Google Europe Exec: Desktop PCs 'Irrelevant' In Three Years

One thing's for certain: Google isn't exactly bullish on the long-term prospects of the conventional desktop or laptop. When it comes to online search, the conventional PC will be "irrelevant" within three years, or so claims Google vice-president of Global Ad Operations John Herlihy.

Herlihy, who's based in Ireland, made his dour desktop prediction during a Wednesday speech at the Digital Landscapes conference in Dublin, according to a report by Ireland tech news service SiliconRepublic.com.

Said Herlihy: "In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs,” according to the report.

Google's Anti-Desktop Rhetoric

Herlihy's remarks echo a speech made last month by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who announced that the search giant is focusing on mobile, not desktop, search, and urged application developers to do the same.

In his keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Schmidt pointed out that global sales of smartphones and other mobile devices are growing rapidly and will soon eclipse sales of conventional PCs.

An Exaggerated Demise?

There's little doubt that smartphones are already ubiquitous worldwide. According to a recent United Nations report, nearly two-thirds of all humans currently use a cell phone, and the mobile device revolution is still in its infancy.

OK, but is the desktop really doomed? Perhaps from the perspective of Google, a search company that generates nearly all of its revenue from online advertising, the desktop may soon grow irrelevant, at least globally.

Certainly, Google's strategic focus on cloud computing and connectivity is visible in every project the company undertakes, be it online productivity apps like Google Docs or an experimental fiber broadband network.

But it's likely the conventional PC will have a longer, healthier life than Google anticipates. Big bulky desktops are disappearing, of course, but that's hardly a new development. Smaller, lighter, and more mobile laptops will take their place, except for niche applications that require maximum, local processing power and storage.

The smartphone is great for many things, but it's no desktop-replacement device, either in the home or office. New mobile devices, such as the Apple iPad and similar tablets, may bridge the gap between phone and desktop. And laptops will likely make new inroads in developing nations, particularly as manufacturing costs continue to fall.

Who knows? Maybe we'll eventually ditch the "smartphone" and "laptop" labels and just call everything a mobile device.

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