Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

Summary:At Apple's iPad 2 launch event, CEO Steve Jobs commented on how the iPad is a post-PC device. However, many iPad owners claim that the device is too reliant on a PC/Mac to be a true post-PC device.

At Apple's iPad 2 launch event, CEO Steve Jobs commented on how the iPad is a post-PC device. However, many iPad owners claim that the device is too reliant on a PC/Mac to be a true post-PC device.

What do you think?

Analyst Michael Gartenberg writing for Macworld tries to clarify things by making the (valid) point that 'post-PC' does not mean 'sans-PC.'

The iPad and other devices are not here to displace the PC (by which I mean all personal computers, whether they're Macs or PCs running Windows). In fact, post PC means after PC, a new generation of products that build on the PC. What it doesn't mean is sans PC, that is, without PC. The personal computer will no doubt be with us for a very long time... but that doesn't mean we're not in the post-PC world.

Fair point there by Gartenberg, but as someone who has used the iPad extensively for content creation I really don't want wordplay to get in the way of usability. Sure, I'm well aware that a tablet isn't going to completely replace a PC (not yet anyway), but we should be careful not to allow arbitrary limitations put in place by the manufacturer to define a product. Simply saying that 'post-PC ≠ sans-PC' is handing manufacturers a get-out-of-jail-free card when we really should be pushing them for more.

Note: Some of you might also be wondering just how much validity we should give to the throw-away 'post-PC' comment that Jobs made, especially considering that the 'Reality Distortion Field' was working flat out the day of the iPad 2 launch.

So, is the iPad a 'post-PC' device? Well, it certainly represents a change to the market, but how much of a change still remains to be seen. But tablets aren't the first contender for the 'post-PC' title, remember that netbooks and smartphones were also vying for the title once (then netbooks just became small PCs and tablets usurped the smartphone.

Don't get me wrong, tablets are likely to be a game-changer, but when I look at the current tablet lineup, and the iPad in particular as the market leader, I still see a series of devices that don't, yet, deserve the title of 'post-PC.' Here's a quick rundown of why I've come to this conclusion.

The first reason is the obvious one that others throw out - the fact that the iPad still needs a PC (or a Mac) for activation. I don't understand why a device's first job is to act as a peripheral to a PC. I don't understand why I can't just fire up an iPad, enter in WiFi key (or a SIM card), bang in my iTunes username and password and start using the device.

Then there's the issue of backup and restore. While I think that it makes sense for an iOS device to back itself up to a PC/Mac when it has a connection (that kind of precaution makes sense), it allows for no backup/restore system when you're away from that single PC. My PCs and Macs happily backup and restore data over WiFi or 3G, so I don't see any valid reason why a 'post-PC' device can't do the same.

Then there are updates. Just the other day my Mac Mini downloaded well over 1GB of updates over a WiFi connection without any problems, but there's no facility within iOS do download a few hundred megabytes of update and apply that without the aid of a PC or Mac. iOS updates shouldn't have to wait for a connection to a PC in a 'post-PC' world. Same goes with file syncing. If dealing with an update is too much for the iPad, I don't understand why I can't easily send files to and from it a PC. Yes, there are plenty of third-party software tools that allows for this using Apple's Bonjour protocol, but the fact that it isn't baked directly into the OS staggers me.

Another problem with the iPad is the lack of a shared file storage area. Moving data between apps can be a major nuisance that is usually solved either by having some cloud storage handy, or a PC. Storage space on the iPad that could be shared between different applications would solve this problem, helping to free the tablet from the tyranny of the PC.

I don't think that the iPad is separate enough from a host PC to truly qualify for the title of 'post-PC' device. Android is closer but to be honest I think that the OS that will power the first true 'post-PC' device will be Google's Chrome OS. While I'm personally not in love with the idea of Google hosting all my data, here we have the first OS/hardware combination developed with proper, from the ground up, 'post-PC' thinking.

What do you think? Is 'post-PC' a valid term or just another buzzword? Is the iPad a 'post-PC' device? Is there something else that you look at as being a 'post-PC' device?

Topics: iPad, Apple, Mobility

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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