It’s a question that has been on the minds of system administrators for a long time. As the number of laptops (and now slate devices and even phones) continues to grow and displace desktops, so does the management headache. At some point, it seems, that desktops themselves will become extinct leaving only servers and portable devices left to manage.
Farhad Manjoo proclaims the imminent death of desktops at Slate, he makes some very good points. Eric Raymond makes some good counter-points about how peripherals (especially screens and keyboards/input devices) will always keep people tied to a desk. I think that they may be talking past each other, at least from the perspective of IT folks.
From the standpoint of managing computers, there isn’t much (if any) difference between a truly portable computer and one that can be moved between office and home. It’s the fact that the computer is used in different environments and at different times that creates the management friction. Even if a user lugged their big, boxy desktop computer between home and work (I’ve known people to actually do this) it’s still a greater burden on system management than a truly portable computer that never leaves the office.
So, while the death of the desktop PC may be exaggerated in the sense that there will continue to be a “desk” involved most of the time, we are soon to see computers moving from desk to desk as the standard and the static workstation becoming the specialized, niche product.
Also, I’d like to add that I can envision a world where screens and keyboards will become unnecessary. I can see wearable computers become more and more practical over time. For those that scoff, I remind them that people scoffed at the ideas of laptops after seeing the first portable computers. I would love to be able to look up IMDB to win bets without even moving out of my hammock or so much as picking up anything. That’s when my Homer-Simpson-esque dreams can finally come true.