For many years, the price difference between the desktop computer and a laptop computer were significant with a laptop costing much more than a comparable desktop computer. Today the gap between a desktop and a laptop is very small and often you can get low-end laptops for less than a desktop computer.
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The price difference may be disappearing, but the performance gap still exists. One thing that many users fail to consider when they are deciding between a laptop and a desktop computer is that if the laptop and desktop cost the same, typically the desktop will still be more powerful. Despite that laptop computers have recently been shipping in higher number than desktops for the first time ever.
We know that the laptop and netbook market is changing and I have talked a bit recently about where I think the netbook market will go over the coming months. Today I am going to look at where the desktop market will go.
There are many distinct segments within the desktop market. There is the low-end segment where the vast majority of computer buyers shop. This segment uses older technology and offers fewer features, but the price is low. As new processors, hard drives and other components come out the stuff that was high-end yesterday slowly trickles down until it hits the low-end market.
Intel and AMD are both big in the basic computer market and we routinely see new processors here that are not ashamed to offer significant speed increases, which can’t be said for the netbook market (the lower end segment of the notebook field). With DDR3 now making more of a push into the market with the new Core i7 and X58 chipset platform we will see more computers using DDR3 RAM. However, these will continue to be the higher end systems that are aimed at multimedia enthusiasts and gamers.
The bulk of desktop systems that are available will continue to run DDR2 RAM. This isn’t a problem since most of the users out there will not notice a big difference in the performance between DDR2 and DDR3 systems.
In the low-end segment this year, I think we will see many of the desktop computers going to smaller form factors. We will also see many of the lowest-end systems moving to hardware that is coming out of the netbook line like the Atom processor.
The mid-range market this year will start to see more machines that are running quad-core processors as Intel and AMD both unveil new and faster quad-core parts that result in lower prices for existing hardware. I don’t think 2009 will be the year we see hoards of applications hit the market that really take advantage of a quad-core processor, there are a few applications, but for most people a dual-core processor will continue to be plenty of power for the near future.
In the high-end market, we will see a move towards even faster processors with Intel having a slew of parts to be launched this year. With NVIDIA, finally allowing SLI to be ran on other chipsets this will be a robust year for dual graphics solutions on the gaming market. We can also expect to see some interesting video cards debut for the gamer this year from NVIDIA and AMD.
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This could be the year that determines if AMD's ATI video cards survive. ATI has been the source for some of the largest losses coming out of AMD and it has been pummeled by NVIDIA (with a few exceptions like the latest Radeon video cards) in performance. ATI will need to get more competitive in the video card market and hopefully they will. No matter your brand preference for gaming video cards, no one wants to see ATI go out of business, competition is essential and NVIDIA and ATI are the only games in town. I keep expecting AMD to announce it is spinning ATI off into its own company again to help prevent any more write-downs resulting from the poor performance of ATI. I won’t be surprised to see that happen this year.