well.
From this, I wonder if the stagnation is due to a divergence in the difficulty in developing software that can utilize modern computing power in a way that is useful/marketable from that of advancing hardware. Such a divergence can be attributed to a glut of novice programmers that lack experience in large development efforts and the increasing scarcity and exponential demand for experienced developers. Alternatively, the recent increase in the value of design over raw features could inhibit consideration of raw computing power in product innovation. Another explanation could be that changes to the software market brought about by SaaS, indie development, and app store models seem to promote smaller, simpler end-user software products (e.g. web browsers vs office suites).
I wouldn't be surprised if this stagnation is reversed in the future (5+ years from now) from increased software demands. Areas remain for high-powered consumer hardware, including home servers (an area that has been evolving for some time, with untapped potential in media storage, automation and device integration, as well as resolving increasing privacy concerns of consumer SaaS, community mesh networking and resource pooling, etc), virtual reality, and much more sophisticated, intuitive creative products (programming, motion graphics, 3d modeling, video editing, audio composition, all of which I instinctively feel are ripe for disruption).
The mysterious K Mandla gives 10 reasons not to buy a new computer
The TOPLAP project (a real hack - give a teenager an old laptop and Ubuntustudio or similar, light blue touch paper, retreat). By the way, if anyone has resources for live-coding in puredata, please post here
The Zero Dollar Laptop Project  and current progress 
Now, I made a major discovery over the summer: I am actually more productive on a laptop than on a desktop with a large screen. Strange but true, so I am donating the desktops and adopting a couple of Thinkpads off Ebay (X60 from Dec 2006 and X200s from March 2010) as my major computational devices. One with Debian stock and the other with gNewSense 3.0 for a giggle.
I think this article gets it about right - I've started enforcing a 3 year cycle for both phone and laptops because they were costing me too much (in a mustachian sort of way) - and I've stuck to it with laptops (I made 3.5 years on a 2009 MBP) and will be doing so with the iPhone (due for replacement spring 2015.) If the nexus devices keep getting cheaper and awesomer, then I might jump to those a bit earlier (particularly if I can sell the 32GB 4S for an appreciable fraction of the new phone cost.)
Working with the 3.5 year old laptop got slightly painful (re-down-grading back to snow leopard from lion was essential, I even tried ubuntu briefly) but perfectly bearable for coding and web browsing. I'll see how slow the phone gets, but I'm quite relaxed about not having the latest and greatest iOS features (I've not seen anything compelling since iOS 5; I only did 6 because some new app requested it.)
 or rather, one was, and then I gradually replaced all the parts until I had a whole spare PC to sell on ebay, and one mobo bundle later and I'm still using it with no problems, playing games etc.
However for those of us that use our computers 8 hours+ every day, I think it makes good sense to upgrade to the newest hardware every 2-3 years.
I just assembled a computer from new parts myself, and its nice now to have a fully encrypted workstation, with zero performance hit. Q87 motherboard with TPM(asus q87m-e) + UEFI bios + UEFI GOP Compliant videocard(EVGA GeForce GTX 770) + M500 SSD + Bitlocker + Win2012R2(or Win8.1) means you can enable the builtin hardware encryption of the M500 SSDs. It gives me a certain peace of mind to know that a burglar wont be able to grab my personal files and source code if my computer was ever stolen. I also imagine the TPM+Secure boot combo will make it harder for a rootkit to go unnoticed.
Not to mention the lower idle power usage resulting from the 22nm haswell and 32nm lynx chipset.
My friends at work seems to think I'm crazy for replacing a 2 year old computer :) Although as I pointed out to one of them, he spent more than twice as much on a new mountain bike, and I'm sure i spend alot more time on my computer than he does on his mountain bike ;)
Personally, I upgrade incrementally, and I still use my PC on a regular basis. The machine I have now is a hodge-podge of parts from different ERAs. I have an Intel Q6600 but DDR3 RAM, and a modern, quite beefy graphics card that I bought when it was in the upper-echelons in early 2013. It runs most modern games pretty well. I have an SSD for most software but also three big HDDs, one of which I've had since my first build in 2004.
There was a time when you felt like a new PC was obsolete the second you took it out of the box. But that was because we were just scratching the surface of what we could do with new hardware. We're now at a point where it's hard to find consumer and business applications for all the spare hardware that you can afford.
Mobile adoption has been so quick because everyone is buying devices for the first time (tablets), or there is an incentivized two-year replacement cycle (phones). But I'm still using an original iPad that works just fine, and a 3 year old cell phone with no reason to upgrade. Eventually, I think we'll start to see the same leveling off in mobile as well.
At no point during the 4-year tenure of the 3GS did it stop being astonishing to me that I had flat-rate, always-on internet in my pocket, all my music, ebooks and audiobooks, videos that I took of my wedding, and photos that I took of our first child, who's now inherited it and mostly uses it for In the Night Garden.
Personally I think that because of the reduced horizons of smartphones, they're actually every bit as long-lasting as your PC. Sure, at some point OS updates stop coming, and with that app upgrades, but the performance of the 3GS was fine, and I'm not afraid to admit that part of the latest upgrade was just embarrassment at having such a naff old phone, as much as I loved it.
Interestingly it seems like some would love to run their old OS on them. My Dad sort of crystallized it when he said "I'd like to get a new laptop with a nicer screen but I can't stand the interface in Windows 8 so I'll live with this one." That was pretty amazing to me. Not being able to carry your familiar OS along as a downside. That reminded me of the one set of Win98 install media I had that I kept re-using as I upgraded processors and memory and motherboards. I think I used it on 3 or 4 versions of machines. Then a version of XP I did the same with.
I wonder if there is a market for a BeOS like player now when there wasn't before.
the PC market isn't dead, it is slowly receding and it won't stop. It's because of the new alternatives, and assuming finite budge, when you get one of the alternatives, which cost roughly around a consumer-level laptop, you don't have enough for another PC that you don't need.
The article to me seems extremely narrow in both its oversight and scope. People don't care about processing power not because it's a marketing gimmick, but because they don't care. People who do care are the ones who know enough to care, and they will always be minority.
1. Consumer affordable monitors. You'll need a better GPU, and probably Display Port. I don't expect most consumers wanting 30" 4K display. They'll want 22-27" displays of 4K resolution, a la Retina. (PPI scaling) Everything is still the same size as people are used to (compared to 1080p), but everything is sharp as Retina.
2. 4K adoption of multimedia on the Internet. The more 4K videos that pop up on YouTube, the more people who are going to want to upgrade their hardware. This one isn't specific to PCs though, it could apply to mobile devices as well.
Go to YouTube and find a 4K video (the quality slider goes to "Original"). Now look at the comments. Many of the comments in 4K videos are people complaining how they can't watch the 4K video because of their crappy computer (and sometimes bandwidth).
For laptops it's a different story. The big push seems to be in reduction of power consumption for longer battery life, which sounds pretty sensible to me. I guess if battery life is a big concern for a PC user, then it makes sense to go to a smaller process. That does seem like a pretty small reason to upgrade, though.
Another good indicator that the PC "game" has changed is that the two major commercial PC OS's just released their latest versions (Mavericks & 8.1) for free.
Now do the math. If everyone - smart, average, stupid, young, old, are buying tablets and smartphones, then of course this makes PC sales look like death.
It's more like a "post-PC-avoidance" world we're in now. A lot of stupid people avoided using PCs back in the day. Now all those people own tablets and smartphones and use them for entertainment.
I had a 2005 imac before acquire this 2011 iMac and in between I've bought MacBooks and Macbook Air. I'm thinking in getting my new desktop on 2015.
Thing is, when I go to my parents house, I see 2003 computers. I think this reality apply's to many families: parents don't care about speed, they get used because their needs are less computational and more casual, like browsing, Facebook and Skype. The trend I'm seeing in Spain is getting iPads for parents is getting notably high. All my friends instead upgrading their parents pc desktops are buying ipads and parents love it. Are you having the same experiences?
Yes, on paper, the latest processor is faster than the one released two years ago but you have to be doing specific types of workloads with it to really make a big difference.
Haswell architecture couldn't have hit the market at a better time for laptop owners, with more powerful integrated graphics and low power use. I'm sure it isn't a coincidence.
I'm inclined to believe that mobile sales are "artificially" inflated by these subsidies to a large degree.
Of course, if this business model is sustainable over the long term I guess it doesn't matter for mobile h/w manufacturers.
But for s/w developers the fact that people upgrade h/w every 2 years because of subsidies doesn't mean that those h/w sales are translating into a greater user base.
I have a desktop with twice the processing speed and twice the ram, but for all intents and purposes, it runs almost exactly the same as the little Acer. Unless I am playing a game or running illustrator, I simply don't need the power.
The netbook handled just about everything I threw at it, and with FreeBSD and dwm it ran faster than it did when I first bought it.
Unfortunately I'm not too pleased with the HP Envy 15. The AMD A6 Vision graphics aren't so bad, but support for the Broadcom 4313 wifi card is sparse in the nix world...
Soon I'll be tearing it apart to swap out the bcm 4313 for something supported by FreeBSD, but for now, I'll not be purchasing a new PC any time soon.
1) I don't need to buy a new PC every two years anymore
2) Someone should make a tablet with slots so it can be upgraded like a PC
Wouldn't that be a Windows 8 convertible laptop with a touchscreen? Once you put expansion options on it you start compromising mobility.
Look at some ipad teardown for instance and watch how everything is packed together. Not to mention that these days everything is in SoCs: you can't upgrade the GPU and CPU separately. Even the RAM can be stacked on the SoC package and if it's not it's soldered right next to it.
Contrast that with the innards of a desktop PC which is mostly empty space.
That's a natural step because connectors are expensive, power hungry and bulk. As computers get inexpensive, upgrading makes less sense, so it makes less sense to pay more for an upgreadable system.
This is not end-consumers nor businesses. Enthusiasts who were building and upgrading their computers were always a small market.
The article talks about upgrading repeatedly, but I don't think the author can extrapolate their own expertise over the rest of the traditional desktop users.
Intel, AMD, etc. might want to consider slowing their desktop product cycles down a tad. Instead of spending extra to bring every incremental performance to market as soon as it can be, perhaps longer product cycles will bring down costs.
My old T400 was "dying" until I put an SSD in it. Blew my mind how significant an upgrade that was. When it started "dying" again I maxed out the RAM @ 16GB.
The CPU is a bit lacking now that I want to run multiple VMs side by side, and the chassis has seen perhaps a bit too much wear, so a replacement is coming -- but I've managed to put it off for years, with relatively inexpensive upgrades.
It's wasteful to be throwing away computers constantly. In the PC world, I've noticed that it's particularly prevalent among "gamers" that are convinced that they need a new computer every couple of years.
I used to update for gaming and 3d almost entirely.
I also used to update more frequently for processor speed/memory that were major improvements.
If we were getting huge memory advances or processor speeds still there would be more reason to upgrade. Mobile is also somewhat of a reset and doing the same rise now.
I'm hoping that a new generation of largish (24-27") 4K displays will lead to a rebirth in desktop PCs, if only because we depend on them so much for professional work where they've fallen behind in experience when compared to high-end laptops, which shouldn't be the case!
If any, what is dead is the software need for the Moore's law
Although one could argue that network bandwidth is still an area affects the "everyday stuff".
It's really nice when some build process takes less time because of better hardware. Also, try running some upcoming games on an old PC. Obviously the need for some hardware depends on what you are planning to do.
Saying that the PC is dead is being correct. Almost everyone I know buys a laptop instead of a PC. I know a lot of people that do not have a PC, but I don't think I know a single person that doesn't have a laptop.
It's like saying the Novel is Dead. Plenty of novels are being written, but it is really not the one major form of art that people are discussing. That is being replaced by television and film. Will there be novels written fifty years from now? Most definitely. But still, the idea that the novel is the one true form where the greatest art occurs is over.
Tablets, those funky phones are popular today something else will get popular after them. PC may never get as popular as them but they are here to stay.
SSDs just changed the game, and it was about 2009 when that started.
Microsoft and its SharePoint platform will keep SharePoint developers upgrading their desktops upon every release.
i'm thinking my parents - they will use that 2000 pc until it's not booting up, and then they'll worry on upgrade
Why does nobody talk about them? Because nobody wants them, that’s why. Imagine somebody brings you a personal desktop computer here at South By, they’re like bringing it in on a trolley.
“Look, this device is personal. It computes and it’s totally personal, just for you, and you alone. It doesn’t talk to the internet. No sociality. You can’t share any of the content with anybody. Because it’s just for you, it’s private. It’s yours. You can compute with it. Nobody will know! You can process text, and draw stuff, and do your accounts. It’s got a spreadsheet. No modem, no broadband, no Cloud, no Facebook, Google, Amazon, no wireless. This is a dream machine. Because it’s personal and it computes. And it sits on the desk. You personally compute with it. You can even write your own software for it. It faithfully executes all your commands.”
So — if somebody tried to give you this device, this one I just made the pitch for, a genuinely Personal Computer, it’s just for you — Would you take it?
Even for free?
Would you even bend over and pick it up?
Isn’t it basically the cliff house in Walnut Canyon? Isn’t it the stone box?
“Look, I have my own little stone box here in this canyon! I can grow my own beans and corn. I harvest some prickly pear. I’m super advanced here.”
I really think I’m going to outlive the personal computer. And why not? I outlived the fax machine. I did. I was alive when people thought it was amazing to have a fax machine. Now I’m alive, and people think it’s amazing to still have a fax machine.
Why not the personal computer? Why shouldn’t it vanish like the cliff people vanished? Why shouldn’t it vanish like Steve Jobs vanished?
It’s not that we return to the status quo ante: don’t get me wrong. It’s not that once we had a nomad life, then we live in high-tech stone dwellings, and we return to chase the bison like we did before.
No: we return into a different kind of nomad life. A kind of Alan Kay world, where computation has vanished into the walls and ceiling, as he said many, many years ago.
Then we look back in nostalgia at the Personal Computer world. It’s not that we were forced out of our stone boxes in the canyon. We weren’t driven away by force. We just mysteriously left. It was like the waning of the moon.
They were too limiting, somehow. They computed, but they just didn’t do enough for us. They seemed like a fantastic way forward, but somehow they were actually getting in the way of our experience.
All these machines that tore us away from lived experience, and made us stare into the square screens or hunch over the keyboards, covered with their arcane, petroglyph symbols. Control Dingbat That, backslash R M this. We never really understood that. Not really.
Because while basic computation is a universal commodity, what is implemented on top of it certainly isn't - a piece of software always functions as someone's agent. When the systems you end up relying on are entirely defined by someone else, the only thing that represents your will is your mind, and it is effectively executing a complex and ill-defined protocol against always-diligent computers.
You've done the computational equivalent of declining a lawyer.
But it doesn't seem like a big deal, since you're only compromising a little at any given time. But the software is always changing in ways that benefit its controllers while your expectations are mostly based on the capabilities that they've presented. So the progress you perceive is entirely in their desired paradigm. Features that would benefit you but at the expense of Google/Apple/etc are never explored, because you aren't the user of their software - you're its working set!
I can forgive the old-timers who were conditioned by broadcast media to see the world in hierarchal take-it-or-leave terms and don't understand what they're losing by sharecropping in walled gardens. And I can mostly forgive the unclued herd that just buys whatever is advertised.
But for everybody who knows the power of personal computers yet pretends webapps and locked appliances are actual progress, either out of personal laziness, cognitive dissonance, or longstanding need for social acceptance: shame on you for abandoning that self-determination you tasted the first time you truly experienced computing.
It's not just the data itself, but really about protocols used to access the data. Protocols mediate between parties, and by choosing to download a binary blob simply to check your email, you've given up any true bargaining power in that exchange. You still have some autonomy by hacking the blob (userscript injection, etc), but you're only building on unstable ground.
A lot of folks reading sensationalist articles about the PC market decline are making the conclusion that nobody likes or uses PC's anymore since sales are declining. The author is pointing out that it's a poor conclusion to make since there are other factors contributing to the decline, including the fact that the usable lifespan of today's PC's is longer than it used to be.
And that's a huge difference for the application developers so it's not only about being smart, that's a very relevant question.