Over at TIME.com, I did my darndest to do something that seems to be nearly impossible: Define “PC” in a way that makes sense for 2012 and beyond. (The comments are interesting: A couple of folks apparently believe that anything that isn’t a powerful desktop computer is not a PC.)
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My mission to buy a desktop PC started out simple: I wanted a powerful work computer with support for three monitors. Getting a PC within my budget seemed reasonable.
But then, temptation set in. With a slightly better processor and graphics card, this desktop could play the latest video games. And with a solid state drive instead of hard disk storage, everyday work performance would be breezier. Of course, boosting those specs at any configure-your-own PC site made the final price skyrocket. After days of searching for a powerhouse PC under $1,000, I admitted the truth to myself: If I wanted it, I’d have to build it.
Today, I write to you from my homemade, high-powered rig, built last Thursday. It has a 3.3 GHz Intel Core i5 2500K processor, an AMD Radeon 6870 graphics card, 8 GB of RAM, a 120GB solid state drive and a basic DVD burner. The total cost, after taxes and rebates, was about $920. (I got parts from MicroCenter, an electronics retailer, which meant paying sales taxes but getting everything immediately.)
Building my first desktop PC wasn’t just a means to an end, it was also a learning experience. If you’ve ever thought of building your own PC, here are some things to consider.
I’m not in the market for a desktop PC. In fact, I don’t expect to buy another desktop PC, ever. But if I were, this new Alienware box would be tempting.
HP announced a 3D PC display and a 3D PC today. To me, at least, the most interesting thing about them is that the company chose a different flavor of 3D for each device.
First the display. Its official moniker is the HP 2311gt 3D monitor, and it’s a 23″ LED-backlit display. Like most 3D movies you see in theaters, the 3D is passive, which means that its uses polarized glasses that don’t have any embedded electronics and don’t cost a lot of money. In fact, the display and two set of glasses go for $299.99, or about what you might pay for two pair of active-shutter glasses alone.
Back in August, HP announced that it felt its PC division, the world’s largest, might be better off if it wasn’t part of HP. It said it was going to review its options and that it might take twelve to eighteen months to come to any conclusions.
A month later, the company fired its CEO, Léo Apotheker, and replaced him with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. She didn’t take a year and a half to make a decision–and the decision is that HP will stay in the PC business.
“HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger.”
(Sadly, the reversal doesn’t seem to have any impact on Apotheker’s other big PC-related decision: Killing the TouchPad tablet after six weeks.)
I always found the breakup plausible–if for no other reason than that it’s an idea that’s been around for a least a decade–but I’m glad it’s not happening. And it always suffered from a fundamental flaw: How could it make sense for HP to want to be an enterprise software and services company that also happened to be heavily dependent on profits from ink cartridges sold to consumers?
The next few years of the PC industry are going to be some of the most interesting ones since the beginning of the PC business, since it’s so very unclear what’s going to happen to the PC we’ve known for all these decades. I hope that HP takes that as an opportunity, not an existential threat to its PC business–and that it builds some cool machines in the years to come.
I’m beginning to think that I’m the only person on the planet who feels this way, but bear with me: I have an astoundingly elastic notion of what a PC is. I don’t think it has to run Windows. I don’t believe it needs to come in a desktop tower or a portable clamshell case. If it’s a general-purpose computing device that allows me to run third-party apps, I think of it as a PC–whether it’s a ThinkPad, a MacBook, an iPad, a Droid, or a ChromeBook.
That was the line of thinking that led me to title my TIME.com column for this week “The PC Isn’t Dying–It’s Just Evolving.” I don’t see the iPad as a not-PC; I see it as a PC that happens to come in a new form factor, run new software, and be optimized for somewhat different use case scenarios than a garden-variety laptop.
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Earlier this week, a maker of computer gaming peripherals named Razer took out a big ad in the Wall Street Journal that claimed PC gaming is not dead. The ad promised to “bring a new age of openness and innovation to all gaming” with a new product unveiling on Friday.
So here we are. Razer’s hyped up product turned out to be the Razer Blade, a $2,799 gaming laptop with a 17-inch display, cutting-edge specs and an eye for design. Inside, there’s a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2640M processor, Nvidia GeForce GT555M graphics and 8 GB of RAM. The outside is built from a solid slab of aluminum that Razer wants to shave thinner than a MacBook Pro. A customizable touch pad and set of LCD keys are on top, next to green backlit keyboard.
PCWorld’s Nate Ralph got a demo of the laptop and liked what he saw. So did Kotaku’s Joel Johnson, who wrote that the Razer Blade “might not just be the future of PC gaming—it may be the future of PCs.”
Maybe for him. But when I think of the future of PC gaming, I don’t see one that’s dominated by portable gaming rigs with price tags of $2,000 and up. I something completely different.
Is Samsung interested in buying HP’s PC business? Not according to Samsung:
The recent rumors that Samsung Electronics will be taking over Hewlett-Packard Co.’s personal computer business are not true.
We hope this clarifies any confusion that may have occurred.
For one of the most successful, profitable, all-around-important inventions of all time, the PC has never gotten much respect. People have been announcing that its time is over almost since its time began. The newest round of debate was sparked by the thirtieth anniversary of the IBM PC earlier this month, particularly after IBM’s Mark Dean, who helped design the first IBM PC, wrote a blog post that referred to the post-PC era and compared the PC to vinyl and vacuum tubes. And it really caught fire last week when HP announced that it probably wants to get out of the PC business.
Now, it’s certainly news when the world’s largest PC company decides that it’s no longer happy being a PC company at all–even if it’s only coming to the same conclusion that a fair number of Wall Street analysts reached years ago. It helped to prompt Microsoft VP of Corporate Communications Frank X. Shaw to blog contending that we live in a “PC plus” era rather than a “post-PC” one, and arguing that smartphones, tablets, and e-readers are “companions” to the PC.
The HP I write about is the one that makes laptops, desktops, printers, and various other consumer and small-business devices. I don’t cover its enterprise business and will never mention the enterprise-software company it’s planning to buy, Autonomy. (Whoops, I just did! Never again, I swear.)
So the news that HP wants to stop making PCs leaves me feeling melancholy. An HP that gets out of the PC business will be one that I’ll cover a lot less, even if I continue on covering the products of the spun-off company–which, I suspect, will still be sold under the HP name.
But I’m not really surprised by HP’s decision, especially since its new CEO, Léo Apotheker, is a hardcore enterprise-software guy, not a consumer-electronics type. And despite Apotheker’s suggestion that “the tablet effect“–for which read the iPad–is a factor in HP’s desire to ditch PCs, I think that HP would be doing this right now even if the iPad didn’t exist.