payturr
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Impact on the desktop world

Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:52 pm

This is just a little theory of mine, but I like to believe this is whats coming -
I think since the introduction of ARM, ARM in smartphones and tablets, and the recent, growing popularity of ARM single board computers like the Pi, the entire desktop world will be changed. The Pi alone is a perfect example - and decent computer for under 50$, small, smart, taking up little space - it, in my opinion, spells a future of desktops the size of small packages running on SoCs.
I believe this will happen for several reasons - first, not many people need a super fast, number crunching desktop. They need something reasonably fast for internet, basic applications, and then gamers here and there. Looking at the Pi, I feel that many manufacturers will look at it and say that we need to change the market. We have to introduce these cheap, well performing chips that draw little power because they A) are inexpensive, B) replace major parts of a PC in one package, and C) fits the needs of many people. So, in the coming years, Intel & AMD will have their own, massive collection of ARM SoCs, as well as Qualcomm and Broadcom, you'll see the latter two companies in major manufacturer's desktops, and the overall price to own and power a desktop will drop incredibly. With that in mind, if the mindset of have a Pi like competitor is there (i.e. a single core mini PC for under 100$) running Linux, and with the money going to charity, the Linux community will grow, charities will benefit, people will *hopefully* have a better grasp over the computer, and ARM will be the dominate processor architecture in a 64 bit desktop processor world. All thanks to the Pi, and the many devices and software support with ARM.

Again, this is just what I think we'll happen, you guys are free to disagree with this theory and make your own points. :)

gritz
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:21 am

It is probably quite an eye-opener to many that you don't need a lot of cpu to surf the web / play media, etc.

However some of us do need a bit of processing grunt to get stuff done (think low latency audio processing and whatnot) and until someone writes a decent smartthreading os for the masses then one or two fast processors will beat dozens of little processors in parallel. Hopefully it'll happen one day because the amount of power, physical space and noise associated with the traditional desktop is bleedin' shameful!

Limited resources do rather suggest specialisation / compromise in terms of operating system, hardware and interface though and this is where I think that Linux is in a bit of trouble. Perhaps if a "standard format" for a future low power single board platform happens then generic operating systems will remain relevant, but otherwise limited resources will demand an os that resembles firmware and just works - and with it will come other unstandardised fresh Hell such as proprietary connectors / interface protocols and whatnot. Then we'll forever be stuck in the yoke of obsolescence, waiting for someone to write device drivers for free in their spare time, compiling stuff by trial and error, the whims of our chosen hardware / software supplier and all the other ballache.

A low power single board solution is certainly an exciting development, but it's early days yet IMO.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:25 am

At the moment, I think the Pi as a low level desktop replacement is iffy. The first thing to see will be the performance of Raspbian when it's ready for general use. The second is that, so far, the Pi can reasonably do one thing at a time and that's kind of restrictive even for light use. The "one thing at a time" could be alleviated by going to a 512MB memory POP, but that would adversely impact the price...at this time (otherwise, it would have been done, I suspect).

As for gaming... Sorry. I have to laugh at that one. I suppose it matters what you consider to be gamers. If you're talking about browser games, or games that will run on jumped up cell phones, then...maybe. If you're talking about major titles, either single person, or MMOs...forget about it. The Pi is a nice machine, but it hasn't got the chops for anything at all recent. Give the Pi about a 6-fold boost in processor speed, at least 8 times the memory and a massive improvement in the graphics engine and you'll be talking about running relatively new games with minimal setting. Once all that is done, it's no longer a $35 machine.

Just as a solitary data point... I play a five year old MMO (LotRO). I can play it on an old XP box with 2GB of memory and 2.66GHz P-4 processor using an nVidia 5200 graphics board. I have to use low to medium graphics (the scale runs from "very low" to "ultra high") and I get frame rates on the order of 12-15fps. Needless to say, I don't consider that system much of a "gaming machine", and--indeed--I don't use it that way, in general.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:05 am

I think for thin clients and basic usage, devices like the Pi (perhaps with a little bit more oomph) may have a big impact. One on the bigger savings is not in the cost of the device itself although they can be very cheap, but in power requirements. You can run a room full of these for thousands of pounds saving just in electricity. I was speaking with a guy at the Cambs Raspberry Jam yesterday, and he was looking at a project that would save MILLIONS just in power over a single year.
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:12 am

There are a huge number of people now for whom a mobile phone is their normal access to the Internet. There are an equally huge number who do nothing on their desktop PC or laptop other than access the Internet.

Right now almost everyone in my workplace uses a laptop. I only need a desktop because I'm often plugging in boards, likewise gamers need an upgradeable box with as much power as can be squeezed in. And maybe people doing very demanding stuff like CGI will want multiple hot processors too.

So in the future I can see the mass market moving to phone and tablets, the business users using tablets or laptops, or all-in-one boxes using Pi-type boards, and only high-end gamers and a few niche professionals using a desktop.

The desktop is not dead, but it is set for a steep price rise.

payturr
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:20 pm

I can't see a world with a mass transition to just mobile devices, in all honesty. Yes, mobile phones & laptops and tablets are a big thing and everyone seems to be switching to them, but I think there's more to it. I'm certain if you went up to a person and said "Hey, I got this 200$ desktop computer, it's pretty fast & smart, I think it'll make a nice fit sitting with your TV" - I think people would take it. It's low price & people like the idea of having the whole TV/computer combo considering they could, instead of balancing a laptop/tablet on their lap, just sit with a keyboard with a built in mouse and surf the internet with their TV. I think the desktop will always be around, for a long, long time. And, with SoCs constantly meeting new innovations, you never know - in 2 years there may be a SoC from Qualcomm that out performs a Core i7 computer with a AMD Radeon HD card. I truly feel that the SoC market will overtake the desktop and became the main component to desktops everywhere, takes to computers like the Pi. I mean, they won't be AS cheap, as gamers and graphic designers need heavy number crunchers and fast GPUs - I think the overall market will switch to the under 100$ desktop, and then the gamers and those with a need for a heavier SoC that can performs like today's processors and graphics card would opt for a more expensive computer - but considering it's a SoC, it'll still be a lot less money then what they pay for now.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:29 pm

I don’t know what is likely to happen, but I know what I’d like to see.

What we have is huge, bloated applications with ever more bells and whistles that most users will never want, demanding ever more powerful hardware that the manufacturers are happy to provide - at a price.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a new generation of software creators, stimulated perhaps by using the Raspberry Pi in schools, were to build excellent lightweight applications designed to run on small, low-cost, low-power hardware?

payturr
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:26 pm

I know I would love that - less lag and better optimised for the processor :)

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 3:36 pm

Then there is a group, "I'm one" who wouldn't miss it if every game on earth just vanished.
So maybe the Pi is just what I/we need.
I'm thinking cluster for a couple applications. I'll get to that later.
Please no offence meant. I don't care for sports on TV either. Wouldn't and don't ever watch one minute of it.
I respect those who use it and more power to you.
It's just that there are other opinions. Gaming is not for me, sports are not for me.
No sleep lost if they both go away. But glad both are here for those of you who enjoy it.
Cheers!

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sun Jul 15, 2012 4:48 pm

The future as I see it is mobile, but the devices will be so powerful, that when you get to home/desk, you just plug it in to your docking station, and that gives you a 'desktop' - keyboard, mouse, monitors , external storage etc. The docking station will also provide extra cooling to the mobile device (piped airflow from docking station in to the device via the dock or a magnetic heatsink - you heard it here first in case anyone tries to patent it), and more power, so you can run the processors faster and more of them.
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:13 am

exartemarte wrote:I don’t know what is likely to happen, but I know what I’d like to see.

What we have is huge, bloated applications with ever more bells and whistles that most users will never want, demanding ever more powerful hardware that the manufacturers are happy to provide - at a price.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a new generation of software creators, stimulated perhaps by using the Raspberry Pi in schools, were to build excellent lightweight applications designed to run on small, low-cost, low-power hardware?
Programmers *used* to write lean applications. When IBM 1401s had a maximum of 16k characters (and the *minimum* was 1.2K!), programs had to be tightly written. The first machine I was paid to work on was an IBM S/360 Model 30. We had 32K bytes of memory, and believe me, it really hurt when the system nucleus expanded from 6K to 8K with on release.

A lot of that tight code was written in assembly languages. This was for both speed and to minimize memory usage.

When IBM announced the DAT boxes (virtual memory--and Burroughs ran ads saying "Today, IBM announces yesterday" because they'd had virtual memory on their systems for 10 years by then), there were programmers in the shop where I worked whose first reaction was, "At last! I can write programs as big as I want to!" I laughed at them and told them that, yes, they could, and they'd run like dogs if they didn't maintain good locality of reference. (How many people here are "intimately" familiar with the term "thrashing"?)

So much as the idea of getting back to lean programs because machines have limited memory could be seen as a virtue...it's not the way to bet. Hardware is cheaper than people now (didn't used to be...), so the solution *will* be to increase memory instead of writing tight code...which is hard to debug and hard to maintain.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:40 am

jamesh wrote:The future as I see it is mobile, but the devices will be so powerful, that when you get to home/desk, you just plug it in to your docking station, and that gives you a 'desktop' - keyboard, mouse, monitors , external storage etc. The docking station will also provide extra cooling to the mobile device (piped airflow from docking station in to the device via the dock or a magnetic heatsink - you heard it here first in case anyone tries to patent it), and more power, so you can run the processors faster and more of them.
That is pretty much my wishlist too: a slate with proper connectivity and enough oomph to be able to operate standalone + multitask, but is able to call on a remote storage / processing box when needed and interact with hardware connected to the remote unit with round trip latency of a few milliseconds. An I'd like the moon on a stick, obviously!

It might be a bit of a wait for a consumer operating system that can parallel process single threads and e.g. handle the powersaving in a timely manner, etc.

Obviously that is a bit niche for most, but the idea of mobile devices that can call upon remote processing and storage to supplement onboard resources has merit, especially as the remote box won't be full of whirring fans and cost the earth to run.

As an aside I would rather create my own "cloud" than trust my ISP with providing access to one!

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:38 am

I think we all know what we want or think we need but I am not sure the market is ready to give it to us.

The Raspi is a fantastic device for it's size and cost but by current home user performance levels it really does not have a chance.
I would like to see the Raspi break the straw of the camels back and open up the flood waters of much cheaper devices but Raspi devices will not give retailers the hundreds of percent mark up that seems to permeate through our western markets.

Just look at for example an I phone protector that probably cost $1 to produce $2 to package and ship but hits Walmart @ $30 or more and that is the mind set of most retailers regardless of your location.

It took a non profit organization to bring this to market for the price point, but if they had been a for profit company the Raspi would cost 100 plus.

The Via APC is being advertised @ $49 but rumors are that shipping and handling cost more than the device like some Ebay products (.99 for the widget and 29.95 for shipping LOL)

I do believe the desktop is on the decline especially since Laptops now are starting to have the horsepower to play games decently.
Laptops and tablets easily meet the majority of uses that most people require and make that portable and in that the desktop just can not compete, as we have become a more mobile world and the devices we use are following suit.
If you are more worried about ,spelling, punctuation or grammar you have probably already missed the point so please just move on.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:48 pm

jamesh wrote:The future as I see it is mobile, but the devices will be so powerful, that when you get to home/desk, you just plug it in to your docking station, and that gives you a 'desktop' - keyboard, mouse, monitors , external storage etc.
That's exactly what I used to do with my OQO 2 - until the motherboard failed after the manufacturer went bust :( - like a lot of high-tech firms they were probably ahead of their time. Hopefully something similar will be possible again in future, but at a much more reasonable price.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:30 pm

Looking around me, 90% of people could be happy with a nice nettop. Very few do anything but media consumption and social stuff. A bit of very light photo touch-ups.. and the most played games are Solitaire, Sudoku, Crosswords (or some such, Scrabble...). They do watch quite a few stupid PowerPoint joke presentations. I was using a nettop until I got into Civ5.

The issue is there's no OS to do that well: the mobile OSes are not very good in a desktop situation (right-click, multitasking, kb shortcuts...), the desktop OSes are either not available (MacOS, Windows), or not ready for noob consumption (Linux).

Also, there's no hardware. The Pi is not enough, the few more powerful ARM nettops are as, if not more, expensive than a second-hand netbook or desktop.

We need a big OEM to come out with a $100 arm nettop, with polished software and complete hardware. Apple already have it in the guise of the Apple TV, but they'd much rather sell expensive iMacs. Few others have the wherewithal to pull it off. I keep hoping for Asus to jump in, but they must have market surveys that conclude something I don't know ?

yeukhon
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:50 am

payturr wrote:This is just a little theory of mine, but I like to believe this is whats coming ......)
Pi is not the first of its own kind available on the market, although the ultimate goal of Pi is for education. I would say Pi will have impact on the war between using regular FPGA board or Pi-like board in computer organization / architecture course in a university.

http://techland.time.com/2012/07/16/arm ... mers-most/

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:30 pm

obarthelemy wrote:Looking around me, 90% of people could be happy with a nice nettop. Very few do anything but media consumption and social stuff. A bit of very light photo touch-ups.. and the most played games are Solitaire, Sudoku, Crosswords (or some such, Scrabble...). They do watch quite a few stupid PowerPoint joke presentations. I was using a nettop until I got into Civ5.

The issue is there's no OS to do that well: the mobile OSes are not very good in a desktop situation (right-click, multitasking, kb shortcuts...), the desktop OSes are either not available (MacOS, Windows), or not ready for noob consumption (Linux).

Also, there's no hardware. The Pi is not enough, the few more powerful ARM nettops are as, if not more, expensive than a second-hand netbook or desktop.

We need a big OEM to come out with a $100 arm nettop, with polished software and complete hardware. Apple already have it in the guise of the Apple TV, but they'd much rather sell expensive iMacs. Few others have the wherewithal to pull it off. I keep hoping for Asus to jump in, but they must have market surveys that conclude something I don't know ?
+1 some very good points there.

I think it's worth appreciating that it's not just about the sum of the hardware parts. The software interface and the appearance / feel / performance of the applications that run in it are key. A particular interface has to be smart enough to allow it's users to swap between desktop <-> mobile without feeling lost, but at the same time the interface itself and the apps have to be tailored to the particular strengths and shortcomings of each platform. Apple have done a reasonable job, but they have absolute control over the hardware and wield the blue pencil over the apps too. Some suggest that it might not be long before all 3rd party Apple software has to be moved via Apple's store, with Gatekeeper being the first step towards getting independent developers to "pay to play".

http://prod.lists.apple.com/archives/co ... 00029.html

Android is an interesting development, but how flexible will it be, considering it's little more than a portal to another app store?

The Windows 8 customer preview caused more than a little derision amongst desktop users. Forcing a mobile-style start screen on users with non-touch 22" monitors defies all explanation and completely misses the point of building an O.S. with smart portability.

Linux has much customisation potential, of course, but on a consumer level it has to work straight out of the box and so will have to be built on a per device model basis. Consumers will presumably wish to have consistency between their devices, rather than have to learn the quirks of different distros. Creators of applications would probably rather this were the case too. Developing a skinny operating system will cost money if it's to be done in a timely manner (commercial hardware manufacturers won't wait), so partnerships with vendors are a possibility. This raises the likelihood of proprietary technology, rather than a one-size-fits-all-but-not-very-well driver model. We're dealing with limited hardware resources here, after all.

Let's remember that even the best operating system is worth nothing without applications to run in it. A computer is just a box for doing work, after all. Intuitive user interfaces have rarely been a strong point of Linux applications and the rise of low power devices - especially those that break free from the desktop environment - will require to be designed, rather than just use the command line as a crutch. Developers of smart applications might want paying and not give away their intellectual property. How better to shift some units than to tie in with an operating system vendor that has some kind of online store...

Interesting times, as fellow forumite Jim Manley would say!

I think it's worth considering the actual desktop environment for a moment. Many people have a static workspace at home with their pc, printer, scanner, paperwork, physical files etc. Why is this? Because it's productive! Doing the monthly accounts while perched on the sofa in front of the telly sounds attractive, but it gets nothing done. The physical desktop environment creates a mindset and allows stuff to get done - and for many of these tasks the proper keyboard, mouse and decent-sized screen is still king.

Of course the bulky static pc can be replaced with a laptop and many people have done this. But does create problems if the device needs to be shared and they still offer less bang for buck and are essentially non - upgradeable. A solution might be a computing hub and inexpensive satellite devices that can work standalone (with a kb and mouse if needed). One could argue that a slate sized device isn't really that portable (and decent ones won't be cheap), so a practical solution might be e.g. the ability to dock a smartphone to a full sized monitor and kb that can call on a hub pc for extra heft.

All this stuff is entirely possible now of course, but I'm just suggesting that the physical desktop environment isn't quite dead yet. The computer user's average CPU requirement may drop due to technical developments, but the peak requirement for anyone into gaming or multimedia work will remain and personally I would rather see that overhead remain directly accessible to the user - the alternative is cloud computing and along that path lies the certainty of kissing goodbye to any control that we have over our data. With increasing environmental concerns (and the very real concern of the cost of domestic electricity) I think there's merit in the continuation of the beige box, but with smartly controlled parallel low power cores and user upgradeability to mitigate the obsolescence I see in mobile devices. Anything that costs e.g. $300 will have created a bunch of pollution somewhere and once those rare earths are gone, they're gone!

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:31 am

for me, I can see this bringing computing to many 3rd world countries. a decent sized LCD monitor can be had for well under $100, especially those smaller dell LCD's with the 2 USB ports on the side)

Imagine taking a 17 inch monitor with a built in USB hub, then opening the case (which in many parts has around 2+ inches of clearance), then mount a raspberry pi inside of the display and have it use the displays USB ports, then wire it directly to one of the display ports, and wire up the headphone jack to be easily accessible, and you will basically have a full all in one computer (where the monitor it's self can power on the raspberry pi) and since those dell monitors cut the 5v power when the display is also off completely and not in standby, the one power button will turn the entire system on or off.

and since the USB but on those monitors only take 1 USB port, the remaining one can be used to add a wifi radio, they sell cheap USB wifi adapters on ebay for $2 (and they actually work though they are a bit slow)

imagine selling a $100 all in one computer for low income individuals, or 3rd world countries where people may want to have their first home computer, or schools may want to have computers but cant afford them.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:19 pm

True, ARM is catching up with i36 and AMD64 architecture, and in 5 or so years, it will be faster. But at the moment, the rpi is far too low power to be able to do substantial computational operations, such as running servers. But the (relative) simplicity of using ARM devices means that in the long run they will end up in desktops.

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:34 am

I don't think ARM will ever be faster than i386 or AMD64 - ARM's main focus is on efficiency and low power usage (i.e. the mobile phone market) whereas the x86 focus is on flat-out speed, at the expense of high power usage (i.e. the desktop and workstation markets).

And the ARM can be used for servers (some people are running websites from their Rpis) - just not very busy servers ;)

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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sat Jul 21, 2012 8:41 am

I agree it won't be faster, BUT, it will be fast enough for the majority of tasks people will want to use it for. In fact, it's already there for that. There are going to be some very powerful Arm chips in the next three years that will increase the range of usage for Arm, and decreasing the need for x86 desktops.
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Re: Impact on the desktop world

Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:27 pm

jamesh wrote:I agree it won't be faster, BUT, it will be fast enough for the majority of tasks people will want to use it for. In fact, it's already there for that. There are going to be some very powerful Arm chips in the next three years that will increase the range of usage for Arm, and decreasing the need for x86 desktops.
While I agree with you in concept, I'm somewhat dubious about it happening in practice.

To say that ARM chips will become as fast and powerful as x86 chips and therefore a viable desktop replacement makes a fatal assumption. That assumption is that x86 development is static. Actually, matching x86 performance is shooting at a moving target. Likewise, what people expect out of their desktop machines is also a moving target.

Can most people do what they do with much less hardware than they're offered? Yes, of course. *Will* they do so...well...maybe. This get complicated by the tendency to add bells, whistles, and bloat to applications as well as systems. Or, as used to be said...Microsoft can chew up every processor cycle that Intel can manufacture.

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