PC Skill Drought?

I have a gut feeling that we are about to enter a PC skills drought. I work with other grey headed headed guys who feel the same way.

Reading my previous post about cheap PCs, It makes me think, no wonder we can’t get young guys interested in PC’s – these devices (in real terms) are 10% of the prices that we paid for PCs in the 1990’s. They are just raw commodity items and are seen as “old tech” by the young ‘uns. All the vibe in computing is around mobile and I can see a generation arriving where mobile (Android, iPhone etc) coupled with console gaming provides all their needs. Most mobile users, (x)Pad users included, don’t seem to need a PC at home. This includes Macs too.

From a business perspective, skill sets in PC level devices need to be maintained but unless PCs present themselves as “new and sparkly”, I don’t see this happening. Unless the kids build an initial skill set on their home PC then the entry level abilities needed to get on the Helpdesk, the usual first rung on the ladder, becomes that much harder to obtain.

This is compounded by the reality that business level computing is becoming MORE complicated that ever. Have a think about what virtualisation is doing. It adds enormous flexibilty for medium to large business environments but it also adds, using VMWare for and example, a whole new new layer between the hardware and the OS. We have now introduced VMWare skills as a requirement. This is the same for storage virtualisation as well. The network layer has has virtualisation as a core skill for 10+ years (think vLans – Layer 2 virtualisation) but now the top line network devices have virtual routers as well.

In the VMware world (where I spend a lot of my time) it also facilitates a proliferation of servers. Where in the past you would try to aggregate functions, Its simpler and despite needing more O/S licenses, to just create a new server for that application you want to roll. In the end you manage more servers.

I suppose its good for old farts like me as business depends on PCs for day to day operations (and I will probably be able to get work forever) but eventually we will all want to retire and someone needs to maintain these systems. Someone is going to need to address this skills gap.

Interesting times ahead.

PCs as commodity items

Did an upgrade for an old customer of mine last week. Their 15 YO computers were well beyond it (Gotta love that 486 technology – it never quits) so we drifted over the road to ARC Computers (They really are over the road) and bought 2 x Intel Celeron E3300 based machines for the princely sum of $AU238 each.

These boxes included a 500GB SATA and 2 GB of fast DDR3 RAM (I think it was about 1033 MHz). Ran XP Home up and they fly! They are running a basic ASRock M/B with GMA Graphics (DX10!) and have a bucket load of USB ports and a 10/100 Ethernet. On top of that ARC supplied a great little black FOXCONN cases which look great and fits easily into the desks provided.

I needed to assemble them – no sweat (damn Intel Push-Pins), I enjoy a bit of screwdriver work occasionally but really.. these prices are just a “race to the bottom”.

I have an August 1988 issue of Australian Personal Computer (APC) in front of me. A 10 Mhz PC/AT / 640Kb with a 20MB HDD from a clone manufacturer was…… $2290. No NIC, monochrome graphics or USB (whats that?) etc. 386 class machines started at $5K.  Back in the bad days, those computers didn’t even have a real time clock. Every time you booted it, you had to enter the correct date and time.

How about the adjustments for inflation. Using the RBA inflation calculator http://www.rba.gov.au/calculator/annualDecimal.html

A computer worth $2500 in 1988 is actually worth $4700 dollars these days. On raw figures alone = 1/20 th the cost Amazing if you were to factor in the raw MHZ performance as well (10 mhz vs 2.5Ghz – 250 times!) the new computer is about 1 in 500o (th?)  the price. No multitasking, RAM = less than a 4000 th of current norms. No network (NICS were > $500 each) Makes my mind rattle.