Despite technological improvements and increased memory, computer prices have plunged since 2000 with desktop units and low-end laptops leading the way. But while the price of hardware keeps dropping, niche computers anchor both ends of the price spectrum.
Prices and Trends
According to tech website Gizmodo, desktop computers cost an average of £357 in 2008, with laptops averaging £455. This compares with 1998, when the average personal computer cost £845. In 2008, MacIntosh computers cost an average of £975.
Throughout the first decade of the 21st Century, desktop units saw larger hard drives, more memory, and better LCD monitors, but a smaller market share. During that period laptop sales caught up with those of desktops, and tech pundits suggested the desktop computer may eventually become extinct.
Meanwhile, small netbooks found their own market among those who want portability without the price. At roughly half the cost of a laptop, netbooks are good for surfing the Internet from any hot spot and for some light-duty offline work. The smaller keyboard and display, along with the lighter capabilities, make them difficult to use for long stretches or for memory-intensive work.
As the 21st Century dawned, Apple was fighting for its life. But a decade later the company--driven by its flagship MacIntosh computer--recaptured its own niche in the computer world. By 2008 Mac personal computers were selling for more than double the price of Windows-based PCs, according to Gizmodo. Apple can credit its success to its virus-resistant operating system, its research and development, and also for its perceived "coolness factor."
Handhelds and Phones
Meanwhile, handhelds and smartphones have developed into full-fledged minicomputers, creating the possibility that one can function online without using a desktop or laptop at all. If nothing else, the handheld phenomenon may have lessened demand for laptops and desktops.
The Top and the Bottom
It is no longer a one-size-fits-all world for personal computers; in fact the market has splintered. Low-end computers, particularly the cheaper netbooks and laptops, are finding an audience. So too are high-end computers set up for gaming, video production and sound. MacIntosh holds its own audience, and cheaper white-box computers--basic models with the free Linux operating system installed--are finding their own buyers.
Factors Driving Price
Computer ownership and use since 2000 has increased to the point where having a computer is almost a given. In 1997, the United States Census Bureau reported that more than one in three households had a computer. By 2009 the Bureau stopped asking about computer ownership, but reported more than 68 per cent of households had home Internet access. The state of the economy is also a factor; in lean times prices will go down more.