To say that the writing is on the wall for the trusty enterprise workstation is probably going a bit too far. But even though PCs are likely to continue and even thrive in a multi-device ecosphere, it is also true that they will only do so through adaptation and specialization.
It seems that some, but not all, of the PC manufacturers get this. While there has been no hesitation by leading vendors to jump onto the mobile and handheld bandwagon, there are only a few examples of any real change to general-purpose PC lines.
One of the few is HP's new Z Workstation family, headlined by the Z210 -- an entry-level machine targeted at video, graphics and image processing. The company has released it on a mini-tower or a compact SFF platform, configured around Core i3/i5/i7 or Xeon E3 processors, the latter of which feature an integrated GPU. It also can be had with optional dual-graphics-card packages from AMD and Nvidia that support up to four 2-D displays.
It's arguable, though, that a specialized graphics machine is the low-hanging fruit in PC circles. Lenovo seems to have a broader target in mind with the ThinkStation E30 and ThinkCentre M81 lines. Aimed at heavy data users like engineering firms and financial institutions, the machines are tricked out with USB 3.0 and SATA 3 support, along with the company's Enhanced Experience 2.0 module that provides optimized file and settings management for faster boot-up and shut-down. A new Power Management utility helps cut energy consumption in half.
Lenovo is also front-and-center when it comes to cloud-ready workstations. In conjunction with Intel, the company has developed a technology called Cloud Ready Clients (CRCs) that enables more efficient use of cloud resources. Available only on Core and Core vPro machines, the package provides a number of APIs that allow them to seek out systems and devices that provide an optimal cloud experience. This has the added effect of reducing the machine's overall consumption of enterprise resources.
And it seems that faster, better and more powerful won't be the exclusive domain of portable devices either. Workstation-enabling technologies like ASUS's new P6X58-E motherboard are pushing performance to even greater levels. The device features two single Gb LAN connections, plus additional bandwidth for each graphics card via a dedicated expansion slot controller. It also boasts three x16 PCI-E channels, along with 6 GB SATA and USB 3.0.
The rise of the cloud and ubiquity of online apps and services mean that for most workers, the PC-as-access device is overkill -- kind of like driving to the supermarket in a monster truck.
For applications that really need them, the PC will have all the horsepower that it has always had, and then some. But the trend lines indicate they will soon cease to be the general-purpose data tool in the enterprise. They're simply too big for that.