What is Post-PC? I'm thinking mobile OS vs. desktop OS

What is Post-PC? I'm thinking mobile OS vs. desktop OS

Summary: What does Post-PC really mean, and why does the term get under folks' skin?


My test to leave the laptop/desktop behind for an extended period is going well so far. I haven't missed having a real laptop or a desktop for work even a little bit. Many following this experiment are missing the point of the attempt by getting caught up in the terminology. Perhaps I was mistaken in terming this a "Post-PC experiment" which has lots of folks ignoring what I am trying to do and instead concentrating on what the definition is for "PC", and in some cases even for a "laptop".

See related:

Walking the walk -- the Great Post-PC Experiment

The Great Post-PC Experiment -- Day 1 Notes

Using the term Post-PC has a simple connotation for me, and that's the premise behind my test. A more accurate explanation for what I consider a Post-PC scenario concerns the OS, not the hardware. I believe a Post-PC device is one which uses a mobile OS, not a full OS written for a desktop. In simple terms a Post-PC device is any running Android, iOS, or any other purely mobile OS. Anything running Windows or Mac OS X is of the old-school PC variety.

The point I am trying to address with my test is whether a mobile device of any ilk, running a mobile OS, can be used for extended periods without compromise. That's all I am trying to do, and the whole purpose of my test. I am not trying to declare the death of the PC, either laptop or desktop, or that the tablet is the next major hardware format. It's not, and the desktop OS isn't going anywhere either for a while.

No, I'm testing whether the mobile OS has evolved to the point that makes it possible for me, not anyone else, to leave the device running a full desktop OS behind for business trips, and just bring the mobile OS along. That's the sole purpose of my test, and it's a valid one for me. The less I have to bring on trips the better I like it, but only if it doesn't compromise the professional job that I do.

This simple definition of Post-PC is going to get stretched to the limits by Windows on Arm (WOA), as that's a purely mobile OS based on a full desktop OS. I guess we'll have to address that once it gets released and we see how it works in the field.

I suspect some folks get perturbed at the use of the term "Post-PC" since it was coined by the late Steve Jobs. That's not fair as I feel it is a genuine term for what I describe -- the evolution of the mobile OS to the point that devices previously considered incapable of being someone's primary computer can now do so. That's not a reach, it's already working fine for me so far.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Software

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  • What is 'Post-PC'?: A Fig Newton of Your Imagination

    Honestly. How many more times am I going to have to read this drivel?

    The PC is not dead. Repeating something doesn't make it true.

    This amounts to more marketing spin than anything else.

    Sorry James for picking on you--you are not the only one who 'regurgitates' this story line.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • Post Personal Computer?

      Any of these devices with their cut down OSs are simply stop gaps when we don't have access to desktops or laptops. Nevertheless, they still have a screen, a microprocessor and an input method (which for any real work is a keyboard, even if it's on screen). So they are just as much a PC as anything else, just limited. If James thinks he can do his job with these mobile toys then it's not a job that requires much work or he isn't doing it successfully - I cite this column as proof ;-)

      A PC is a personal computer and all these devices are PCs, just a little smaller and not as useful as their big brothers. IF your requirements are small, then they are extremely useful, but they are still PCs.

      Is it my imagination or is ZDNet getting less and less tech and more and more opinion and word games?
      • ZDnet has only a couple of real tech writers any more

        It's all mainstream consumer tech here now. When's the last time you saw an actual article delve into the hard tech points on any product? None. It's all due to the ranking of articles by clicks. There are more consumers than there are techs, so techs lose.
      • Who's the gamiest of all?

        If things are turning more and more into word games, that is not due to the author of this article. It is because people like you and Our Linux Advocate insist on playing word games, when the author went out of his way to answer those objections in advance.

        In particular, he defines what he means -- for purposes of his article -- by Post PC, and also mentions that there will be those who want to get all hung up on what the term means. Which is exactly what you did.

        He also explicitly stated that he is not trying to declare the death of the PC (that's an exact quote) and yet Our Linux Advocate insists that the author is "repeating drivel" about the PC being dead.

        Yes, there are word games on ZDNet. To catch the perp, look in the mirror.
        Robert Hahn
    • Fig Newton?

      Perhaps Ubuntu are drinking the same secret sauce?

      I personally love the idea of Ubuntu extending my phone-OS onto a docking station. Much like the Atrix idea. I look forward to having only one mobile gadget, which I can dock where room (and maybe universal docking stations) exists.
  • How about we end this sillyness James?

    Your first requirement for going post-pc was having a hardware keyboard for your slate. The functionality you need to do what you want is coming from the hardware - a point completely irrelevant to whether you have a mobile or desktop OS on your device.

    What I fail to understand is WHY you are so stubborn insisting on using a mobile OS with handicapped hardware when clearly better alternatives can be found. What ever happened to learning to use the RIGHT tool for the job?

    Sure, you can make a big deal and shout out to the world your 100% Post-PC status. Except you end up looking like a fool for spending hundreds more on solutions that require you to jump through all kinds of hoops to get even simple things done. At the end of the day, you've done nothing except just make a big deal.

    A successful mobile worker can adapt to whatever his/her surroundings are, be productive in an instant, and work without compromise when it comes to mobility and connectivity. That "go anywhere, do anything" ability is perfectly met with just a $400 netbook. If it can work for me and my demanding requirements, please explain why it doesn't do it for you?
    • Exactly

      When looking at keyboard and protective pad, one would think: laptop has everything he needs. Why creating such ugly post-pc device?
    • Some things needs to be repeated

      [i]"What I fail to understand is WHY you are so stubborn insisting on using a mobile OS with handicapped hardware when clearly better alternatives can be found. What ever happened to learning to use the RIGHT tool for the job?"[/i]

      'I have proven that 85 - 90 percent of my work can easily be done with the iPad so the real test is in doing the remaining (10 - 15%) tasks I will have to do.' - JK

      'I used the iPad 2 in tablet mode most of the time, only using the keyboard for extended writing sessions. This led to me working far more comfortably than I normally do working at a desk all day. The work with the tablet can be done literally anywhere, and even using the keyboard it???s easier to keep an ergonomic setup.' - JK
    • "Post-PC" silliness

      I'm all for tablet devices if you are a data consumer or if you just want one. Fine. As to this constantly trying to justify the concept of "Post PC" why don't we just give it a rest, huh? As someone else said just use the right tool for the job.

      The reason we don't give it a rest? Simple: marketing. That's really it. We've figured out a cool new gadget so we have to come up with reasons why it now renders our other gadgets obsolete so everybody will buy one!

      When I take my laptop with me (I'm a developer) it has everything I need. I open the thing and get to work with it. I don't have to decide if I feel like using it like a tablet or a PC nor do I have to keep track of where the keyboard and/or the mouse is - I just use 'em all the time and it always works. No limitations, no fiddling around. I doubt I'll ever be "Post PC".

      Max Peck
  • Haven't you heard?

    Canonical's Ubuntu (a desktop Linux OS) is coming to at least one smartphone model. It will be pre-installed and will dual-boot with Android. A post-PC device on the run with Android. A PC device with Ubuntu in your hotel room, home or office, assuming that you have a keyboard and monitor available. One can easily imagine this concept for 7-inch form-factor tablets as well.

    So, which is it, post-PC or PC?

    Both smartphones and tablets are quite powerful today and they will get more powerful as time rolls on.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • I don't get the whole idea of "Post PC"

    PC stands for Personal Computer. Personal is subjective but computer is a computing device and a smartphone and or tablet are computers that is what they do. As for the OS and it's capabilities compared to the desktop I for one remember when the PC came out and big iron people laughed at it's limitations for years they laughted. And while big iron still exists and makes tons of money for it's market the Desktop PC has come a long, long way from it's humble beginings and I predict that same thing will happen for Mobile and likely faster still than it did for the desktop PC. I doubt the desktop will die out all together like big iron it will find it's place as will mobile.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • PC Stands for IBM PC

      Post-PC means moving past the PC-compatible architecture. I'm sure that Jobs meant Wintel, but Macs are certainly in the same architecture family as Dells and HPs.

      I look forward to the day when my personal computing device (whatever arch that be) is my phone, my PDA, my media player, and my "desktop PC." This is something I've wanted for almost a decade. If it can happen with wireless USB and without a dock, all the better.

      Like you, I doubt the traditional desktop (probably mostly workstations) will die, but the market is sure to be a much smaller percentage.
      • PC Stands for ...

        I agree. Why everybody has to try and pigeon-hole this with the term "Post-PC" is silly. The ratios of device types is simply going to change and it always has. It's not a static situation nor will it likely ever be. There are people who will be "mobile only" because that's all they need. The only reason they weren't that way before is the devices didn't yet exist.

        My wife is the perfect example of this. She almost never uses her laptop anymore because her iPhone does 99% of what she needs a computing device to do. She keeps up with her friends, manages her calendar and plays a game or two. That's about it. She used the laptop before this because it was what was available.

        The presence of the mobile devices don't portend the "death" of the PC in any sense except that people who wouldn't have chosen a PC to start with now have an option to use something else. That's all it is. There's just more options. If the PC were to "go away" it would only be because no one needed the capability any longer. I use both PC and iPhone. I *know* (for myself at least) that neither will "go away". I simply have more options. Now when I'm just "out and about" I have a communication/computing device on my belt that I couldn't have before. I now don't have to take the laptop quite as many places - unless I need to really work. That doesn't invalidate the laptop it just changes when and where I need to use it.

        But ... we all gotta have something to talk (and argue) about so I guess this is as good as anything. At least it's not a Linux vs. Windows discussion this time, which is equally irrelevant!

        Max Peck
  • It is not the term Post-PC

    Nor does anyone dislike "Post-PC since it was coined by the late Steve Jobs.
    I think that people take exception to the indication that we are in a "Post-PC" [b]era[/b] based on wrong conclusions by misreeding the facts.

    Becuase smartphone sales are up, and Pc sales are down a bit isn't because they are being replaced, a big factor is tha today's OEM PC are much more upgradedable.

    In the past the Dell, HP, Acer machines had memory limits and the like, today you can upgrade them to 8 Gigs of RAM and such: a system designed to run Vista can easily run Windows 7, so it's easier and cheaper to get a little more RAM and an upgrade.
    Even the drivers are availiable anymore on these website.

    So the fact that I bought my wife the iPhone, and upgraded her PC to Win 7 doesn't mean the PC was replaced, it just means her usage of a PC is not included into any recent OEM sales figures.

    And just because she suppliments her use of the PC with a smartphone doesn't mean she prefers, or can can use the smartphone as her primary system of choice.

    But that won't stop people from saying that "the PC is dead because these families bought smartphones last year, not PC's, so they apparently do not have a need for a PC".
    John Zern
    • I dislike it

      Jobs made toys for the masses, and as the old saying goes "the masses are a$$es".
      • I dislike You

        At least Jobs made contributions. You can't even make a sensible contribution to this forum. Unless you consider an extraneous pathetic cliche a contribution.
  • Why would you use a term ...

    [i]Many following this experiment are missing the point of the attempt by getting caught up in the terminology. Perhaps I was mistaken in terming this a ???Post-PC experiment??? which has lots of folks ignoring what I am trying to do and instead concentrating on what the definition is for ???PC???, and in some cases even for a ???laptop???.[/i]

    ... that is both inaccurate and inflammatory, for any other reason than to drive traffic to your article? The term Post-PC, and the way it is generally used, presumes the imminent death of the personal computer. And what is supposed to be killing of personal computers? Smartphones and tablets - which are even more personal, personal computers? This makes no sense. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain, that the PC world is not being killed off, but is rather being expanded, with ever more personal computing devices. All James Kendrick is raving about, is how he is able to do increasing amounts of work, on a new PC form factor. All of this will become crystal clear, when Windows 8 is released on slates and hybrid slate / laptop devices.

    If James Kendrick and other Zdnet writers want to do semantic gymnastics to justify their use of the highly charged term Post-PC, let them. It is obvious to any reasonable person that the term is flawed, and is simply being used to generate clicks.
    P. Douglas
    • Post != Death

      We are post-vinyl in music. Vinyl records are still being pressed and phonograph needles are being sold. At some point, say 1986 or so, one could argue that vinyl was still important, but, the trend lines were clear.

      There is nothing any more inflammatory about calling these days Post-PC then calling the 1920s The Jazz Age when the majority of the population did not embrace jazz and a majority of the music performed and recorded was something other than jazz.

      One more point from a junior high history book comes to mind. The authors pointed out that people did not wake up in 462 AD and say to each other, "Hey, the Roman Empire which collapsed here in the west a couple hundred years back has now just ended in the east as well."

      One takes a look at Apple selling more mobile devices last year than they've sold computers in aggregate, and how does one react? Does one say that Apple is an outlier and this means nothing. You could, but, Apple's rivals seem to think that, well, shall we say "Something's going on." or perhaps "We want our business to be that business."

      Or, let's look at it this way. In 1960 the small business employee used an adding machine or mechanical cash register. Large companies had mainframes. In 1990, the small business used a hybrid computing cash register and the large companies had networked pcs on many desks. Nowadays, we get information via e-mail (or apps) from our employers, make our contribution to the discussion via our phones in the form of return e-mail or completing a data form and submitting. The employee collaborates in the company's functioning without having to be at their desk.

      Maybe Post-Desk is a better term.

      But please, let's not got irritated that Post-PC is imprecise. 7 character terms are inherently so. Maybe the term will be ridiculed in the future the way "Information Super-highway" is now. And let's not think that the people who use the term are saying, that today or next week, it's 462 A.D. for the personal computer. That is not what they are saying.

      This morning I was doing administration with a RDBMS. So much easier with a laptop. Later today I may write some code so updates can be done without needing raw SQL. This will be done on a laptop. I'm on the road, so I connect to my desktop pc, and that is a necessity for me as well.

      But, last night I read Alice in Wonderland and reviewed reference materials on the scala programming language on my iPad. In five years, am I - are we - going to be doing more or less on mobile devices? The PC remains an essential tool. It has hit its peak as the essential tool. That's what Post-PC means.
      • Yes, but

        We didn't call the post-vinyl era the "post-music" era. It was generally accepted that music was still music and the delivery mechanism had changed.

        Likewise we don't call the advent of digital photography the "post-camera" age, or the period after the fall of the roman empire "post-government".

        Post-desk isn't too bad. I might throw post-complexity or "computing for the masses" in there too.

        "Post-pc" is really a rubbish phrase because it implies more than it should. Other than the silly name though, James is still demonstrating a valid point.
    • So then you'd agree that Apple is by far the largest PC maker...

      ...in the world them? Since when you include iPads the tripled HPs PC sales...