Good News On The Electronics Front: In 2007, Laptop Beat Desktop Sales

Anybody remember the cost rule for personal computer purchasing? Old Rule (circa 1985):- The "system" you really wanted cost US$5,000. My 1984 $5K baby was one of those Compaq twin-floppy 'Portables' (pictured) weighing 28 pounds naked - much heavier with the expensive, resource-consuming, wheeled, hardshell shipping case needed to take it flying. Compaq's fan roared just to keep things cool. My printer of choice at the time, which cost as much as a low end "desktop" PC does these days, was a real lunker of a dot-matrix.

New Rule:- The laptop you most want costs US$2,000, no printer or case needed, really. Not only have computer and peripheral designs gotten drastically lighter in 23 years, they have become incredibly more energy efficient and convenient to live with. The long term design changes seem lost in the debate over "how green is my MacBook Air," which focuses, symbolically, on a tiny bit of PVC coated wire - replaced with what sort of wire coating we don't even know???

Two take home messages to think beyond the grams and few years:-

Keep your eye 'on where the puck is going' not where it was. The year 2007 was a cross-over point for computer sales: more laptops were sold than "desktops". I repeat. More laptop sales than desktops. The upshot is reduced resource consumption all around. Less "stuff" is needed to get online and fewer watts needed to stay there.

Note the strong similarities to what happened with the Prius versus Explorer sales in 2007 (crossover sales trend in evidence).

The sentimentalists will argue for the superior design life and customization of a desktop PC. But computer design and market choices are on an unstoppable trend line. Flash forward to 'Hey kids,...Let's gather round Grandpa and ask him to tell us about how he hacked his Mother Board as a youth.' (Perfect role for Chevy Chase.)

You can see an earlier generation's anchor in a similar issue if you go to a custom car show where they have all the restored cherry red "chebbies" and "chargers."

The second take home message is that Apple is watching this long established market trend. If your laptop be not designed sexy and green, you have no future. The sexy part means the computer becomes the doorway to personal entertainment: music; movies, photos, and so on. Let the medium become the message of green.

That's the way its going to be for some time. And no, I don't miss that Compaq.

Via::Omaha World-Herald/LA Times, "The mighty little laptop overtakes desktops". Image credit::Old Computers Net, Compaq Portable