The desktop PC is dead

Beard-scratching number fumblers at research outfit Gartner have looked into their magical crystal ball and decided that the desktop computer has had its day.

The company's analysts have drawn a line through the rocketing sales of flashy new portable computers, compared it with the declining sales of dusty old desktop clunkers, and extrapolated that - rather than being a silly fad - toting a teeny computer is the way of the future.

In fact, the company predicts that, by 2012, the 55 per cent of units currently falling into the luggable category will have risen to 70 per cent.

Netbooks have had a massive impact on the computer industry but we have a sneaking suspicion in our minds that they might just be last year's big thing.

The very fact that just about every school-leaver in the known universe is now packed off to college, and every one of them would be bullied mercilessly if they didn't turn up swinging the very latest ultra-thin digital fashion accessory, means that sales of notebooks and netbooks have gone through the roof.

There's no doubt that Apple has also kicked the tablet debate up a notch with its deliciously desirable, but not entirely practical iPad. And the amount of companies coming forward and saying, "Oh yeah... we've got a tablet too. We were just keeping quiet about it," since Apple made its (sort of) surprise announcement beggars belief.

Cloud computing will also no doubt impact on the future of computing with more companies opting for thin client hardware running virtualised operating systems and software from centralised server farms. But we can't help thinking it's a little premature to write off the desktop PC completely.

High-end users, like gamers, designers, architects and video editors will always demand large, high resolution monitors. People who earn a living from their PC hardware, rather than people who use them for leisure pursuits, prefer the traditional form factor of a big, highly upgradeable box full of bits connected to a seperate monitor and a moveable keyboard and mouse.

The desktop computer may be in decline but we reckon that the clamour for smaller, lighter, more compact PCs is a passing phase. Like the fashion for compact all-in-one music systems in the past, it won't be long before the people who really know about computing are digging out their old separates.