PC prices

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (sasha1@netcom.com)
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 22:51:40 -0500

Just read some review of recent trends in PC prices. The author explains the appearance of sub-$1000 PCs by the Moore's "Law".
But personal computers were getting better for the last 15 years. Why haven't been the prices falling then?

My explanation is that the computers just got easy enough to use to move down to the poorer social groups for whom a "sweet price spot" is lower, and also that there is no software that would make a $2500 machine universally more attractive than a $1000 machine, to justify the additional expense for all people - while alternative ways of spending the difference promise greater utility.

This process will probably continue, so we may soon see easy-to-use general-purpose PCs for $100 that kids can carry in their backpacks, etc.

There may be a new life in higher-level part of the market after the next waves of software products [?] hit the market.

Another interesting question is, why the computers are not getting more expensive? Even the richest people wouldn't buy a $50,000 machine, let alone a million-dollar machine. This machine would just take more space and require more maintenance, while giving no perceptible advantage in personal productivity over a $6,000 PC. Even this machine is already a bit of an overkill, unless you do something professional on it - compile lots of code, optimize some systems, etc.

If we see applications that can work well on a mass-market PC, but would perform much better on more and more expensive machines, people would buy these machines. (Though I am not sure even here; unless this power is needed locally all the time, it may make sense to dispatch computational requests to the specialized distributed machines rather than execute them locally). What would these applications do? Speech and image recognition? AI? All-purpose personal extensions?

Then, if the price range of general-purpose machines stretches from $100 to $1M, they would probably need different hardware, OSs, architectures, and applications - and the mass-market of essentially identical machines will become a thing of the past...

Alexander Chislenko <http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/home.html> <sasha1@netcom.com> <sasha@media.mit.edu>