A quick look at any tech article written in the past couple years will tell you that interest in PCs is on the steady decline. With the widespread popularity of mobile browsing (on a global scale, mobile browsing beat desktop browsing for the first time ever this past November, 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent) all indications and analyses point toward a dwindling demand for traditional PCs.
But when you take the time to actually look at what the PC market is offering consumers these days, it’s undeniable that there are plenty of options that are not just keeping the market alive, but allowing it to thrive.
If what we saw leading up to and at CES 2017 this past month is any indication of how things are trending, mobile platforms better prepare to put on the gloves. PCs are making a big comeback in a big way in 2017, and here’s how they’re doing it:
Smartphones Are Trying to Keep Up By Introducing 64-Bit Processors
The first indication of your relevance is how hard your competitors are trying to keep up with you. While it’s not exactly breaking news, 64-bit processor integration into the industry’s best smartphones (at this point, it’s basically standard equipment) is a huge indication of how important the home computer still is.
But even so, even the most state-of-the-art 64-bit mobile processors are only mainly handling 4GB of RAM. The market for 6GB and higher RAM smartphones expanded in 2016, but even then, for a computer, 4GB of RAM is more of a joke than anything.
Any way you cut the cake, 64-bit processors becoming industry standards in smartphones only showed the PC industry that technology and sheer processing power are still top dog.
2-In-1s are Melding Mobile Convenience with PC Power
For the longest time, the tablet market battled between processing power and physical design. The thinner and more convenient tablets become, the less capable they are of doing anything outside the realm of basic word processing, mobile browsing and some elementary photo editing and graphic design work.
When 2-in-1s first made their way into the tech world, they left much to be desired. They were awkward to handle, a little on the clunky side, and the grand majority of them felt like their designers couldn’t really find the delicate balance of harnessing the power of a PC with the convenience and compactness of a tablet.
It’s been a while, but it seems like things are finally changing. Setups like Dell’s XPS 2-in1 is modeled after the highly-regarded and exceptionally popular XPS 13 laptop, with the exception being that it can flip into a tablet. Unfortunately, it’s also a tad bit slower than its older brother. Nevertheless, Dell reports that the XPS 2-in-1 offers 15 hours of active battery life. And if you don’t want to use it as a tablet, all you have to do is fold it around and voila—you have a notebook.
LG’s Gram is another excellent example. Ultra-thin as a laptop with the ability to go full-on tablet, the Gram boasts a staggering 21-hour battery life (allegedly.) I can’t vouch for how valid those claims are, but if they’re anywhere near accurate, the Gram is poised to be a real winner this year.
PCs are Preparing for the Future
No one doubts the emergence over the last few years of mobile browsing as a major influencer in the way people are surfing the web, but that’s not to say we aren’t seeing some incredible developments in the PC/desktop spaces.
With VR technology exploding in the last year, there are entire PC lines dedicated to VR compatibility and exploration. Dell, Origin PC, Lenovo, HP, Alienware and others are currently partnering with VR developers like Oculus and HTC to put out computers built to handle the latest and greatest in VR tech.
Intel also revealed its new Compute Card at CES. Though it won’t be released until later this year, it’s basically a 5-milimeter-thick computer that includes advanced processors, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility, integrated cooling and hassle-free hardware updates, all in a package that’ll fit in your pocket—making desktop computing more mobile than ever before.
The PC camps definitely have their ears to the ground, even if Apple is kind of a sticking point.
PC Companies are Going After the Ultrabook Market, Doubling Back on Chromebooks
Aside from all the interesting 2-in-1s coming out, PC companies are spending more time than ever trying to take a chunk out of Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro market share with compact ultrabooks and notebooks that are thinner, lighter and oftentimes more affordable.
People are calling Dell’s XPS 13 a PC masterpiece. While I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, it is a hell of a laptop that packs quite a bit of punch into a tiny, tiny space. You also have setups like Asus’ ZenBook, the Razer Blade Stealth, HP’s new Spectre x360 and the Samsung Notebook 9 (which makes the MacBook Air look like a brick). Of course, these are just a few of the more popular in a wide array of options out there.
It seems that as things progress, companies are using the widespread success of the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros to serve as a proof of concept of sorts, and are picking up on the opportunities to still provide a uniquely PC experience.
Of course, all of that info is compounded by the big news that dropped just a short couple of days ago that every Chromebook released in 2017 will support Android Apps, making the desire to own one even more enticing.
All-In-One’s Are No Longer Apple-Exclusives
In recent history, the all-in-one market was dominated by Apple’s famed iMac, an all-in-one desktop computer popular in offices, work spaces and studios all over the world for its compact sizing and reputation as a creative powerhouse.
For years, the iMac was the only all-in-one people were interested in.
Well, things are changing. HP’s Sprout Pro all-in-one, for instance, is made to take whatever you can throw at it, and comes equipped with a 3D scanner, a 21-inch projected second display so that you can capture 3D images quick and easy, all in a package that’s exceptionally manageable.
You’ve heard about it already (I wrote about it here on Highsnobiety a little while ago), but Microsoft’s Surface Studio is an excellent example, too. Beautiful design, incredible computing power and the thinnest LCD monitor in the entire world, the Surface Studio supports expanded color output, folds down to near-flat for sketching or designing, and features a massive Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor.
As that market opens up to other companies and brands, you can bet your ass the field is only going to get more competitive from here, and thus, drive up consumer interest.
Apple Is Merging OSX and iOS Features
Despite Apple’s lackluster year, there’s not a single consumer tech analyst who’d argue that they don’t employ some of the brightest minds in the tech world. Not only have they cornered the mobile computing market with their iPhones and iPads, but they also have an incredible hold on personal computing, with their MacBooks and iMacs.
Unlike many consumer tech companies, Apple products get by largely on Apple’s solid name and reputation. However, as their profits have seen quite a dip as of lately, the tech mega-giant is continuously looking at new ways to reinvent itself. Not only did Apple make Siri available to third party developers with the launch of iOS 10, but it also brought Siri, a traditional iPhone-only application, to our desktops with the OSX Sierra update.
While Tim Cook put to rest the rumors about Apple merging OSX and iOS back in 2015, there’s no real telling how far Apple is willing to go to reinvent itself, these days. Nevertheless, whether they do or don’t, it doesn’t change the fact that they seem closer now than ever before.
PCs are Incorporating Incredible New Hardware
More importantly than anything, PC companies are taking back their corner of the market by taking initiative and incorporating the latest and greatest technology available into their products and services. That development strategy plays big when you’re primary competitors (the smartphone market), is limited by size and computing power.
At CES earlier this month, the team from Razer unveiled their new Project Valerie laptops. Aside from being chockfull of impressive hardware, the rig also features a triple-screen display—three 17.3-inch, 4k IGZO IPS panels that fold out from the lid in order to create the massive display. They were so popular that they were actually stolen from Razer’s press room.
Also unveiled at CES was the brand-spanking-new Vega GPU by AMD, a graphics card that not only blows anything any Apple is pushing out of the water, but could be one of the biggest graphics technology launches of the year, seeing as it’s the first-ever 4K-capable Radeon cards. No telling when it’ll make its way into a PC near you, but I can guarantee you won’t ever see it in your favorite smartphone.
Consumer tech and PC companies are also delving deep into portable storage market. Four-terabyte solid state hard drives that sip electricity, provide insane storage and are warrantied for literal decades are completely changing the way people use their personal computers.
For more tech analysis, read what we know so far about the iPhone 8.