Hold on to your hard drives: The PC in front of you will get even bigger and better next year. Processors will get faster, hard drives will get bigger, and additional features will multiply like bunnies.
One thing that won't take on bigger proportions: price. PCs for less than $1,000 will remain extremely popular, and prices for the majority of other PC models are only expected to get lower. However, experts encourage small businesses to consider passing on the current trend toward cheaper or even free PCs. The boxes that the majority of the small-business market should consider next year will start in the $1,200 range (including the monitor).
"PCs for under $1K are a nice price point on the consumer side," says Kevin Knox, research director with The Gartner Group, an IT research firm. "But will most [small businesses] find PCs in the $500 and $600 range good systems to invest in and work on down the road? Probably not. In most cases, you get what you pay for."
One of the factors contributing to the price of desktop PCs is the current trend toward purchasing attractive, space-saving flat-panel monitors. Manufactured by NEC, Samsung and ViewSonic, among others, these thin monitors typically hover in the $1,000 range or higher, and experts don't expect their prices to drop significantly any time soon. Even so, some say that flat-panel monitors are starting to win over many PC owners, thanks to their slimmer designs and environmentally friendly features.
Experts have differing opinions about the proliferation of flat panels in 2000. "Flat-panel displays are going to become much more mainstream next year," predicts Rob Enderle, a PC analyst with market research firm Giga Information Group.
Knox doesn't think so. "These [LCD monitors] are still very high-end solutions," he says. "The 17-inch CRT [monitor] is going to be around for awhile until LCDs reach the $300 to $500 price point, which won't be for another two or two and a half years."
Despite their high prices, flat panels are the best solution for employees working long hours in front of their computers because they emit lower radiation than their CRT counterparts. Additionally, thin monitors are ideal for workplaces short on space.
Computer monitors utilizing digital technology will also become more prevalent in the coming year. Many LCD monitors are using digital interfaces already, and a number of CRT manufacturers will release monitors with digital technology as well, making them much more plug-and-play.