Carol and I were down at Otho's yesterday and Christmas muzak was playing instead of their usual saxaphone jazz. Oh, well. Halloween is over and for whatever reason, Thanksgiving doesn't have much traction with the American imagination anymore.
But right on schedule, Slashdot aggregated a (weak) article this morning, saying what we hear almost every Christmas season: PC sales will be weak, for a list of ridiculous reasons: exploding batteries, waiting for Vista, yadda yadda yadda.
Nobody seems willing to admit the obvious: For the overwhelming majority of consumers, PCs purchased two or three or even five or six years ago are still perfectly usable, especially if they don't have multiple malware infections and have undergone a little degunking to reduce Windows entropy.
One of my ministries at our parish (though I still grin a little thinking of it as a ministry) is helping parishioners out with their PCs. I have helped a few make the jump to new machines, often from doddering wrecks that they have owned for ten or twelve years. But mostly I just help them get back on track after being derailed by malware or accumulated gunk. I see a lot of 1999-2002 era machines running Office 97 and little else. I install Firefox and sometimes Thunderbird for them (as well as a firewall if they don't have one) and they're off with a roar, happy as can be.
Even I get three or four years out of a machine, and in fact I still have in almost daily service my primary boxes purchased in 1998 and 2002. A lot of my software dates back to 1999 and 2000. It does what I need, and on a 3 GHz machine with 4 GB of RAM, that old stuff really rips. I bought an XP system because a guy in my line of work needs to know XP, but my daily operations are still conducted under Win2K because I will not allow a computer to hold my work hostage.
We're on a plateau. The "user experience" is generally pretty good. Even non-enthusiasts have had time to get used to Windows and the general concepts behind Windows computing. Their machines do what they need to do. PC lifetimes are stretching out, and I think we hit a sort of sweet spot in or about 1999. There will be Win2K and XP boxes running unmodified for another fifteen years, or even more.Geek tho I may be, I still have a 1995 minivan in my garage. Still works. Coupla rust spots, but hey—it's paid for. Why do computer companies assume they can push a new box down everybody's chimney every two years?