Is the PC dying a slow, horrible death?

Posted by Trent Nouveau

The majority of the PC tech world has fallen into a dystopian stupor. Monolithic corporations are now led by aging CEOs who seek solace in the comfort of profit and ego, rather than innovation.

Unfortunately, evolution - rather than revolution - is the name of the game in 2011.

Thinking of designing a new GPU with fresh architecture? Well, hey, why bother? 

Just upgrade the previous iteration, slap a fresh coat of paint on the sucker, come up with an obscure "code" name, and voilà!

Is the PC dying a slow, horrible death?We all know that fanbois and sellout hacks are easily distracted by the promise of free bling, the obscure joy of transistor counting, and the narcissistic pleasures of benchmarking a new graphics card to death.

Of course, the CPU universe suffers from a similar malady.

It repeats the phrase "Moore's law" like a broken record, pledges allegiance to x86 architecture on a daily basis, and can't remember the last time an exciting press release was e-mailed to lazy journalists getting high off their own incompetence. 

Seriously, folks.

The 8086 was launched in 1978. How much longer are we going to be held hostage to an aging, decaying architecture whose golden years have passed into distant memory? 

And no, adding another core, implementing (long-overdue) load balancing, reducing power consumption and combining the CPU and GPU onto a single piece of silicon isn't going to make it all better.

Clearly, the "golden age" of PC computing is dead. And we have killed it. 

Don't believe me?

Well, do you remember the first time you encountered the scene when watching an Amiga, C64 or PC demo?

Do you recall what it felt like to play Quake in OpenGL using one of the very first 3DFX cards that you installed yourself?

Oh, yeah *that* feeling. 

Most of us haven't experienced a sense of awe in over 15 years because PC computing has, for the most part, remained static. 

Yes, game rigs, desktops, nettops, laptops and notebooks - they are all variations of the same, worn out theme.

Fortunately, all hope is not yet lost. 

Because there is still one manufacturer which routinely defies mediocrity by designing sexy devices with sleek, intuitive UIs.  

And that company is Apple.

Admittedly, Club Cupertino's desktops and laptops are (currently) powered by the same x86 architecture that runs Windows-based PCs.

But at least they are well engineered and run a streamlined operating system that isn't plagued by malware, weighed down with viruses and hobbled by endless security updates.

Of course, Apple is also slowly moving away from x86 architecture and the traditional PC model with its flagship, ARM-driven iPad that seems destined to replace PCs in the not-too-distant future.

So, give the masses enough haptic feedback and a more user friendly QWERTY-based design, and we can finally retire our keyboard-shackled laptops like the Remington typewriter of yore.

Sound crazy? Maybe. 

Sure, there will always be a market for PCs, whether in the enterprise, as home-based entertainment servers (although such systems can be easily replaced by set-top boxes) or tricked-out rigs for hardcore gamers. 

But for the rest of us? All we need is a next-gen iPad (or smartphone) with just a little more processing power, backed by an infinite cloud and significantly higher bandwidth.

Hey, I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get there!