Five reasons why the PC is not dead

Five reasons why the PC is not dead

Summary: The inventor of one of IBM's first computers says the PC is dead. Here are five reasons why the PC is still going, and will be for some time.


Last week, one of the inventors to the personal computing revolution of over 30 years ago -- said that it was time to move beyond and away from the PC.

But as PC sales continue to retain momentum -- and tablets and smartphones hogging the consumer limelight -- one has to question whether the PC is really on its last legs, or whether we are simply classifying the traditional computer as other things.

(Image via Flickr)

After churning over the reasons in my head over the weekend, I can think of five solid reasons why the PC is not dead. And, the PC will continue to dominate the computing industry, at very least, for the end consumer and enterprises.

1. PCs can be incredibly cheap, and emerging markets rely on this.

Macs are not cheap, I grant you this, especially from the student perspective. PCs -- or rather computers that are not Macs -- can be vastly cheaper for what they offer.

The Mac vs. PC adverts by Apple attempted to differentiate the two, but in reality it falls down to the operating systems that people use. In short, Macs are PCs too.

Emerging markets may never see a Mac, because of the price. But for those in low-income areas, PCs can be as slim or as expensive as you want them to be. Even down to the operating system, for those who live in deprived areas of the world, Linux is a strong, free and viable option, and is just as easy as Windows or Mac OS X to use.

2. PCs are expandable and are designed to be built-upon.

The very beauty of the PC is that there is a sliding scale of technologies involved. Expandable in nature, traditional PCs can evolve into computers, which have been added to, slimmed down and modified beyond repair.

In theory, a PC need never be replaced. It's one of the reasons why there are so many traditional PCs compared to Macs -- which frankly rarely need replacing at all.

A dual-monitor display with a productivity breathing out from both screen, cannot even compare to BlackBerrys or iPhones. Unlike a car, a computer can have it chassis ripped out, modified and made better.

3. Tablets are only the next-generation of PCs.

Today, and every day, we are redefining what a PC is. Nowadays, a tablet is just as much a PC as a desktop computer is, as what a smartphone is to a tablet. Different in size, it does not mean a reduction in productivity per se.

What we are lacking nowadays is a crucial definition of what a PC is.

A PC with a camera and a microphone, integrated or otherwise, makes it a 'media center PC'. It doesn't make it any less of a PC because it has additional peripherals. Instead, it bolsters the experience.

What we are seeing is a convergence of devices and peripherals. Just because the user-experience differs from devices, does not make it any less than good for what it is -- and isn't intended for.

4. The desktop experience is still a crucial part of the office workplace.

Tablets are great for on the go, and smartphones keep us connected to the world while we are away.

But we're still tethered to our desks -- and most of us do not want to move.

But on a psychological level, having a traditional PC fixed to a desk -- in a home office or at the office -- keeps us confined to one workspace. Surprisingly, it allows us to be productive and "in the zone", whilst equally healthily detached and away from work when we are not within the proximity of productivity.

5. PCs are still the world's 'looking glass' to the world.

Only last week I discussed the ongoing Mac vs. PC debate, and all but negating it. Nearly everything is browser based anyway.

If this is the case -- and I believe that it is -- then the traditional PC and evolved devices, from tablets to smartphones, are merely drones to the slave that is the wider web.

But it is not just limited to the web. Personal productivity and applications rely on PCs. No matter how often you use your mobile device or tablet, nothing will truly replace the standard QWERTY-keyboard at your desk.

Without the PC -- whether it takes form as a tablet or a traditional desktop experience -- then the web may as well not exist. Sales for Microsoft Office would go through the roof; I joke.

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Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

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  • If I had a quatloo for everytime someone claimed the PC is dead

    I could retire from Starfleet.

    Tim Cook
    • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

      @Mister Spock
      Ram U
    • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

      @Mister Spock

      OK, I actually laughed out loud at that. Brilliant Mr. Spock :-)
    • FAIL

      @Mister Spock Starfleet used mainframes, dumb terminals and quite a few pads. No PCs. Indeed, it seems PCs have no future. I've seen it on TV. :-|
      • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

        @Earthling2 We are already using terminals, connected to servers here. Only about half a dozen PCs and laptops in the place, for workers that travel or need a "full-on" multimedia experience to do their work.

        That said, for the average user, there is no real difference between a terminal and a PC. They have a keyboard, mouse and screen and use either Windows or Linux.

        I think what is important, is not whether the user is sitting at a PC or a terminal, but rather the input and output devices / methods that will differentiate the way we work.

        As has been said, the tablets and smartphones are great, when on the move, but they are not designed for heavy duty data input.

        I can knock up a 70 page document on my PC in a few hours, I wouldn't want to do that on an iPad or iPhone. On the other hand, when travelling, having access to that document on a tablet or on my smartphone is very useful, although, again, I wouldn't want to read all 70 pages on my smartphone.

        Touch interfaces are also great, on mobile devices, with small displays, but a traditional desktop display is too large to really benefit from touch and your arms would be aching after a few minutes of use - not to mention, you can wipe a 27" or 30" display on your trousers every couple of minutes, to get rid of the worst of the finger smears...

        When the network coverage improves and prices drop, the cloud will become more and more of a reality for normal users. But we will still need different input devices and different sized screens for different purposes.

        Working on an 18mp RAW image is hard enough on a 24", colour calibrated display, an iPad won't even load a RAW file, heck, it won't even load an un-butchered JPEG version, it will be automatically rescaled by iTunes, when it is synced.

        In the long term, I hope that we will end up with a little iPhone sized, or smaller, black box, which is our cloud-access gateway, which is then plugged into a tablet or desktop or media centre as needed (or wirelessly streaming, when it doesn't need recharging).
      • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead


        "Starfleet used mainframes, dumb terminals and quite a few pads."

        Mostly true, although the amount of theoretical computational power they had largely depended on what they needed to have for the plot, which is usually the case in most types of fictional technology.

        Of course you're talking about a TV show that takes place on large, carefully engineered ships where they can afford to place a terminal in every room. It's not as if very many episodes took place in farmland far away from most types of communication.

        It should be noted that Tricorders could in fact store their own data, and had some processing power - they weren't completely dumb.

        And of course when the ship's computers [i]did[/i] go down, the ship and its crew were utterly worthless unless they had said Tricorders. A warning, I think, against this crazy notion of "going dumb" with computing.
      • Yes, indeed they did

        I believe the first was Dr. Daystrum's M5 computer.

        I must admit, that did not work out too well at the time.
        Tim Cook
      • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead


        What exactly was seen sitting on Captain's desks then? ;)
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

        @Earthling2 okay, you're loosing it. I'm out...
    • LOL!

      @Mister Spock

      William Farrell
    • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

      @Mister Spock I'll wager 70,000 quatloos on the PC.
  • "The desktop experience is still a crucial part of the office workplace."

    One could mention here all of the office applications that just don't work on a mobile device.

    Graphic Design, Accounting, Payroll, and Secretarial Work will never be replaced with mobile apps.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Message has been deleted.

    • But they could by thin-like clients

      Ok except for graphic design.

      The management advantages are huge in the enterprise. Only the quality of communication infrastructure today restricts these advantages for the home users.
      Richard Flude
  • Like Radio

    PCs are like Radio. When the TV arrived I'm sure people said "oh, radio's dead". However, I still have a radio, I still use the radio, I don't foresee a time when I'll not have a radio.<br><br>The PC is like that.<br><br>Oh and your Mac vs PC stuff - that's just tired. You use the one that has the apps you need OR if they both do then you make a choice you're happy with. Personally, if I buy a PC it costs about the same as a Mac anyway (if I *NEED* a computer then it's worth having something dependable - an "Enterprise Class" system).<br><br>Doesn't mean I don't have a TV (or smartphone/tablet).

    PS. How fsck'in old is that picture of the crashed Mac? Honestly!
    • It looks like a late 2006 Intel Core 2 Duo model


      Although I wouldn't know if that picture pertains to a kernel fault or not since I've never experienced one since switching to a PPC iMac in 2005.
      • RE: Five reasons why the PC is not dead

        @kenosha7777 It's a Kernel Panic... as a developer I see them, it happens when a serious and unrecoverable error occurs in the Kernel. Unless you are monkeying around with code deep in the system, running beta versions of Mac OS X, or have faulty hardware they are vanishingly rare.

        That's also a white plastic iMac - possibly a G5, but pretty damn old regardless.
  • The problem with the PC, is that it has become ...

    ... stale over the years. The first successful Windows (v. 3.0) was released in 1990. It's UI has not changed very much in over 20 years. MS' method of slowly and slightly altering the Windows user experience worked well when business drove computing; but things have changed now that it is users / consumers who are in the driver's seat. So now Windows 8 is MS' response to a consumer driven computer market. If that thing is revolutionary, then desktop computing will experience a renaissance; and MS will gain tremendous street 'cred' in the consumer space. I'm so happy it is not going to be lame like Mac OS Lion - which is like Windows 7 in the area of touch computing: a half-baked (albeit prettier) attempt at touch based computing. Windows 8 should make users eyes pop at the new desktop, the same way MS Surface causes users' eyes to pop. Also Windows 8 needs to lead to the rebirth of excitement around Windows application development. The main reason Windows remains untouchable in business, is because of Windows APPLICATIONS, APPLICATIONS, APPLICATIONS! In particular, MS Office and custom business applications. Windows needs to return to its glory days of having a vault of applications unrivaled by any other platform.

    Man I hope those advocates in the company who keep pushing equality of platforms don't get their way, or else Windows will become history fairly soon. And I still think it is absurd that MS has an online division whose first commitment appears to be to HTML - which competes with Windows - when Windows bankrolls the division's existence. Even if the online division was set up to explore a business alternative to Windows, should Windows have failed, MS should have at least created competing organizations to see if Windows apps could be adapted to compete with HTML apps. Therefore one organization could have put out HTML apps, and the other could have put out Windows based alternatives. Management could then have decided which apps had the potential to make the most revenues / profits. All of this is moot however, because MS' biggest money makers remain Windows based solutions, and Office, MS' biggest app, is selling more than it has ever done in history.

    I really have to ask the question, why is MS' online division pulling one way, and most of the company is pulling another way? Doesn't a body work more efficiently when it moves with a unified purpose? I see no pride in Windows by the company's online division, and I just don't get how the company functions this way. I think it is so embarrassing how there are these ultra-slick digital magazines on the iPad, whose growth both benefit its publishers and the iOS platform, and MS has only produced half-hearted attempts at the same. I think it would be so very terrible, if MS does not produce ultra-slick Windows based digital magazine type apps for Windows 8 that go significantly beyond HTML, which better: differentiate and monetize MS services; significantly strengthen the relevance of Windows; and give a great boost to the periodical, publishing industry - in-so-far as demonstrating a great, viable business model. Someone needs to overthrow MS' online division, and make it become pro-Windows, rather than pro-HTML.
    P. Douglas
    • It reached MATURITY

      @P. Douglas Everything reach maturity ... the PC is not an exception.

      But right now, tablets are NOT a replacement for a PC. They are a COMPLIMENTARY gadget.
    • What we need is a &quot;Technaissance&quot; ...

      @P. Douglas You are right. Things are stale ... all we are seeing is new variations on old themes, pushed forward by individual companies trying to push their personal vision into the public mainstream. This is true for both hardware and software.

      What we truly need is a sort of Inter-Company task force to re-establish the goals and future of computing. Put the best and brightest of Apple, Microsoft and the FOSS together in a room and tell them not to come out until they can truly say "And now for something completely different". Scrap everything we think we know about computer software and O/Ss and start from scratch ... no matter how implausible, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, it's worth consideration ... don't think outside the box, get rid of the box.

      This goes for hardware too. Computer hardware has been based on the motherboard format for way too long now, is there a better way? Our networking technology is built upon the server/client model ... why is there a server? Why doesn't the system just use the space and resources already provided by the many devices connected together, add another device, more resources and space are available ... these should not be individual devices, but new parts of the whole (and yes, backup would need to be figured out).

      These are pretty far fetched ideas, but without vision, there is no moving forward, and we need to move forward, we need to start a Technaissance ...