The End of an Era – The Desktop PC… a repost from 2005

Originally posted april 2005. With all the discussion of HP potentially leaving or selling the PC Biz, thought it would be interesting to repost this from 6 years ago


Back in the day, it was all about the desktop PC. Starting with the Altair in the 70s and accelerating with the IBM PC in 1981, the desktop PC was the focus of personal computing innovation.

Used to be all the good stuff started as an add on for the PC and found its way on to the motherboard. It was an all too predictable obsolesence curve. Remember the AST 6 Pack, Hercules Graphics Cards, 3com Network Cards, US Robotics Modems? When you bought a PC, you used to have to buy all these cards to make it get where you wanted it to go. How many slots the PC had was actually an issue because any power or corporate user expected to add features via cards. There was even a time when it seemed like a good idea to try to upgrade the CPU.

All those features migrated from seperate cards down to the motherboard. Hercules Graphics. Gone. AST. Gone. There is a long list of casualties over the years of companies who made good money for a short period of time selling products that soon would become part of the PC Motherboard.

The PC Desktop used to be a happening place. It was fun to read PC Week, PC Mag, Computer Reseller News, Infoworld and other publications that would speculate about the latest and greatest products coming to a PC near you.

Not any more. Could the PC desktop be any more boring these days? Could it be any more emblematic of a mature product?

Sure, HP, Dell, IBM, Gateway are trying to liven it up. The hard drives are bigger and faster. THere is more memory. The graphics cards can do more.The industry tried to juice the PC by coming up with afaster, better express slot on the motherboard, but next to nobody is even using it!

About the only thing even resembling anything fun is coming from Modders. Typically gamers who are putting flames on funky case designs and bumping processor speeds.The PC desktop has gotten to the point where kids turbocharge the old family PCrather than throw it away like kids used to turbocharge the old car in the garage.

The desktop is boring.

All the fun is happening with portable devices. Phones, Ipods, gaming consoles, PDAs, digital cameras, even hard drives and flash drives. All the good stuff is coming in small packages.

Remember the frustration of shopping fora PC in the 90s. Every couple months the PC would have something new and cool in it, and the price would drop. It was tough to know what to buy and whether you should do it now or wait.

That’s exactly what is happening in the device market. My Ipod, My Sidekick, my hard drives,my PSP, my Xboxeven my laptop all have overlapping features. Each is getting closer to each other in feature set every day.

Which means that the war for my pocket is on. Which is going to allow me to only fill one pocket rather than the 2, or 1 plus beltclip that I’m filling now.

It’s a fun time for devices. It’s the 80s and 90s for desktops all over again. Every timeI go into CompUSA or Best Buy to see what new stuff is on the shelves that I can play with, every phone has a new feature. Every hard drive is smaller, cheaper, faster. Every PDA has new features and software.

The implications of this transitionare huge. Particularly for the retail world. Right now most new technology is sold in big stores. Lots of room for monitors. Lots of room for desktops. But those are the stagnant products.

All the good stuff is small. All the traffic generators are small. Which means that we could see big changes in how retail stores are merchandised and in the size of future retail stores.

It won’t take much square footage to showevery possible cellphone, PDA, console, portable hard drive and attachable device. About the only”big” product that will need to be there are HDTVs.

Better yet, all of those devices, including the HDTVs are purely digital and consume and store or playback digital content. For under 20k dollars in storage (and falling in price every day),it’s feasible to store EVERY digital product and offer it for sale.

Even more interesting is the fact that we are used to buying service agreements with these devices. Our phones, our PDAs, we want phone service and more and more often, broadband service with it as well. We don’t buy them, we subscribe to them.

That can be a problem in a world where new features are appearing every 3 to 6 months, but we can’t trade out our devices for 12 to 24 months. Service Contracts will have to be more flexible, or they can impact the success of the very products and services they are trying to sell

We are enteringa golden age of features in portable devices that will far exceed the fun we had with desktop PCs. The quick rate of change in these products and how they are sold, will completelty alter both how the products are sold, and how we expect to buy them.

Finally, if you are expecting new and exciting features from your PC Desktop…forgettaboutit!

24 thoughts on “The End of an Era – The Desktop PC… a repost from 2005

  1. I can’t completely agree with you Mark. It is true that mobile devices such as laptops, phones, PSP, DS. etc etc. are beginning to emerge as more sought out for than chunky non portable desktops. But such small devices can only pack so much power. Desktops are far from dead, because it’s so big, it can hold and case much bigger and more powerful motherboards, processors, hard drives, and graphic cards. Even if you were able to pack the same amount of items into a laptop, it either becomes big enough so that you don’t even want to lug it around, or, it becomes too expensive since each of those items must be shrunk down to fit inside the machine and yet provide the same punch.

    Think about some gaming laptops that have the most awesome specs, they cost at least 2 – 4000 a piece. Putting the same specs into a desktop would cost less than 1000.

    Portability is sought out for but only if you are willing to sacrifice power and money.

    Comment by whatapain -

  2. Peace, said the sure thing that lives 45 mins from the AAC

    Comment by masatenisimi -

  3. Fully agree. Laptops are much more convenient.
    Zynga Poker Chips –

    Comment by matrak104 -

  4. To prove your point, watch ‘Plugged In’ on the channel 33 news (dallas/fort worth) that’s hosted by Erin Harris @ 9:45pm. Its about our @MingleApp & i’d love to get your thoughts!

    Comment by thebrewingdrew -

  5. Well, it was a nice run and it had to end sometime. Just like TV and music it’s a whole new world

    Comment by front load washer smell -

  6. Pingback: Chris Schweppe | HP Is Done With The Computer Business » Customwave Internet Marketing Blog

  7. Stop being lazy and reposting old stuff. Write something new.

    Comment by cnnhome -

  8. Mark, I am watching a special on TV right now, and you’re on there. After a while of watching I thought “Wow, a successful person who actually CARES about the rest of the country!”

    Clearly, I am not quite as successful as you, but I do know that what my father always says is very true– “Do what you love, love what you do, and the money will follow.”

    3 years ago, I decided to try a new women’s personal care product. It was healthier for the body, and better for the environment. It was not well known, but I fell IN LOVE with it! men seem to be all for it too, since it means less trips to the store and taking out the garbage less 🙂

    Loved them so much, I found out ALL the companies that make them. Asked them for samples, and they sent them to me. Did blog reviews, made YouTube videos about them, and got semi “famous” in the online support communities of women who use them. Got a high readership on my blog. I reviewed almost every brand of them in the world, and I decided to devote myself to educating other women about this amazing “untapped” item. After 3 years, pretty much developing the most extensive information sources online for these items on WordPress and YouTube– YouTube finally offered me Partner revenue sharing on my videos, and Google Adsesne too. I developed a high readership and high view counts on the blog and videos. I probably answer at least 20 questions every day.

    I guessed when I fell in love wiht them, I noticed there was almost NO information abotu them online. No brand comparisons, no videos, no reviews. So I decided that if there was to be such an information source– I woudl have to create it myself. Only then would people feel like they coudl get educated abotu them before trying them.

    Today, I’m proud to say, I’m considered by most in the massive support community to be the biggest “authority” on these items, a title I worked hard for, because I wanted to gain the pull and popularity, so I could have the power to spread the word. And now I have that. The head of U.S. distributions for one of the top companies was taking a trip to New York, with the owner from Finland, and they mentioned my name to some women at a conference out there– they women out there knew me by name!! When the head of distributions told me this, I just couldn’t believe it! Even SHE says I was her inspiration for getting into this business. What a shame, it could have been me, lol.

    But being a displaced (recently divorced) housewife with a strong inclination toward medical interests, I decided to start a part-time business from home selling these items. I used my popularity in the forums, the bolgs, and YouTube to drive traffic to my store, and I can honestly say, I truly LOVE what I do. Growth and expansion is going slow though, because I’m not back on my feet yet, and my investment resources are limited, but I’m happy to do all this. My big dream is to expand my store, to carry more of these items, and also stock it full of endless varieties of other earth and body-friendly products, and earn a full-time income from home.

    If you have advice on how best to do so, with limited funding (put EXTENSIVE product knowledge and and big passion for the business), I would love any that you could offer. Please check my WordPress blog to see how many readers I have built up, and the attention I’m getting.

    Comment by menstrualcupinfo -

  9. The best move the that the Computer industry made was turning Computers and the Internet into just another source of entertainment. In what should be the greatest invention since the printing press to pass knowledge and wisdom to the common man, but will turn out to be the modern source of entertainment. P.C.’s and Lap Tops are not dead in the water-yet. There is a large portion of the population that are just now understanding how to interact with software and hardware to create their own entertainment.

    Comment by aklechuga -

  10. My roommate just built a brand new desktop. As did I. As did his co-worker. Of course, we each bought all of the parts separately and assembled them ourselves. The desktop is still a long ways from being dead… gaming and resource intensive use still demands a screaming machine.

    Comment by jstevens2009 -

  11. Here are the comments from Mark’s original post. Priceless.

    Comment by srynning -

  12. Mark,
    I have multiple offers on the table from companies interested in exclusivity with my product. Shark Tank has apparently passed on us in lieu of more electronic turkey basters and broccoli wads. But there is still a 0.0001% chance Shark Tank will still call, so I am going by there offices at 3000 Olympic in Santa Monica between Sept 12th and Sept 15th to do a unsolicited product demonstration in there parking lot. And have told them as such.

    If Shark Tank has officially passed, then possibly you are free to now get involved. If so, and still no phone call from you comes, then this will be the 2 foot putt you shouldn’t have passed up. Why do I still need and want to work with you if I’ve got multiple companies interested in doing an exclusive deal? The answer is “lawyers” and “Cuban” as an involved equity value added brand/force in negotiations.

    You know where to find me. If you are interested and also want me to peg a time/date for the Mark Burnett office demo, drop me a line. Lest you miss out entirely on a 2 foot putt which has a $20B market rev potential in the US and a $300M market rev potential at 1% penetration with a product which fills a gap which is presently void of a true solution. Best return you’d ever have on $50k to $100k of your own dough.

    Peace, said the sure thing that lives 45 mins from the AAC.

    Comment by hailguardian -

  13. I’m not sold that “the cloud” will replace computing power just yet. As an increasing number of ISPs are instituting bandwidth caps, and a lot of that is being eaten up by video streaming. Add to that music streaming, VOIP, video chat, and Gaming Over IP, and I think we’re still a bandwidth revolution from relying on the cloud.

    That said, you’re not “wrong.” We are doing a lot more with less. I just think that there’s still room for the PC as “the home server”. I imagine your server caching Internet traffic at your home, including static media like video/audio that you’ve streamed, for subsequent retrieval. And I picture it as part of your home entertainment system, not on the desk next to your monitor.

    In fact, I’d like to see a wireless (wifi) touchscreen monitor that doubles as a home tablet. Your desk could just be a vertical charging dock for that, and a wireless keyboard/mouse. And after you’re done with “work”, just remove the monitor/tablet from the charging station and carry it around your home to read, retrieve video to stream to your HDTV, or play games on. Your server is your processor and HDD, your monitor just your that. Your monitor.

    It could work just as well as any “wifi-only” tablet does in a home. In fact, most people I know with ipads don’t much take them places any more, they’re largely home devices. Then again, most people I know probably don’t travel as much as someone like Mark Cuban.

    Comment by jeffool -

  14. I’d love to see a link to the original article’s comment thread – I’m sure there was a great debate raging on whether or not phones could ever replace computers, and how they’re two separate items. Reading this now, the only reaction is, “Of course,” but back then, this was not at all obvious. Good read.

    Comment by Jeremy -

  15. Totally Mark. I would argue, however, that IF a desktop-convertable-to-portable came out, with a small footprint, green, etc., wicked HD, and most importantly lighting fast internet, then that would sell. I think folks are sort of caught in limbo between a laptop and desktop; they think about laptop vs. tablet when either one are purchased (I guess sort of the overlap you mention).

    But, with internet, that isn’t the machine’s fault, of course. I wish we could really solve the TLM and pipe problem, because if folks have lighting-fast internet, then everyone will have a desktop and small portable. I guess the smartphones and portable devices are really going to be the CPU for a monitor and keyboard, for a desktop environment. I guess a monitor and keyboard standard will be developed for small portables/smartphones, etc.

    Anyway, just babbling, you got me thinking…

    Comment by dwcbrq -

  16. Great blog ( all those years ago Mark ).

    We still have too many devices and the integration between our portable devices and our desktop devices ( don’t know about you but I like a big screen when I am home !! ) isn’t neat enough.

    Where’s your 2011 blog then ?? 😉

    Comment by kitw -

  17. Very prescient observations Mssr. Cuban. I am continually impressed and appreciative of this blog. You’re observations and insights are that of a visionary and a competent businessman. Kudos.

    Comment by ourmanflint1 -

  18. Great post as always Mark.
    I believe that the next big thing is going to be glasses with a computer in them. It may be 10 years away, but the idea of being able to literally have 2 computer monitors right in front of ur eyes is very cool.
    Im wondering what your thoughts are on this?

    Comment by Brian Pivar -

  19. “All the good stuff is small. All the traffic generators are small. Which means that we could see big changes in how retail stores are merchandised and in the size of future retail stores.

    It won’t take much square footage to showevery possible cellphone, PDA, console, portable hard drive and attachable device. About the only”big” product that will need to be there are HDTVs.”

    Not that you need validation, but this was posted on earlier today….

    It’s happening now.

    Comment by Billy@JB Photos -

  20. Darned prophetic! Good call.

    Comment by Kreig415 -

  21. You couldn’t have been more right when you wrote this several years ago! Good call 🙂

    Comment by Mario Ortiz -

  22. In 5 years touch pad devices will be like phones. The cellular companies mobile networks will also eventually take over the ISP world as well. With that said we will be trading in our iPads for the next cool tab device with a kick ass service plan. Why think ATT, Verizon, and Sprint would dare change a business model that has been working.

    Until the govt deregulates the internet and mobile networks we will be stuck in that model much like phones….err personal communication devices.

    Comment by russell44jones -

  23. Now mobile phones are eclipsing the PC. Whats next?

    With the “cloud” there is not much need for overly powerful processors and memory.

    Internet infrastructure is the next boom in my opinion.

    Comment by sapphiresut -

  24. Fully agree. Laptops are much more convenient, but even they seem to be on the way out – making way for handheld devices.

    Comment by Andrew L. Anisi -

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