I see the problem

CNET reports that the PC market is expected to keep declining in the next few years. As I described just last week, if PC manufacturers are interested in reviving sales, displays are the key.

Displays, the primary output of PCs, are their chief weakness. Think about input first:

  • Touch screens are decent for consumption but arguably not much better than a mouse. It's easier to read an article with a touch UI, but easier to work with large-scale or detailed information with a mouse. It's easier to provide textual input with a keyboard. Furthermore, in Windows 8, we're seeing a more touch-friendly PC emerge, giving us the best of both worlds. At best, between tablets and PCs, it's a wash; but I'd say I prefer PCs for consumption especially if you have the largest monitors you can afford.
  • Keyboards and mice are clearly superior for creation, with the possible exception of free-form artistic creation where input tablets have been used since way before we had tablet computers.

So PCs have an edge on user input but are way behind on output. PC monitors are low-density, small, and disturbingly often use outdated LCD technology such as TN rather than than IPS or, better yet, OLED. In fact, I don't know of a single PC monitor that is OLED. That should tell you something. Yes, OLED is new-ish and, woe is me, it's so hard to manufacture. Get over it. Sink some real R&D into it already.

Organizations and individuals alike have historically compensated for this disappointing reality by using multiple monitors, side-by-side. This should have been a short-lived condition—a signal to the manufacturers that larger screens are desired, in order to view and interact with more information at once. But display manufacturers seemingly ignored that signal, and PC manufacturers also looked the other way.

Just get a look at the sorry monitor situation in the photo from CNet's article:

The monitors are small and you've got a good five-inch gap between them. This kind of display configuration makes PCs look tired.

It doesn't help, of course, that the top 1.5 inches of each display is eaten up by worthless browser chrome. What is that on both screens, anyway? Gmail and Google docs?

That pictured PC is probably somewhat antiquated, and I would argue (in fact, this is precisely what I argued in my previous rant) that because the monitors are so underwhelming, there is little incentive to upgrade the PC. Its almost-certain weak performance is seen as serviceable because, well, you don't need anything faster.

Plus, there's a culture involved. Upgrading a PC means getting IT involved. Whereas bringing in a cutting-edge tablet just means paying out of pocket for a new toy. Those of us who bring our own PCs to work spend money on the thing that matters most: displays! We don't need to convince a conservative IT department. We just do it.

Even if that PC is serviceable, everyone wants faster stuff, including this user. So who is surprised she has grabbed onto what is likely a faster UI in the form of a tablet.

Get with it, PC manufacturers. Give us massive, high-density displays, and the demand for high-performance CPUs and GPUs will follow automatically. Today's tablets will seem like last-year's novelty and eventually tablets will evolve into the proper application terminals they should be.
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