Why We Aren’t In A Post PC World

Apple’s Steve Jobs proclaimed that we are entering the “Post-PC era” back in 2010.  This refers to a time when a PC is no longer needed since everything can be done from a tablet connected to the Internet.

Post-PC technologies include tablets, touch screens and cloud computing.  Die hard Apple fans might agree with his statement but I just don’t see it.  Rather than a Post-PC world, I believe we are in an evolutionary phase of personal computing.

Related: Mobile Banking – Is This The Future?

While tablets and smart phones have been selling like hotcakes in recent years, PC sales have been declining.  This must mean that the days of the PC are numbered, right?  I don’t think so.  We are simply seeing a shift in consumer demand towards more portable devices.

Post-PC World?

To better illustrate this shift, let’s explore what computing devices a family of 2 adults and 3 children would use prior to smart phones and tablets.

Device Parent 1 Parent 2 Child 1 – Age 10 Child 2 – Age 15 Child 3 – Age 20
Family desktop 1

X

Family desktop 2

X

Work laptop

X

X

Laptop for school

X

Feature phones

X

X

X

X

In this example, a family of 5 may have 5 PCs (2 desktops and 3 laptops) and 4 feature phones.  Feature phones are the “old” type of phone that have a simple calendar, address book, etc.

Fast forward to 2012 and the table may look like this:

 Device Parent 1 Parent 2 Child 1 – Age 10 Child 2 – Age 15 Child 3 – Age 20
Family laptop

X

Work laptop

X

X

Laptop for school

X

Family tablet

X

eReader

X

Smart phones

X

X

X

X

The family now has one less personal computer but has more “smart” devices in the form of a tablet, smart phones and an eReader.

Looking at what else has changed, the biggest difference is that desktops are gone and laptops are in.  As laptops have become more powerful and less expensive, they have been adopted by more people.  The family has also bought a tablet and an eReader to cater to their changing media needs.

Related: Gifts That Keep On Taking

What about feature phones?  Those are all gone, replaced with iOS or Android smart phones.

If we are in a Post-PC world, how come this family still has 4 PCs?  There is one big thing to consider.

PC’s are used to create

Tablets, smart phones and eReaders are used to consume.  To put this into better perspective:

  • Would an author write a book on a tablet?
  • Would a composer write a score on a tablet?
  • Would an entrepreneur create a business plan on a tablet?
  • Would a graphic designer create a layout on a tablet?
  • Would a programmer write code on a tablet?
  • Would a film editor edit video on a tablet?
  • Would a photographer touch up pictures on a tablet?

For the most part, the answer to all of these questions is no.  There are certainly people who create things on a tablet (beyond emails) but this is limited.

Since we are going to keep on creating things, PCs will remain a huge part of our lives.

Related: Why Electronic Banking Is Safe

PCs have a couple of huge advantages over tablets and smart phones because their screens are bigger, they have more processing power and they are designed to sit on something like a desk!

Tablets and smart phones are great for socializing, corresponding, finding directions and keeping organized but they are not good for working.

Touch will only take you so far

Another big factor that Apple first sold us on, and others followed suit with, is the benefits of touch.  We are all tapping and sliding these days on our new devices.

Steve Jobs was looking to do away with the mouse for a long time.  Touch has been revolutionary but it alone will not bring about the Post-PC world.  Touch is imprecise.

Touch is a technology that is geared to consuming, not creating.  As soon as you need to draw or write something that requires precision, touch goes out the window.

Cloud Computing

Technology companies have been investing heavily in cloud computing in recent years.  This technology is another player in the Post-PC world which aims to store all of our data somewhere out on the Internet and provide us with internet hosted applications.

This technology moves your data and applications onto internet accessible systems run by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and others.

Cloud technology is another great step forward, but it also won’t result in a PC-less era.  We’ll still need to interact with our content, we just might store less of it on our own devices.

Related: Dividend Paying Technology Stocks – How Are They Doing?

So what is the future of personal computing?

Since I don’t think we’re in a Post-PC world, what comes next?

It’s my belief that the next step in the PC evolution is the touch enabled Ultrabook.  This class of PC has a keyboard, mouse and touch capability.  They are lighter than a laptop, have longer battery life and employ solid state hard drives (SSD) to reduce boot up time.

Ultrabooks are trying to duplicate the success Apple has had with their MacBook Air product.  The difference is Ultrabooks will appeal to a much wider audience since more people use Windows PCs than Mac, their price points are also lower.

Where tablets, smart phones and eReaders have been revolutionary for consuming content and media, Ultrabooks are the next step in personal computing. Microsoft’s surface tablet is another step forward since it offers touch, pen and keyboard interface.

The PC is not dead and won’t be for a very long time.

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.


8 Responses to Why We Aren’t In A Post PC World

  1. There are small steps that are changing things completely and the cheapness of Solid State Drives (SSDs) is changing the game already, and may mean the demise (eventually) of hard drives on any portable device (let’s hope so, since that is where most hard drives fail).

    Interesting points made!

  2. Money Beagle says:

    I wrote an article on this a couple of months back essentially stating the same thing. My biggest rationale for why companies will continue to manufacture PCs and laptops is because so many businesses rely on them. I simply couldn’t imagine our office ditching PCs and laptops. As cool as tablets and such are, there is no way I could be even half as productive on one of those compared to my laptop. This demand will keep the PCs and laptop makers in business. There will likely be some leveling off, and I would expect you’d see one or two of the players exit the marketplace in the mean time.

  3. SavingMentor says:

    I definitely missed the memo about being in a post PC world. I have more PCs in my home than ever.

    2 Desktops (Windows)
    2 Laptops (Windows
    2 Home Theatre PCs (Windows – Acer Revo and Zotac Zbox)
    4 Smartphones (Android)
    1 iPad (iOS)
    1 SmartTV

    It’s been a tough slog with all these technology changes. I wonder if we’ll ever get something that truly unifies the experience and lets us cut down on the number of devices we have.

    I’ve been waiting for 10 years (I was an early PDA user) for a smartphone that has all of the following:

    - All the normal phone functions and smartphone functions we have today
    - A powerful camera with 10x+ optical zoom and strong flash that produces quality photos so you don’t need another camera.
    - Fully functional GPS.
    - Holographic or sensing keyboard (i.e. the image gets displayed on your desk where you type with your fingers)
    - Top notch voice recognition, composing, etc.
    - Large display options like wireless TV integration or projection onto a wall or holographic projection.
    - Enough processing power or server support to do processing intensive tasks

    We’re getting pretty close or already have a lot of these things now but there are still lots of bugs to be worked out and features to add. We’d probably be able to get there much sooner if people would be willing to pay a lot of money for this type of device (several thousand dollars). Thing is the companies prefer to iterate slowly and add features here and there to be competitive and keep the price low and affordable for the masses.

    Someday we’ll get there!

    • SavingMentor says:

      I recently purchased a Microsoft Surface pro and although I won’t be getting rid of my other devices, it could easily replace them if I wanted it to except for high end desktop gaming. It will handle medium end desktop level gaming just fine (think Starcraft 2, Civilization 5, most steam games, etc).

      With the Surface Pro you can basically answer YES to all of these questions:

      Would an author write a book on a tablet?
      Would a composer write a score on a tablet?
      Would an entrepreneur create a business plan on a tablet?
      Would a graphic designer create a layout on a tablet?
      Would a programmer write code on a tablet?
      Would a film editor edit video on a tablet?
      Would a photographer touch up pictures on a tablet?

  4. krantcents says:

    I think it is evolving! We are certainly less dependent on the desktop PC. That will continue. Mobile computing is more a way of life and becoming a necessity, although I do not participate yet.

  5. I’m pretty sure the PC is not dead or even smelling funny. Touch keyboards just aren’t sufficient for any task where you have to enter large amount of text. So that means either laptops or desktops. Personally I have a strong preference for desktops where multiple 1080p or bigger monitors can be had inexpensively. There’s just no way a tablet or even a laptop can match a rig with a collective 81″ of screen diagonal.

  6. When it comes time to replace my current laptop, it’ll definitely be with an ultrabook with a solid state drive as Big Cajun Man mentioned.

    There are lots of times when I miss my old desktop setup. For years I ran dual monitors for the added screen real estate. Now I only have 16″ to work with :(

  7. Gene says:

    Like you said, PC’s are used to create and that couldn’t be more true. The other day I was trying to type up a paper on a laptop and decided it was more trouble than its worth – then moved to my PC. The problem with doing school work on a laptop is that the area in front of you is preoccupied with the laptop, not leaving enough space to shuffle around papers. Then there are those soft keys that don’t act the way you want them to act. Just gotta have the right tool for the right job and tablets / phones sometimes just won’t do. When was the last time a website was designed on a phone? hehe.

Leave a reply