Welcome to the Trans-PC World

My confidence in EMC Software has been growing over the last year.  Now that Lewis is out, I generally like the things I’m hearing from Gelsinger, Patel, and van Rotterdam.  What still bugs me is their fetish for the term post-PC which implies that the PC has no place in the workplace of tomorrow; I don’t think they mean it that way, but I’m a bit of a semantics geek and would suggest trans-PC instead.  Honestly, the iPhone is really just a personal computer in mobile phone drag.

You Better Work

I've just got one thing to iMessage...

My problem with the idea of a world without PCs is that people still need to get work done.  Tablets and phones make nice consumption devices, but I’m not going to code or pen my first novel on one.  It’s not a matter of CPU speed, storage capacity, or network access; a current-day smart phone is more powerful and connected than a PC ten years ago.  You may remember we got work done back then on those quaintly obsolete big beige boxes and monstrously-heavy cathode-ray tubes.

Two things make the PC the place where work still gets done: screen real estate and rich input devices (i.e., keyboards and precise pointing devices). I’ve posted before on the mistaken assumption that one thing must replace another [Reports of Mouse’s Death Greatly Exaggerated].  There are appropriate contexts for smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs.  I often use two computers (1 desktop, 1 laptop) and my iPhone “simultaneously” exactly because it’s a physical way to define contexts for easy monitoring, switching, and sometimes ignoring.  Put in simple terms:  “Right tool for the job” necessitates having more than one tool in your toolbox.

Don’t expect the PC to go away; just expect it to cost more.  People generating serious content and playing serious games will still need real workstations and top-of-the-line gaming rigs.  However, the general demand for such devices will go down since tablets and phones are already seen as good enough for daily tasks like email, chat, and web browsing along with their superiority in portability-related domains like music and eBooks.  Lower PC prices have been as much about demand as technological advances, and demand is shrinking enough that industry players like Dell are trying to abandon the consumer PC market that made them [Dell unveils new servers, says not a PC company | Reuters].  The logical consequence is flattening or rising prices as overall demand shrinks and the remaining demand is focused on higher-end devices.

New User Is Old Hat

Game Changer

The fact is we’ve been in the trans-PC world since 1997 when the PalmPilot debuted.  It wasn’t that people hadn’t tried to make palmtop computers before–we had a few wacky prototypes at Commodore in the early 90s.  The PalmPilot succeeded because it was the first device that didn’t try to be a PC itself; it was something that augmented your PC by sharing data (via cabled synchronization) and being mobile.  Unboxing my first PalmPilot was the moment where I really got the idea of the context a device brings to my data.  With everything living in the cloud, PCs aren’t the personal data overlords they once were.  They are one among many devices available for us to find, use, or create content in the most appropriate context at the moment.

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