fbpx

The demise of the laptop – a device hopelessly out of touch or a victim of circumstance?

To say that the laptop revolution changed the way people got work done would be a gross understatement.  From the late 80s all the way up till the late 90s, laptops were changing the way people were working, but the true jump to mainstream popularity came in the early 2000s. With Apple joining the race, the laptop’s upward trend among the masses was guaranteed. And the appeal is easily understood. The pinnacle of human technology, the computer, mobilized into a system portable enough to put in your bag and use anywhere without the need for a socket is a very appealing concept.

Fast forward to today though, and you will see a completely different landscape. Laptops, while still selling well, have lost most of their momentum. A decade or so ago, the laptop was so dominant in the market, it would regularly outsell the desktop to become the dominant hardware platform for computing. Does this mean that laptops are heading the way of the dodo and you should expect to see one in the next history exhibit?

Calling certain hardware obsolete or predicting its demise is nothing new in the industry. And while many have actually gone down the cruel road of demise, some have defied expectations and remained firmly in the industry. A good example of this is the desktop computer itself. Many users and experts alike back in the day had predicted that with laptops being able to do 80 percent of the work, the desktop is nothing but a bulky expensive waste. Here we are in 2018, and the desktop computer is not just here, it’s flourishing, with regular innovations to hardware pushing the envelope further.

The laptop has come a long way – but is it on its way to the grave? Macintosh Portable, left; Macbook Touch Pro Concept by Handy-Abovergleich, right.

If the PC managed to defy expectations, can we not expect the same from the laptops? After all, many of the innovations made on the desktop side do filter down to laptops, and the market, although, small, is still big enough for most manufacturers to keep on churning out new models on a yearly basis.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that while desktop PCs face no immediate threat, the laptop just has too much competition. Let’s take a moment to discuss these

Tablets

When Apple launched the iPad way back in 2010, they had successfully managed to reinvigorate the tablet space, and thus, inadvertently, created a huge competition for the laptop market. Suddenly, you had all the functionality of the laptop, minus its bulk, with a much more functional interface. Plus, you could pair it with a wireless keyboard, so the argument for a physical input also goes out the window. While the tablet itself is now suffering a decline in demand, it still slashed up the laptop market quite badly.

Smartphones

Perhaps the real reason why the laptop is going the way of the dodo is because of the advent of the smartphone revolution. Combining things like a telephone, camera, audio player and a computer into an all-in-one that can fit in your pocket and run the whole day made for something no one can really turn away from. Within a very short span of time, the smartphone had become a mainstay in society. As time went on, the smartphone kept getting more and more powerful hardware capable of getting more done, encroaching slowly but steadily on the laptop’s monopoly of working on the go. Nowadays, you will find many versions of programs you normally had to use on PCs and laptops on smartphones, further cementing its place as the go-to technology.

Docking smartphone

You might now say that while smartphones do pack a lot of hardware, a professional would not use the small displays found on smartphones or its lack of any peripherals. Well, the smartphone has an answer for that as well; docking stations. Hooking up your smartphone to a small device which then displays to a big monitor with a full-screen version of your OS, as well as options to connect peripherals like keyboards and mice only solidifies the smartphone’s role as a productivity juggernaut.

Current market trends also show a decline in the popularity of laptops.

The first fatal trend is that young people are already choosing smartphones over laptops. Many retailers will concur that the use of laptops and desktops among younger people is on the decline. Most millennials these days use their smartphone as their only computing device, according to a recent report, and that number will keep growing.

The second fatal trend is that the industry is supporting the move to ARM over Intel. Intel and Intel-compatible chips have powered desktop and laptop platforms for decades while the smartphones and smartphone apps run on ARM chips. And once laptops, especially laptops, run ARM chips, they’ll run a mobile based OS instead of desktop grade OS. And at that point, they’ll essentially be identical to docking solutions, but more expensive.

The third and final fatal trend lies with your wallet. Smartphones are amazing and continue to be amazing. The new phones have cameras that rival DSLRs. They have performance that rivals many entry level desktop PCs. They run increasingly amazing apps, including professional-quality apps. Unfortunately, all of that comes at a cost; they’re expensive.

Customers are ready to pay from Tk 50,000 to Tk 70,000, all the way up to Tk 1,00,000 and more for a phone. People are ready to pay such obscene amounts because from their perspective, smartphones are worth it. This is especially true if they don’t have to fork out Tk 1,00,000 or more for a decent laptop as well.

Does this all mean that laptops will disappear from the face of the planet forever, only to be brought up in history lessons to kids somewhere down the line? Other than extreme use cases like professional work such as video, photo, and graphics work or hardcore gaming, the laptop won’t have much to do. But if it weren’t for the laptop lighting the path to mobile hardware development, perhaps that smartphone on your desk hopelessly binging about some notification would never have been born.

Leave a Reply