Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

Summary: The post-PC era may or may not be coming, but there is no question that the mobile era is here.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Few subjects get people riled up like that of the "post-PC era" that Steve Jobs called the era ushered in by the iPad. Too many folks are in no hurry to give up real computers for the slate or gadgets of other forms, and they get downright testy if you tell them they must. I agree that PCs, or computers if you will, are not going away any time soon. I do find a better term for what we are experiencing is the mobile era, and we are already firmly in it.

It is not so much the form of the device that makes up the post-PC era. It is the way we use them, and where they get used that is knocking the old tethered PC from the shopping lists of millions. The draw is picking up a gadget and doing stuff, and that is a common practice that is already beginning to replace the standard computer away from the workplace.

See also: The PC era is just beginning

The mobile era began years ago in the workplace. Many folks had no computer at home, they only used one as part of their job. That experience wasn't a really good one, as folks equated the computer with work. The phrase "my computer is down" was far too common, and that involved bringing in the IT people whose agenda seemed to be far different than that of most workers. Computers were largely things that occasionally stopped working, and then you were stuck until some expert found time to get them working again.

It was also in the workplace where email became the standard method of communication, and when companies started handing out phones for doing email the mobile era was born. So many workers ended up with those clunky blue BlackBerrys in hand. This exposed millions to the benefits of mobile email, although largely locked down by the job like those computers.

Smartphones started to appear that allowed folks to do personal email, and the mobile era began to grow. There were a lot of folks carrying Palm Treos and the like, and no matter what reasoning went into the purchase decision it was the ability to do email anywhere like those Crackberries that drove sales. People were getting exposed to the ability to stay in touch via email, and they liked it. The personalization of email ushered in the true mobile era.

The iPhone came along and exposed millions to this personalization of email, and spurred a big expansion of the mobile web. It elevated the phone to a multi-purpose mobile device, and folks discovered they liked that.

The growth of Facebook played a big role in the growth of the mobile era, as millions of Facebook users discovered the easiest way to interact with the popular service was not on a computer, but on the phone. It quickly knocked email usage to the curb, especially for young users growing up in the Facebook era. Along with standard phone text messaging, communicating with friends over Facebook became a standard form of communication, and largely from phones.

This mobile communication grew so prevalent that many non-techies mostly stopped using a computer at home. They used the phone to keep in touch with the social network, and that worked just fine. The mindset of breaking away from a tethered PC, even a laptop, was changing for millions.

The appearance of the iPad was the perfect storm of ubiquitous connectivity to the web, via Wi-Fi or 3G, and this mobile communication. The larger screen of the tablet handled this communication just fine, and did other things more computer-like, too. Millions buying the tablet embraced this utility through lots of apps that appeared overnight.

It wasn't just the apps, as iPad owners discovered the web browsing experience was just as good as on the computer for pretty much everything they did on the web. While computer usage had fallen in many households, getting on the web to do something was often the only thing still done regularly. The tablet changed that for many, who could now do everything they wanted on the mobile tablet.

The mobile era truly began with the iPad, and it isn't slowing down. It is growing at a staggering rate, as folks getting exposed to the mobile experience are realizing that it is all they need. It's not happening for all users, especially techies who are familiar with doing things on a computer that can't easily be done on the tablet. But there are far more of those people who still view the computer as a complicated thing, and these are more than happy to leave them behind.

As capable mobile devices get cheaper, this shift from computer to mobile will escalate rapidly. The cheap price point of the Kindle Fire ($199) is low enough that even those reluctant to try them will do so in increasing numbers. The key to adopting mobile devices as a home computing source is hands-on exposure, and that is about to take off.

See also: Kindle Fire: The commoditization of computing as begun

This shift to mobile devices has one surprising aspect. While many of these consumers have a PC or a laptop at home, the comparison of using the mobile device to the real computer is reinforcing the mindset that once again PCs are for work. The tablet and phone do all they need, so they begin to view the computer as a work thing as folks did years ago. Mobile wins again in many homes.

I don't believe computers are going away anytime soon, but I do believe the mobile era is here to stay. More consumers are entering the mobile world every day, and discovering they can leave the evil computer behind. This speeds adoption of mobile technology in general, as users can forget the computer (or PC) for long periods. That makes for happy users, and they see the gadgetry as the reason behind it. That's why once most users go mobile, they won't go back to the PC.

The tablet space is growing, although how fast is open to interpretation. The iPad is no longer standing alone, but sales indicate it is the product in the driver's seat in the tablet space. There is no question that being first to market gave it a primary role in exposing millions to the mobile era, and many of those consumers will not go back to the way things were.

Image credit: Flickr Johan Larsson

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Topic: Mobility

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28 comments
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  • Pure-Play Mobile Will Lead The Way

    Interesting to see that both Apple's and Microsoft's strategies involve tying the mobile device to the PC in some way, while Android, it seems, is the only major mobile OS designed to operate independently of any PC.

    Hmm, backward-looking versus forward-looking ... I wonder which will succeed?
    ldo17
  • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

    Why are you so hung up on what kind of era we are in? We all know where the trend is moving towards. A large majority of people are going to be using low powered devices - smartphones, tablets, Macbook Air and clones, maybe convertibles - and won't need a full fledged PC. Desktops will be around for decades just like mainframes are. There will just be fewer and fewer people using it. Everybody knows that and we are just arguing on the details and terminology. You and us would be better off discussing something more worthwhile
    regsrini
  • It's about the user experience ...

    ... not so much about mobility. The iPhone and the iPad brought user experience innovations to the computer industry, and these devices just happened to be mobile. E.g. you are seeing something similar with the Xbox, where it also has introduced user experience innovations in the form of UI updates, the Kinect, and better, sleeker consoles, and is also selling well against industry trends. The PC merely needs the same thing done to it, for it to experience a renaissance. If a person has e.g. a 24" touch screen all-in-one with Windows 8 and metro apps, which has the capability and horsepower to drive immersive experiences greater than an iPad, which solution do you think people will prefer? Most people will look past their iPads to their Windows 8 all-in-ones, because of the larger screen and overall better user experience.

    Windows 8 can allow PCs to take back the modern computing limelight, by allowing users to not only have better user experiences than that found on the iPad across a spectrum of devices, but to also retain the utilitarian advantage of the PC over the relatively underpowered iPad. The PC also offers (in the form of modern apps) content providers the ability to provide much more engaging experiences to their customers, allowing them to monetize their services better than what is possible over the web. E.g. digital magazines, stand to make content providers much more money than is possible from their web sites; Facebook stands to expand and retain its customers, with slick metro apps, rather than its cluttered, barely comprehensible system of web pages, that are sometimes a pain to navigate.

    All of the above is just on the consumer side. User experience innovations will also cause revolutionary changes in business computing, making business computing more delightful and productive. New solutions will be developed that have never been conceived of before. Therefore the future in computing is not really in mobility, it is more in user experience and supporting services.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

      @P. Douglas
      A 24" touchscreen seems like an attractive idea, but it is really not. You would get tired without 5 minutes of swiping continuously with your hands. UX is very important, but the fact is that many people will have moved on from that form factor.
      The important factor here is what you can get with a given device. If you can do everything you want with an iPad or any other tablet, you would certainly buy just that device for your main computing needs 5 years down the line.
      regsrini
      • A 24" touchscreen seems like an attractive idea, but it is really not.

        @regsrini I agree with that. So far, the mouse is without a doubt the least bad input device for controlling a computer. There will probably be something better in the future. But that future is still unknown.
        Bart B. Van Bockstaele
      • You are mistaken

        @regsrini,

        I expect most, if not all touch screens, will be built to be able to be inclined from vertical, all the way down to horizontal positions - to eliminate the gorilla arm issue. As for large touch screens, like TVs, consumers will see them to be more compelling than small tablets, because they will be more immersive and engaging. With Internet TV backend services, many large touch screens used throughout the home, will wind up acting as TVs / entertainment consoles, displacing at least some TV sales.

        I believe PC tablets will eventually displace laptops, but people will continue to have PCs throughout their homes, and this will only increase as computers enter more areas of our lives. So it's not a matter that mobile computers will displace larger PCs / displays: it's a matter that computers having varied form factors will continue to encroach in just about every aspect of our lives, with mobile being just one set of these form factors.
        P. Douglas
    • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

      @P. Douglas<br><br><I>If a person has e.g. a 24" touch screen all-in-one with Windows 8 and metro apps, which has the capability and horsepower to drive immersive experiences greater than an iPad, which solution do you think people will prefer? </I><br><br>Why would a consumer looking for a mobile device like the iPad want to be stuck using a 24" PC on a desks? If you're talking 24" then it means the user is stationary someplace in the house or office doing "old school computing stuff" on a utilitarian PC. You're making the same mistakes as Microsoft in not understanding the very reason consumers are buying iPads now, and surely to buy-up the Kindle fire for the same reasons in the near future. It's not for the purpose of replacing their PCs (at least not directly, that will happen indirectly overtime). But with tablets like the iPad and Kindle, it's all about light mobile computing (not horsepower requiring internal fans just to keep cool). It's about apps. Casual games and entertainment. eBooks. Music. Moving easily around the house for instance browsing the web, doing light email, Updating social apps. Reading the morning paper on a <b>device</b> without the unnecessary disturbance and maintenance of a traditional PC.
      dave95.
      • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

        @dave95. Yep. It's not post-pc, it's post-"pc only". I don't want to throw away my pc and migrate to a teeny-tiny phone for all of the stuff I do. But having those devices for other purposes is great.
        saluk64007
  • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

    PC-Plus is a better term. Post-PC is a Steve Jobs hype term he uses to get away from losing the desktop and laptop to Windows. Now, he lost mobile phones to Android, too.
    timjones170
    • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

      @timjones170
      Did you not see the sales numbers for iPhones and iPads for the last quarter?!!!??
      Hasam1991
      • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

        @Hasam1991

        timjones170 is talking about the [b]desktop[/b]. Apple lost the desktop war, hence is trying really hard to make it look like MS, uh I mean the desktop doesn't matter anymore.

        Of course in Steve Job's zeal to make it sound like the desktop doesn't matter anymore, he forgot that the Mac is also a desktop. Oh wait, Macs will be exempt from this mythical desktop implosion. Somehow.
        Qbt
  • &quot;Post-PC Era&quot; not coming anytime soon...

    The personal computer will continue to be a mainstay in the home and workplace for a long, long time to come. I'm not sure if I'd call what we're in now the "Mobile Era" or not. I'm thinking it's more of a "Connected Device Era". Whether it's my phone, my laptop, my e-book reader, my game console, my television, even my car...most new electronic devices are internet enabled in some form or another. What has traditionally been PC functionality is being pushed into more and more devices. In my opinion, this isn't reducing the PC workload as much as it is integrating technology deeper and deeper into our everyday lives.
    jasonp@...
  • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

    http://url7.me/alk4
    lsiehi
  • A fork in the road

    As Yogi Berra once said "When you get to the fork in the road, take it." Smart phones and tablets have more impact on cell phones; smart phones have replaced simple cell phones and land line phones.

    Computing is forking into mobile content consuming devices and static content creation devices. A real change will come when mobile devices are routinely used to create content.
    sboverie
    • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

      @sboverie@... <br><br>Never going to happen... Mobile devices are always a trade off in power, storage space, and user comfort. All of these things will come at a sacrifice for sake of portability and all of these things increase productivity. Greater portability = less productivity. <br><br>Just because "post PC" devices are outselling PCs right now does not mean that people are getting rid of their PCs. You can watch TV and Videos on tablets too. Where's all the sales figures and doomsday predictions for the post TV era?<br><br>I could go on and on about why having a PC with near unlimited private storage space, backup and restore capabilities that are not limited by a slow network speed, a high resolution monitor outside of the portable range, multiple monitor support, your own choice of OS and applications not dictated to you by what is allowed in the market place, the ability to have administrator privileges to your own system without violating the manufacturer or service providers TOS, etc. etc... but if someone hasn't gotten it by now they aren't going to. <br><br>Most of the people weighing in on this non-debate about a post PC era are trying to sell something. Apple, MS, and the other "post PC" device manufactures are trying to sell you devices; ZDnet and other publications are trying to drive traffic to sell more advertising. There is no post PC era. Processors have changed, OSes have come and gone and evolved but PCs are not a certain processor or OS. A PC is a "personal" computer. The Arm architecture or another may become the norm and x86 may go into decline one day but I predict that day is much further away than this decade. When this occurs it will be the post x86 era not the post PC era. My first PC experience was pre x86... yep, for those that don't know, (and I am sarcastically placing the ZDNet editors that are predicting the "post PC" era in this category) the first PCs were not x86 and the first PC operating system was not Windows or OSX or even MSDOS. And yet these were the beginning of the PC era with no mouse, no GUI not even color monitors or graphics of any resemblance to what we have today. <br><br>So why is it that editors like Jason Perlow and Larry Dignan seem to agree on this sort of nonsense?<br><br>"we're on an architecture not much different than the original 5150 PC. The PC architecture---hatched at IBM and turned into a standard by Wintel---is almost certainly in its final decade in the consumer space. We have entered a post-PC era and that means the x86 is going extinct. Personal computing won't disappear, but the PC as we know it will."<br><br>Utter nonsense. IBM did not "hatch" the PC architecture. It was standardized around x86 largely in part due to Wintel but that doesn't make Wintel PCs the definition of PC. There were other architectures and OSes that predated Wintel. Like Wintel itself, they either evolved or became defunct and disappeared, while others emerged more recently and are still growing in use and acceptance, albeit slowly. <br><br>Jason Perlow says: "Personal computing won't disappear, but the PC as we know it will." What drivel! If that's the case, the PC era ended several times in the last thirty years.<br><br>The PC era began with the advent of affordable computing technology consisting of input, output and storage devices. Since that time, it has evolved and the PC, as we know it today, is nothing like the PC of the beginning of the PC era. However, the basics of what defines a PC (Personal Computer) has not changed by much even though the capabilities have: Processor, memory, input device(s), output device(s), storage. This is the definition of a Personal Computer, not the processor architecture, type of input devices, or software. And while more services will be accessed in the cloud, much of our computing needs are much too personal or private to be filled or entrusted to a cloud provider so the PC will live on even as it evolves as it always has since my first PC, the Timex Sinclair, which bears little resemblance to my Linux Mint desktop I'm typing this on now.
      techadmin.cc@...
  • What &quot;era&quot; we are in depends in what you consider a PC?

    Technically smartphones are PC's. They are very much computers you see. Now there are those who will choose to pit nick here but rest assured by definition they are PC's. As for one era ending when another begins. It only works that way in history class. When the car showed up it took a combination of Henry Ford and an interstate highway system to really get that going and even then it took decades for the horse to become a novelty. Era's rarely turn off and on like a switch.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
  • If mobility were the defining feature, we've been post-PC for 15+ years

    when laptops were the original "mobile" devices, and later, the first wave of tablets were built.

    If mobility is defined as very-low-weight and miniscule screens and very thin devices with thin OSes, then the "mobility" market is fairly new, but then, that form factor is not new to the last few years, because, products that met that definition had also been developed before Apple came up with the iGadgets which people first think of as being the defining moment for "mobility".
    adornoe
  • It will probably depend on the consumer.

    Biggest reason, at least for me, that a smartphone will never replace a "traditional" PC: losing it means my data is lost. I'm the kind of guy that prefers having "local" data: I want my data not only to be backed up "locally", but also primarily *stored* locally. That way, whatever files I have I can use even if the local server (or worse, cloud provider) is down for maintenance/weather/acts of God. Having them stored in my smartphone means that, if I lose it, *my data is lost as well*. Worse, it means that the data is then accessible to whomever finds the phone. It's a lot easier to lose a device that fits in my pocket & weighs less than a pound, than it is to "lose" a 5-7 pound laptop -- or even a 1-3 pound tablet -- that I need to carry in my hand or in a medium-to-large-sized bag. And those are even easier to lose than a desktop that doesn't get moved around.

    Not to mention that, any online banking or financial transcations I do on my desktop can only be read if a) someone breaks into the ISP's servers, b) a law enforcement agency produces a warrant for the info, or c) malware is installed on my PC (or on a server in between my PC & the bank). Wireless, however, has that potential for someone to physically read the wireless signal... & given the right hardware & software, they can then read the data. Not so much of a problem if I don't have a wide-ranging wireless router, or if I hardwire my laptop into the router... but a big problem for smartphones, since I don't think they have that hardwire capability (& not sure that tablets do, but I could be wrong).

    But, that's just me, maybe.
    spdragoo@...
  • RE: Post-PC era or not, we are firmly in the mobile era

    this is a joke right you can not see the cell phone screen very good and they mess so much and you can not upgrade them at all so you get what you buy not in this life time they SUCKS
    ttx19
    • Upgrade!?! Who upgrades? Seriously I know there are still some but

      @jt59 ... How many percentage wise are we talking about here?

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn