What a change. Long ago, you couldn't find a PC for less than $1,000!
Intel used to regularly showcase emerging high performance apps that would need its next-gen CPU performance. They haven't said anything on that front in a while.
These days the main apps are all about the Web so network not CPU performance is more key.
3) Niche. A/V processing/encoding.
I'm building a Win8/RADI 0-SSD box for this purpose, and this purpose solo.
The rest of my world will live on Elder Intel Mac Mini's and Atom Net top computers for Skype and Email
Only two places I currently see high-end desktops utilized are:
1) Traditional hardcore gamers will continue to demand high-end graphics cards and quad-plus core CPUs. This market is however changing rapidly due to the surge of gaming on handheld devices (iPhone, iPad, etc).
2) Business workstations. I work for a ~200 person engineering company and our mechanical/CAD folks typically use high-end PCs for everyday graphics and compute intensive applications such as Pro/ENGINEER and Cadence Allegro. I'd imagine similar for other businesses i.e. graphic design, etc. Sure, we have servers running Xeon/etc for long term simulations and such but the high end PC still sees quite a bit of usage.
Further, with PCs having a lifetime of 5 years or so, the lack of innovation in the PC market, and weak economy, replacement purchases are being put off. Bad news for the PC industry.
Same, Jack! I also have the VAIO and it stays on Stamina pretty much permanently, but that's because I have never really noticed it lagging enough for me to want to speed it up. PC gaming, for the most part, has become such a niche that for most of us, the speed of a regular core i5 or core i7 machine is as fast as we'd ever need. I did crack up a little yesterday when I saw an episode of Dexter where one of the lab guys was using an AlienWare gaming PC to run data though... sure, it only has 45 minutes of battery life, but why not?? ;)
My work Vaio has a switch to switch between "Stamina" and "Speed". The trouble is that you have to reboot for the switch to take effect. So, it stays on "Stamina", because battery life is more useful to me than speed.
My family's needs for PC computing requires a nominal system for email, facebook, and various game apps. We have absolutely no need for a high end PC or Ultrabook. We have a 3 year old laptop and a 4 year old PC that work fine. As others have mentioned, there are no killer apps that require additional computing power or quad core capability. Tablets need to improve but we already own two and plan on purchasing another this holiday season. Our choice for tablets was based solely on their monility aspect. And even for these we didn't go high-end and they work fine for our needs (B&N Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire). Yes, there is a bit of lag on these devices but for the money we don't complain. And yes, the economy does play into our buying decisions -- do more with less, so to speak... I agree with Les. I am most comfortable with my mouse, keyboard, and monitor but my young kids like the tablets better. I am not a technical expert but I think the high end PC market for the mass population is dead. There is no more chasing the next processor for me and many people I talk to are saying the same thing. In the past the PC had to try to keep up with software developments but that is not the case anymore. I sure hope Intel has something else up their sleeve other than Ultrabooks...
Another reason to shun the high-end is power consumption. My pc has enough compute and graphics power to suit my needs... and it's completely silent.
The game is evolving where increased performance must not come at the expense of more power consumption. On the portable and mobile side size and weight are king. Smaller sizes (thinner) leave less room (and weight) for the battery.
I like my smart phone for its portability but it's of limited functionality, at least from a productivity standpoint. Tablets aren't there yet but will be in not too distant future.
I still like my full keyboard, mouse, 27" 2560 x 1440 screen and decent 3.1 sound at home. No need for a high-end quad core though.
The high-end is only needed for serious gaming and various workstation applications, hardly a mass market.
@Bert- your point is well taken. I think when people refer to the post PC era, they aren't saying that the PC will disappear. People will continue to use PCs and replace them. But annual PC sales growth will no longer be a given, and the PC will drive less innovation.
I'm not convinced that this is a foregone conclusion. But people are showing that they are willing to buy a tablet instead of adding a new PC, and they are showing that low and mid range PCs--without all the latest and greatest bells and whistles--suit their needs just fine.