I've been trying out the Windows 8 Developer Preview, and I'm happy to report that Spybot Search & Destroy 1.6.2 works to perfection in that operating system. Remarkably, SS&D works on every edition of Windows dating back to Windows 98 (and 95, for all I know). What an amazing program.
Can't say the same, though, for the Spybot 2 beta -- I downloaded and installed it before 1.6.2, and although I could get the initial screen up, the program kept crashing with messages about a missing this and an invalid that. Of course, it was a bit too much to expect that a beta program would work perfectly in a pre-beta OS.
SpyBot Search & Destroy 1.62 does (or did) work fine on Windows 95a. I bought a Micron Pentium 166Mhz with 96MB of memory back in 1995 or 1996. That thing must have been built like a tank. It finally died early in 2011. The last few years were used by the grandkids for older games that still ran on it. Surfing the web was barely tolerable, as the sites became more resource hungry. It cost quite a bit back when I bought it (I could buy 2 quite powerful machines now for the same money), but I'd say it didn't owe me anything when it finally bit the dust.
I was out of the PC market for ten years after I bought my Windows 98 computer. (And that one still works great!) At some point during that period, the model for selling PC's changed and you no longer had to shell out $1500 to get a mid-range system with a bunch of software you'd never use. To say nothing of their power and capabilities...
That change in cost was actually very gradual and is called ASP (Average Selling Price) in the industry and is also why there are so few manufacturers of PC systems remaining. Most of the "whitebox" vendors are completely gone and only a very few of the major names are still in it either, with Sony out a couple years ago and HP recently talking like they may exit soon.
The reason is the move to portable systems like laptops, tablets, smartphones and other embedded products with more narrow purposes. Though many of these now perform most if not all of the applications that a typical consumer really requires.
Personally I expected the desktop to be completely dead by now when I went to work for a medium sized whitebox manufacturer back in 1997, who was aquired in 2002 and the new owner went out of business themselves in 2006. As usual though, some people are slower to adopt the newer technologies and directions than others, so the lagging purchases of these systems are still occuring even now.
What I think will finally wake most of the remaining consumers to the changes are the new technology TV systems combined with tablets and smartphones. As they learn the true capabilities of these they'll finally realize that their need for a PC 'box' is coming to an end and these much lower cost, lower power and often more portable devices really better suit their lifestyles and pocketbooks.
Microsoft has been seeing the effects of this with both Vista and even Windows 7 sales, since they've again this week indicated a workforce reduction just as the US at least seems to be slowly exiting the worst of the recession. Though the recession did reduce PC sales on its own to some extent, I really believe the larger cause was the beginnings of the move by consumers to these other platforms, partially as cost savings but just as much for the other reasons I've mentioned above. The other accelerating effect will be due to the hard drive shortage caused by the floods in Thailand late last year, since this has driven up HDD and so PC costs soon and will thus make their solid state memory competitors like tablets even more desireable.
Thanks for the inside scoop. So that's how PC prices came down. You obviously know what you're talking about!
I'm not surprised to hear that Sony got out of the business. Last year (or was it the year before that) I walked into a Sony store at the mall, and they had on display a laptop for like $6995 or some similarly astronomical price. I had to wonder if inside it was enameled in gold with encrusted diamonds.
After memorizing the model number, when I got home I looked up the specs and it was nothing special. A moderate-sized SSD, but there wasn't anything so awesome about the computer that seemed to justify the price tag. It was waaaay overpriced, as far as I could tell. I couldn't figure out what Sony's business model was for such a machine at such a price.
I do believe that the desktop PC will continue to thrive for a long time. Businesses, at least, need fully capable systems that are also easy to repair when necessary. Laptops and tablets have their components crammed in to minimize the footprint, and offer little or nothing in the way of expandability.
Last year we bought a tower PC to use (with Windows Media Center) as a DVR for our TV viewing. I installed a graphics card with HDMI and sufficient processing power, and then a CableCARD-capable quad tuner card. That wouldn't have been possible with a laptop, let alone a tablet. Other people soup up their computers for gaming with high-end GPUs and multiple monitors. And then there are professionals (architects, designers, graphics artists, and the like) who require lots of crunching power.
No question we have the casual users who'll never see the inside of a PC or test their systems' capabilities, and those are the ones who'll switch over to tablets and smartphones. But just as certainly there are serious users (and enthusiasts) who do push their machines to the limit, as well as businesses and pros who utilize the power and flexibility of the desktop PC. Maybe my confidence is misplaced, but I'm confident that PCs will keep selling in the hundreds of millions of units a year for the foreseeable future.
Though I agree there will continue to be a lagging market for 'expandable' hardware that allows for such purposes, this is really the 'techie' market that was always the bastion of the original desktop PC. This is a more narrow and focused market of highly technical individuals that prefer to configure and 'tweak' their systems, just like the car enthusiasts of the 50's and 60's.
Most of the market though is driven more by purpose, cost and simplicity of use, so this along with the issue of malware you see here are the reasons the the general market is making the shift. Most consumer users actually never expand their PC beyond additional RAM and/or drive storage space which can be done externally, so the huge towers have long been out of favor and even the mid-sized systems are moving to smaller form factors that fit better into the home entertainment system as 'components' similar to the game consoles, etc.
In the business world, this move actually began back in the early to mid 2000's, as the all-in-one systems with the PC built into the back of the early flat screens were one of the most popular sellers of that era. The parallel move to laptops for sales and other mobile workers also drastically reduced the need for desktops, so in reality most medium and larger US businesses either use these devices or at most very small and efficient 'desktops'. Since manufacturers usually offered business warranties for at least 3 and sometimes up to 5 years with replacement components and even entire all-in-one systems available for swap, the issue of repair really didn't exist. And for most businesses, the device is bought with the components it will use its entire life, since it will be replaced before the need becomes an issue.
The PC 'box' remained in schools for a longer period partly due to their cheaper upfront cost at the time and also because they allowed for the addition of cards that some (engineering, technical, etc.) required for specialized instruction. However, even these were beginning the move both to remove the space requirements and reduce support and energy costs, since most of these systems used laptop style components to reduce size.
The home market hasn't seen the shift as quickly primarily due to the fact that like yourself, most keep their single PC for many years, basically until it dies. Unlike business including education (really just another business) which generally operates on 3-5 year replacement cycles, the home user is more driven by need and so the high initial cost of these early systems created slow replacement cycles for most of the consumer market. Though again there are exceptions, these portions of the market are smaller and usually created by economic and technical ability factors.
The reality is that the move by US phone/data carriers to fund smartphones and now tablets at low to no initial cost to consumers is a heavily distorting move, since it removes the initial cost barrier and hides this cost in the monthly fees for their services. For the greatest number of consumers these devices allow access to email and web browsing, with the other now necessary functions of banking, etc, added by free or very low cost apps.
In the TV realm, the move towards Internet streaming is well underway, with many new Digital TV models including this ability from several suppliers. This along with other evolving features as well as game consoles and cable boxes that perform similar functions can easily replace the PC as DVR, so much easier for the consumer to purchase/rent and use.
As I mentioned earlier, the only real question is how quickly the consumer market catches on to these changes and the simplification of use and often (at least initial) cost savings they can provide. There'll continue to be uses for laptops and obviously tablets/pads in education especially, since here the requirements are still more general purpose, which is exactly what the PC is, a general purpose computer. However, the definition and refining of more specific purpose devices and the resulting integration of these into our lives will reduce the need for these for most of the general population.
Just as the US auto market made a huge and very fast turn with a relatively small change in gas prices, the market for a device that in most cases just sits on a desk unused much of the time is coming to an end. With the reduction in real purchasing power that many consumers have seen over the last few years, the choices they are making are much more economically focused and so the decisions of what to purchase are changing too.
Your final paragraph is basically correct, since there are some who will continue to wish to have this power and expandability available, but I see this dwindling relatively rapidly over the next few years. Since the need for these physically larger and more expandable systems is no longer really a technical one, the only thing driving it is personal preference. The move away from these by the consumer segment will drive up the costs for these larger devices as less and less manufacturers are available to produce them, eventually pricing them at levels that most won't wish to absorb.
As long as there are people wanting a large screen, a full sized keyboard, and want some degree of expandability, there will be a market for the desktop PC. That said, my next purchase will likely be a laptop.
All I want my cell phone for is phone calls. I have absolutely no desire to read my email, surf the web, nor do my banking via a handheld device. Those that find such constriction enjoyable, more power to them.
I hear you. Most of the sales growth, today and in the coming years, will come in the tablet and smartphone areas. Certainly they're getting the lion's share of media attention. (And I didn't realize, but it makes sense, that the data carriers' subsidizing the upfront cost of mobile devices distorts the results.)
But I'm not so down (not yet, anyway) on the prospects for desktop PCs. Had to do a bit of digging on the Web, as actual figures (as opposed to predictions) seem to be hard to find, but here are some reasons to stay optimistic.
BTW, had it not been for your help, I wouldn't have known what they meant by the ASP, or its significance.
@GopherJohn -- I wouldn't dream of doing my banking or paying my bills through a smartphone!
Yes, those articles do seem to indicate a picture of growth for at least the business segment, though my main focus above was on the consumer segment.
However, if you know the history of business purchasing in this segment then you recognize that buying while in an economic downturn is a common cost saving measure when the cash is available. So likely the recession has driven some sales as a result of both price reduction by manufacturers as well as the beginnings of business growth by some SMBs and the normal replacement cycles for older systems. We should point out that though they separate tablets and specialty devices like netbooks and thin clients, those articles don't specify whether a desktop PC is an all-in-one or the classic 'box' style we're discussing here, so all of these are lumped into the same desktop category. Also note that the desktops showed the lowest rate of growth, while the netbooks and thin clients which are really the equivalent replacements for desktops each showed larger growth. It's also interesting to note that when the Y2K 'bug' caused a huge increase in sales in the late 1990's, the entire computer industry was caught off guard when the PC sales market crashed in 2000, so they're really not very good at predicting the economic factors that effect themselves and instead tend to look for the rosy picture just like everyone else.
The pressures I was discussing above are more prevelent in the consumer market, where techonology is more of a 'toy' for many then a necessity and so is driven more by the 'fun factor' related to the device. It's also tended to be more affected by the younger crowd, who's generally smaller incomes and more mobile lifestyles have led to the popularity of these smaller portable devices. Their generation will actually drive the move away from the PC, since both their early use of cell phones/texting and comfort level with smaller more portable devices will affect their later technology choices. It's already killing the FM radio market and significantly affecting other much longer term markets than the desktop PC.
Along with what we've already discussed above, the larger screen issue that Gopher John mentioned is also a factor, though I'm currently writing this on a laptop while looking at a second externally attached 22' screen using a full sized USB keyboard and bluetooth mouse. The main laptop screen is reserved for Outlook business email and other utility functions such as remote consoles for the Internet based servers I manage, while the larger screen is used for browsing and any larger virtual server screens.
However, I also have a smartphone that doubles as my portable email, calendar and (text message) alerting device as well as for GPS mapping while traveling, though I use few of its other features regularly. I only web browse on it when my other systems aren't available (e.g. in a store, etc.), but I'm no more afraid to use it for banking than any of my PC systems. My bank provides a very effective and simple mobile web site and an optional application that even allows the deposit of checks via a photo taken by the phone, so no full screen PC application is required.
My next planned purchase is to replace the laptop with a Windows tablet, since I require that OS for some business applications, but wish to have a smaller, lighter device to take on site for maintenance. I still plan to use an external bluetooth keyboard and mouse when in my home based office and may need to get an HDMI monitor since that's the more common connector on these newer devices.
I do still have a Media PC I purchased 2+ years ago in my entertainment center, but that will likely be my last desktop and is itself a more component sized system designed to lay flat, again using a bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I just finally got rid of the 10-year old Windows XP based Compaq (small form-factor) desktop business system last month.
I fully expect to see the older, less mobile consumer with failing eyes (myself included) continue to use a full-sized screen. However, since my Media PC does this well with my older 46" TV, it will do this even better with the larger screen I intend to purchase next. Simply replace the Media PC with any of the browser or application capable TV (really monitor) based systems now becoming available and most of a typical consumer's needs will be covered without ever leaving the living room.