In the news world, there are things that I think of as Groundhog Day stories–ones that announce a noteworthy event that you could have sworn earlier stories had already made a big deal about having happened. One of those would be the notion that laptops have finally outsold desktop PCs. Every time notebook sales outpace desktops in some specific respect–in U.S. retail stores, for instance–there’s a rash of laptops-overtake-desktops articles. Here’s one from 2003.
There’s another outbreak of such stories today. But this one was prompted by a new report from iSuppli that’s pretty darn definitive: It says that global unit sales of notebooks surpassed desktops for the first time in Q3 2008. Unless you want to wait for the day when there are more laptops on the planet than desktops, this is it–laptops have overtaken desktops. Period. Finally. End of need for future Groundhog Day stories on the matter.
So can I make a modest proposal? If the majority of personal computers being sold everywhere on earth are laptops, they’re not the variant of the PC they were when they first popped up in the 1980s–they are the PC. It’s desktop computers that require qualification, and the time will come when desktops become an endangered species, just like minicomputers were by the 1990s. Which means that it would be perfectly reasonable to redefine the unmodified term PC as meaning a computer that’s portable.
I’m not promising I’ll stick to such a policy here–if I’m the only person who does, I’ll just confuse people–but I kind of like the idea.