Computer hardware is constantly evolving, becoming smaller, faster, and more efficient with power consumption. If you bought a new business computer this year, you’ll be due for a new machine in roughly five years. What will desktop PCs look like then, inside and out? We can look at the current vector for desktop computing for hypotheses.
Every year of the past decade, it seems, somebody declares that desktop PCs are over. It’s a “misconception that persists,” says Garter researcher Ranjit Atwal. PCs find a new growth driver keeping the venerable desktop alive—albeit on a low single-digit growth decline most years. IDC program vice president Loren Loverde says the PC market is performing as expected, and continues to stabilize.
In the workplace, the performance-to-price value for desktop machines outpaces that of mobile devices. For intensive computing tasks, it’s unlikely businesses will find a mobile replacement for video editing workstations, and powerful desktops for 3D modeling used in science and engineering R&D. Workstation computers will continue as stationary machines, although their form factor will probably become smaller, and the components powering workstation computers might look slightly different.
In terms of the hardware inside your computer, it will look largely the same—with some exceptions.
- Motherboards will likely have built-in 5G wireless connectivity.
- 10-gigabyte network cards might come standard in business desktop computers.
- Your case will hold more computer in a smaller form factor.
- Storage drives will be solid state and connect into the NVMe or PCIe interface on the motherboard.
Small is beautiful
We’ve seen OEM desktops gravitate toward smaller PC cases packed with high-power components. The latest Dell OptiPlex refresh takes the desktop machine off the desk—the OptiPlex 7050 Micro is a small form factor machine small enough to hide behind a computer monitor.
Intel and AMD inside the same tiny computers
Enthusiasm around tiny, powerful computers is palpable. It reflects in the popularity of Intel NUC micro computers in recent years. Intel’s latest creation puts everything you want in a business desktop in one tiny form factor, thanks to a single chip—a CPU and GPU in a single fabrication. The Intel Hades Canyon NUC has enough power for VR applications, and the manufacturer touts it as the smallest VR ready machine available. Along with its Intel Core i7 desktop CPU, there’s room for two M.2 SSDs, two DDR4 RAM slots in which you can pack 32 GB of system memory. It is meant to support a load of peripherals with four USB 3.0 ports, two USB-C ports, dual GbE Ethernet, HDMI, dual Mini Displayport.
Low-power business PC going extinct
Traditional desktop PC towers will probably remain available five years from now but looks like it’s going the way of the dinosaur. Pricing for baseline business computer endpoints is trending downward in relation to the power inside the case. Like Dell, HP embraces small computing with the HP Elite Desk line, a compact-but-powerful endpoint solution. But take for example the 2018 HP Pavilion refresh. It’s a standard mid-tower around $600, and you’re getting an Intel Core i3 dual-core processor capable of 3.9 GHz frequency and a discrete graphics card, a 10th-generation NVIDIA GeForce GTX, plus 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB hard drive. More than capable of office multitasking, it’s a typical machine you’d choose for a call center-type setup.
Mainstream computers built for machine learning
As we move into the next generation of business desktop computers, the rule is go big on power, stay small on space. Sure, the PC as a concept isn’t dead—but the entry-level, low-power flavor of desktop probably is. You do not need a powerful and expensive computer simply for producing documents and handling e-mail. For that, a $200 Chromebook will do the job. The desktop machine must pack a punch and remain cost-efficient.
Manufacturers are gearing new business PCs towards modern workloads. Here, AI and machine learning analytics is the name of the game. Quantum computing is also in the conversation—which posits computers will be multiple times faster than the binary processing that PCs historically have been built upon. These technologies rely on processing power. Namely, the need for dual encryption is important when quantum computers emerge because theorists anticipate they will be able to brute-force decipher modern methods of encryption.
For business computing, security will remain a top priority. One of the facets that makes the latest Dell offering so interesting are new enhancements to the Dell Data Guardian and Dell Encryption product lines. These suites are designed to operate in heterogeneous IT ecosystems, protecting many file times and protecting in-house proprietary applications.