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Is the PC Dead?

By June 13, 2010

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A writer for Computerworld says that the PC era is over. "The PC is no longer the center of the computing universe," he writes, and Apple has switched the computing paradigm from desktops and laptops to tablets (iPad) and mobile devices. Here's the crux of his argument:

"It's not that Macs will replace Windows-based PCs. It's that with everything we use -- phones, mobile entertainment devices, cars -- having computing built into them, the PC is now officially on the skids. Apple realized that fact before anyone else, and that's why the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad are raking in billions for the company."

He's right that the Apple devices are doing great. But he's wrong that it spells the end of the PC. Dead wrong. PCs, in fact, are selling very well, and Windows 7 is the fastest-selling OS in Microsoft history, selling seven copies of Windows 7 every second. If his thesis was correct, we just wouldn't see those kinds of numbers.

The reality is that it's a big market; big enough for smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and Macs. They serve different functions, and for the most part, they complement, rather than replace, each other. For instance, my beloved iPhone is a great email/texting machines, and the applications make it tremendously useful; it could never replace my Dell XPS laptop, however. Both have their place in my life.

Smartphone screens are just too small, and typing on onscreen or tiny real keyboards too slow and cumbersome, to make them primary work devices. What college student would take notes or write a research paper on a smartphone? And while businesses make good use of BlackBerries, which of those same businesses would replace their desktops and laptops and go only with iPad-like tablets or smartphones? Imagine putting together a rich PowerPoint presentation or complex spreadsheet on a smartphone. Are economists or physicists going to crunch huge numbers with an iPad? Just ain't happening, folks. Those devices can't do it, and probably never will.

The fact is that the PC (and Mac) is here to stay, because it's a form factor that just works. It's great at what it does, the same way an Android phone is great at what it does. Just because one type of device is hot right now, it doesn't mean that other devices have to die. Now, if they duplicated most of the same functionality, I could see a case being made that PCs are on the way out. But that's not the case here. To paraphrase Rodney King, they can all just get along.

Comments
June 15, 2010 at 11:58 am
(1) kaleto says:

Computerworld is wrong. Dead wrong. Two things drive the computing world: business apps and gaming, NOT mobile communications.

Sure the iPad would be a fine replacement for your iPod or even your iPhone (if you could make calls on it–why can’t we, Mr. Jobs???), but it’s never going to replace your work or gaming computer.

Why? People want a real keyboard. People NEED a large screen to do work and gaming.

Yes, the iPad fills the niche of laptop computers, but I don’t see the world downgrading their workstation and gaming computers and replacing them with iPads.

If anything, the iPad is the death knell of the iPhone…once it can make phone calls and take pictures!

September 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm
(2) Stoppanda says:

I foresee a evolution of the PC to encompass the mobile abilities of an IPAD-Laptop. A pad type screen that you can take with you, and have a collapsible Stand in the back that you can set it on a desk and work with it similar to a desktop. The keyboard/ Network and mouse will have to be wireless. This would mean one device servicing as a laptop/PAD and Desktop.

October 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm
(3) Lou Filliger says:

The people who are saying the PC is dead have a financial interest in turning the prediction into a self-fulfilling prophecy – similar to Al Gore’s investing in green technology and then going around and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone with climate change.

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