Ode to the desktop, or why mobile-first sucks
By A. Asohan November 10, 2015
- Dollar for dollar, nothing beats the desktop for work and play
- Let’s not restrict the under-developed world to a hobbled Internet
THE way the ICT industry is going on about mobility, you would think it was the best thing since – well, whatever the best thing was after sliced bread.
Don’t get me wrong, mobility has its benefits. Mobile access to the Internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, created new businesses, and empowered all of us – so much so it’s hard to imagine what our personal and professional lives were like before all of this.
Devices like smartphones and tablets have brought Internet access to a whole bunch of people who previously would not have been able to afford it.
We keep hearing about how an increasing number of people, especially in Asia, are getting their first taste of the Internet through such devices. We are being assaulted by figures of how an increasing number of young people access the Internet only through their devices. And about how many people check their smartphones first thing in the morning.
Businesses are told to get mobile or get a gravestone. The tech industry is focusing more of its resources on mobile technology. It’s mobile this, mobile that.
Desktops? They’re dinosaurs, destined for extinction, only good for those darn enterprise guys who still insist on using boring old Excel spreadsheets.
Pardon me if I don’t celebrate the death of the desktop. Some of my reasons are personal, some of them come from my concern that the focus on mobility means sacrifices are being made on other form factors and platforms – that, for the sake of ‘on-the-go’ Kool Aid, we’re willing to settle for less, and that this is going to lead us to a point where ‘less’ is the only option we have.
It’s about … power!!
I like my desktop. There, I have said it.
I should first point out that in recent years, because of the mobile mafia, everyone – including highly credible analyst firms with their unending research reports – seems to have mixed up form factors with platforms.
So for the purposes of this commentary, and as a matter of fact, let’s put the record straight: The personal computer (PC) is a platform, or even a technology if you prefer, and it comes in many different form factors: Desktop, notebook/ laptop, ultrabook, tablet, what-have-you.
You’re welcome, research and analyst firms which keep using phrases such as ‘personal computers and laptops.’
Dollar for dollar, ringgit for ringgit, rupiah for rupiah, nothing packs as much gigabyte and gigahertz goodness as your friendly neighbourhood desktop.
And compared to those fragile little devices that most people prefer these days, it can take a lot of punishment.
I mean, I write for a living. I want a big-ass keyboard that can take my abuse.
Sure, I can settle for a laptop as a substitute, especially when I am on the move, but doing work on one makes feel like I am merely catching up on a bit of work while on vacation – I mean, really, that’s the difference between how much work I get done on a desktop versus how much I get done on a laptop.
I checked out Dell Inc’s US site – I decided the freefalling ringgit would make comparisons on the Malaysian site questionable – to see what I could get for about US$800, with the two different form factors.
For US$769.98, I can buy the Inspiron Desktop Gamer Edition with a 6th Generation Intel Core i5-6400 Processor (6MB cache, up to 3.3GHz); 8GB RAM; and one terabyte of storage. It also comes with an Nvidia GeForce (yay!) 730 2GB GDDR3 video card, a 23in monitor and a bloody read/ write DVD drive, which everyone knows can double up as a cup-holder.
And it runs without batteries.
For US$799.99, I can instead get the new XPS 13 laptop, which comes with a 6th Generation Intel Core i3-6100U (3MB cache, a mere 2.3GHz), 4GB RAM, and all of … only 128GB storage, a tiny 13in display, and an Intel HD (yawn) Graphics 520 card.
The desktop is still the most versatile PC form factor. It’s not just the best machine for work, it’s also the best for fun. I get all sorts of gaming goodness without needing to clean out my bank account for an Alienware machine.
With my trusty desktop, I get to play Skyrim and Pillars of Eternity, and also the Baldur’s Gate series with all sorts of mod goodness.
With mobile, you get … Angry Birds.
Mobile broadband? Let’s not even go there – the only thing missing is the pshhhkkkkkkrrrrkakingkakingkakingtshchchchchchchchcch*ding*ding*ding* screech of a dialup modem (text version courtesy of The Atlantic).
There’s a reason why your parents always used to lecture you about the goodness of fibre. Just check any mobile provider’s broadband package, and compare it with a fibre package.
Yeah, today’s mobile Internet is essentially yesterday’s Internet experience, only with prettier colours and less information.
The big picture
In the last few years, we have been hearing about how mobile access to the Internet is going to be the great economic leveller, and how it can uplift under-developed communities.
Yeah, I get it. And yeah, I am all for it, because in many cases, it’s a mobile Internet experience, or no Internet experience at all.
But when governments and industry start to talk about the mobile Internet as if it were the only kind of Internet access we third-worlders should aspire to, I get worried.
And I get even more worried about how much money is being spent, and how much research and development is being dedicated to it – which means less focus on bringing the full Internet experience to everyone.
Because let’s face it: The mobile Internet is a hobbled Internet experience, no matter how well you dress it up.
And I strongly believe that we shouldn’t restrict the under-developed communities of the world to just this. We should aspire to give them the same kind of access the rest of us enjoy.
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