Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

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.

TOPICS: iPad, Apple, Mobility

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

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  • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

    Isn't that kind of a superfluous thing to say, then? If all they mean by "post-PC" is that it came out after, technically even laptops and cordless phones are "post-PC". As for post-PC meaning it's a new age of sorts, I suppose; however, I wouldn't really consider it in that light until it's possible that I'd at least be getting rid of my laptop in favor of it, and I'm not.
    • Well, the question is, when we look back, what will be the device that is

      viewed as having sparked the post PC era? I think a lot will say that it was the iPad.
      • By the way, Adrian's mention of CNN's article on "distortion field" does ..

        @DonnieBoy: ... not impress me at all.

        1) Of course, iPad 2 was the first dual-core mobile device that came to sales *in volume*. Mention of tiny, dwarf-scale sales of Steak, Atrix and Xoom are ridiculous alongside the phrase "in volume". So that Seth Weintraub guy from CNN is manipulator here, not Jobs.

        2) "90% marketshare" of iPad in tablet market is quite reliable, since Apple estimated actual sales, not shipment. Since iPad was lacking production and worldwide deficit in 2010 (most countries never got the device selling for them), and since most of sales are direct (via site or Apple stores), Apple's sales basically match to retail sales except for very minimal percentage. Contrary to case of Samsung, which shelled partners with 2 million shipments most of which were not sold in Q4 yet. Also, this Seth Weintraub guy even tries to insert Nooks and Kindles here, even though those devices are not considered to be tablets at all -- not only by Apple, but also by IDC, Gartners and such. So we have again Seth Weintraub manipulating here, not Jobs.
      • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?


        You're forgetting the no-brand tablets running Android touted all over the place, and they sell truckloads of these things. People can get a tablet for 1/3 of the price Apple charge for their entry level. Not as powerful, but still a tablet, and a tablet with more functionality due to simple things like USB ports.

        In NZ I expect 20% at least of tablets being used are these home-brand Android ones. I also expect that it is impossible to get accurate figures on these other than from manufacturers. This apparently doesn't count since it isn't 100% proven sell-through, which for anyone but apple (who heavily controls/manipulates their distribution chain and therefore knows exactly what is sold through) is nearly impossible to determine.
      • I think that Android devices will be important too, and I want an Android

        device NOT an iPad, but, we have to give credit where credit is due: iPad started the Post PC revolution. That is all I am staying.
      • Message has been deleted.

  • Fluid definition

    I believe a post-PC device would be the thing that picks up where PCs left off. Otherwise, tablets are just another (third?) device. They must not leave the user without the PC functionality. Personally, I picture an OS X or Windows 7/8 capable tablet that also runs a touch UI like iOS, Android or Windows Phone OS. Think thin laptop with removable keyboard (yes, a tablet by any other definition) that supports both mouse/keyboard and touch input with plenty of horsepower. It's starting to happen and may take a couple years to perfect, or course, but I see Microsoft in a great position to get back in the race.
    • In the post PC era, we will use multiple devices to replace the PC.

      Some will use a phone with netbook. Others will use only a phone and plug into a larger screen with keyboard when needed. Others will use a super mini phone with a tablet and folding keyboard, etc, etc, etc.
      • Isn't that going in reverse since

        it's taking more items to do the work of one PC?
        Will Farrell
      • Will Farrell: multiple devices to replace multiple PCs. We have our work

        desktop, our laptop, our home desktop. And, we have limited mobility. In the post PC era, we will have more mobility and more functionality, for less money.
      • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

        You are looking int the right direction. A portable device that can be docked for more traditional notebook/desktop function.

  • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

      @Loverock Davidson Wrong answer.
  • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

    Personally, I don't get the idea of "Post-PC"

    Wouldn't anything that can act on it's own, just be another "PC"?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Is the iPad a true post-PC device?

      @Cylon Centurion 0005
      I'd call this more of a MobilePC or Mobility era.....
  • Not getting Jobs. Again.

    People talk over and over about reality-distortion field, throwaway comments, etc. The implication of which is that this is all a carefully crafted machiavellian plot to manipulate the end user. It makes for a nice story, but is completely wrong.

    Jobs isn't engaging in a "reality distortion" plot. Jobs is sharing his enthusiasm for what he does. When Jobs says post-PC device, it's not a throwaway line. It's what HE sees as the future of the industry. When Jobs says Post PC, what he means is not what you think he means because you are a tech pundit seeing the world through geek-colored glasses, and Jobs is a visionary seeing the world through empowering the individual.

    This is a guy who dragged one of his UI designers around town to show him why his interface needed rounded rectangles.

    When Jobs says Post-PC device, what he means is a device that you don't need to be a geek to use or understand. It's that simple. And that incomprehensible to pundits like the author.
    • Excellent summation


      BTW, that whole issue about "file management" for iOS devices. Well, if your a Mac user, then Lion OSX will take care of that issue.
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