Desktop computers were never the best tool for the job; they were the only tool for the job. PC aficionados such as myself lament the end of the desktop era, as the more the market moves away from desktop support, the more niche and expensive high-end PC components will become.
The obsolescence of the desktop computer doesn’t necessarily mean it will vanish completely. There will likely be a market for RTX Geforce 2080 ti rigs with i9 processors and 128gb of RAM for many years to come, however increasingly these computers will be owned solely by gamers and video artists.
People never needed a 10lb black monolith (the opening credits to 2001 come to mind) sitting on their desk. What most people need is a way to access the internet, write essays for school, and play Candy Crush in their downtime. We can see from the graph above that while their decline is slower, laptops are on their way out as well because they, too, poorly address the needs I just listed.
Right now, most desktop and laptop sales are probably due to an older generation of consumers not understanding that the gap between tablet and desktop has been significantly bridged in the last few years. The latest generation of iPad sports a processor that is strikingly similar in performance to close-to-current-gen i5 and i7 chips.
The continued refinement of tablet technologies mean that, barring ignorant baby-boomers, most people will likely be buying tablets as their primary computers in the future. There will still be some holdouts who cling to laptops out of nostalgia but, barring cost (a mid-tier laptop is still more powerful than a tablet but as the tablet market expands this will likely change rather quickly and significantly), there is realistically no reason to buy a laptop in 2020.
We might not be playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a Surface Pro any time soon, but gamers can now officially lament that the console wars have ended and PCs did not win. As market share continues to move toward tablets and laptops, consoles will become the gaming equipment of choice. The argument can still be made that even current-gen consoles can’t touch the performance of a souped up gaming rig… most gamers aren’t willing or able to shell out $3000 on a desktop PC.
Personally, I’ll continue building and tinkering with desktops for the forseeable future, but it’s definitely a niche hobby these days. I encounter fewer and fewer people who have ever looked inside of their computer or understand how it works. It’s sad in a way, but that’s progress for you. I imagine it’s the same way hot rodders felt when car manufacturers made their automobiles less and less customizable.