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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Should I buy a new computer now?

One of my friends approached me today at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and told me a story of woe about the demise of her computer and was wondering if it was a propitious time for purchasing a new machine?

The question brings up a whole host of considerations, some of which I have discussed recently in posts. In writing a blog post which will be online for considerable period of time it is best to be circumspect in referring to any temporal occurrences. In this case, this blog post is directed at the end of 2013 and the first few months of 2014. If you're reading this outside of that time period, you may want to consider the general principles discussed but ignore the specific recommendations as only applicable to the specific time referenced.

I'm going to simply ignore the issue of whether to purchase one particular operating system or another. If you are considering changing from one type of operating system to another that is a purely personal choice and it is really completely independent of any market considerations. However, there are some valid decisions that need to be made in light of the definite trends of the market, particularly as reflected in very recent news releases concerning a dramatic downturn in the overall desktop PC market. Since I last wrote on the subject, there have been some news releases concerning future planned upgrades of operating systems particularly by Microsoft. It now appears that any further significant upgrades or revisions in the operating systems will not occur until late 2014. It also appears that there will not be any significant Intel chip upgrades until the same time period.

These are my recommendations for each specific type of device:

Smartphones:
Apple has just released an updated version of the iPhone and other manufacturers are constantly releasing updates to their products. There is no particular pattern or season when the manufacturers release new products, so I can only conclude that there is no time more propitious than any other for purchasing a device. In other words, you can buy one now or you can wait. It will make no difference in the utility of the device that you purchase.

Tablets:
Tablet computers, such as the iPad and Android devices, are in the same category as smartphones. Apple has only recently released new versions of its iPads and the other manufacturers are constantly releasing updated tablets almost weekly. So my recommendation concerning purchasing these devices is the same as I made for smartphones.

Laptops:
Although the market for laptops is apparently nearly as weak as the market for desktop PCs, once again just as with the other devices we are in a situation where Apple has released new products and is unlikely to make any major changes during the next few months or so. The so-called touch screen or convertible computers are making some headway. If the ability to use the computer as a tablet and then attach the tablet to a keyboard and have essentially a laptop computer is important to you you may consider this as an alternative. Personally, I am not particularly attracted to this type of device, although I may be forced to purchase one in the future if that is the only option. I'm also not particularly attracted to tablet computers for productivity and certainly not for presentation purposes because of their lack of connectivity. I appreciate the fact that laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but if that trend continues to the point where they no longer have connectivity I may be faced with a real dilemma.

One alternative to purchasing a desktop PC, is to purchase a laptop and connected to a large monitor and keyboard. This became a real option for me when I realized that the MacBook Pro that I had purchased only shortly after purchasing an iMac had much better specifications and ran at a faster speed than my iMac. With the addition of a large external hard drive, laptops can function in exactly the same way that desktop PCs have in the past.

Desktop PCs:
Since I am primarily an Apple user, I no longer view the need for a traditionally packaged desktop PC. The iMac and many spinoff copies from other manufacturers are self-contained computers were all the complements are in the monitor. Hence, there is no "computer box" that sits on the floor or someplace else on my desktop. If you take the time to look at the new iMac computers, you'll see that they are really an oversized tablet. I have commented previously that I do not believe that there is a practical way of transitioning desktop computers to touchscreens unless the ergonomics are seriously reconfigured. I agree with the common assessment of the reason for the decline in PC desktop sales, that is, the lack of a need to upgrade my current system.

Summary:
My conclusion is that you could make your decision to buy a smartphone, a tablet or laptop anytime. At the end of 2014 it is likely that there will have been some processor revisions and perhaps some new operating system upgrades. But if you need a computer presently it is as good a time as any to purchase one.

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