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What Does the Future Hold for the PC?

By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2006-08-11 Print this article Print

Internet services and cheap bandwidth may challenge the PC's marketplace supremacy as it adapts to survive.

On Aug. 12, the IBM PC hits the 25-year mark.

The date is significant not because it was the first PC on the market, as there are a number of contenders for that distinction: The Apple 2, the Radio Shack TRS-80, the Commodore 64, and even the MITS Altair 8800 of 1975, among many others, predate the IBM product as early "personal computers."

But all these earlier machines were dismissed as mere toys by most businesspeople, who contended that PCs couldn't perform the work they did every day on huge and costly mainframes and minicomputers.

But when IBM introduced its original PC with a single 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 256KB of RAM and the Intel 8088 running at 4.77 MHz, personal computers were no longer toys for the home—they became business tools.

Since then personal computers have grown in power and sophistication, so that for less than $1,000 people can own a machine that runs faster and has more memory than the most powerful supercomputer of the 1980s.

Click here to read about the latest trends in PC pricing.

But despite its relative youth, the demise and eventual replacement of the PC has been the subject of speculation among enthusiasts and detractors for years.

For a while, since the turn of the 21st century, Internet applications seemed poised to reduce full-featured desktop PCs to irrelevance, especially as designers packed more features into PDAs and smart phones.

Well, not so fast.

According to a new study by Gartner—released to coincide with the PC's silver anniversary—the challenges to the personal computer remain, but there is still a bright future for the descendants of the first IBM PC.

"The death of the PC has been forecast many times during the years," said Charles Smulders, managing vice president of Gartner's Client Computing Group, in Stamford, Conn. However, he noted that the PC has managed to remain competitive in the market place through better price performance and a host of other reasons.

Some of those reasons, according to the Gartner study, include the PC's ability to perform as an extensible platform that has constantly evolved as microprocessor technology has become ever more powerful and less costly.

Falling prices have made PCs affordable by a larger proportion of the world's population. PC designers are looking for ways to put basic but effective PCs in the hands of people in even the poorest third-world countries.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: What Does the Future Hold for the PC?

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