The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

Summary: Do you think that you're living in a Post-PC Era just because certain media types tell you that you are? Well, don't believe it, because you aren't.


It never gets old to see what new buzzwords this industry will spring from its bowels but this "Post-PC Era" thing is probably the most ridiculous one to date. So, we're not using PCs anymore? Really? I'll bet if I walk into the office of any journalist, pseudo-journalist, CXO or other buzzword-addicted entity, I'd find something very interesting: A PC--in a Post-PC Era world. Oh dear, what a dilemma.

For them, not for me.

I don't believe that we're living in a Post-PC Era. Nor will we in the near future. I don't know what PCs will look like in 30 years nor do I know if they'll exist at all. Personal computing will exist. Personal computing devices will exist. But, perhaps that will be the Post-PC Era.

I think the people who spout off about a "Post-PC Era" are dreaming, haven't had enough sleep or perhaps have too little fiber in their diets. So, to anyone who thinks that you're living in a Post-PC Era, relax, turn off your cell phone, put down the pipe and focus as much as possible on what you're reading.

A "PC" is a PERSONAL COMPUTER. In 1981, the definition of a personal computer was a CRT (Monitor), a "CPU" (Box), a keyboard, a mouse and often an external modem. That boat anchor-esque pile of computer stuff was a PC. It wasn't mobile. It sat there and was only moved to replace a component in the Box or to make way for the next generation PC to replace it.

Replacing your PC is something you had to do every year or so to stay current with technology and your friends who were buying into technology each step along the way. You replaced your 8088 system with an 8086 (XT Turbo). You replaced that XT with a 286, then you upgraded to a 386--you added a math co-processor to the 386 and four whole Megs (MB) of RAM to make it fly.

But, then came the 486 family. You had to have one of those, didn't you?

Then came Pentium. A true computer. But, wait, you did buy the Pentium Pro, didn't you, or did you hold out for the Pentium II, III or IV?

It wasn't enough that you had a desktop PC, you also needed a laptop computer--a different type of PC.

Wait. What? A different type of PC? What do I mean by 'different type' of PC?

Oh, that's right, PC means PERSONAL COMPUTER. Laptops definitely fall under that definition of personal computer. It's a computer. It's a personal technology--yep, it qualifies.

Hey, wait a minute. If laptops fall under the definition of personal computer, do tablets and netbooks?

This is fun.

Wait for it.

Yes, they do.

A tablet is a personal computer.

The definition has changed over time but it's still a 'PC.'

Everything evolves. Automobiles, motorcycles, telephones, trains, airplanes, televisions, radios, movie players and computers.

Are we living in a Post-Automobile Era, a Post-Television Era or a Post-Airplane Era?

Don't be silly. Of course not. The closest Post Era thing we could be living in is a Post-Telephone Era. Phones, now called Smart Phones, resemble computers more than they do phones.

Oh, wow, could our smart phones be considered 'PCs' too? I won't make you wait for this one. Yes.

Are they the future of computing? Probably not. They're too small for efficient computing use. Are tablets the future? In some way, yes, they are. They are very portable and efficient but long-term use is still painful.

So, until someone comes up with something better than a full-sized keyboard and a full-sized monitor, it is not a Post-PC Era. There are limitations, human limitations, to what is possible--and probable--for us to handle physically.

My iPad is very cool but I can't use it for long periods of time. It just isn't efficient. And, to hell with trying to write an article via my iPhone. I wouldn't attempt it unless under the most extreme circumstances or editorial duress. If you think I'm snarky and hateful now, it's possible that neither of us would survive an article written entirely on a smart phone.

The landscape of the IT business will change, the intelligence of our telephones will change and what we think of as a PC will change. But, a server is still a server, a phone is still a phone and a PC, into whatever case or form factor you install it, is still a PC. Just because someone puts a new moniker on something doesn't really make it a new thing.

So, in this non-Post-PC Era, enjoy your PC--irrespective of its diminutive form factor, flatness or lack of keyboard. It's a PC.

And, it's perfectly and politically correct to say so.

Topic: CXO


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

    I agree with everything you said. a pc is a pc no matter what form factor.
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      @PriMinister I agree with you and this article. I have an iPad, I love it, but the spin that Apple likes to put on things is goofy. I remember how Jobs was insistant that a mouse only ever needed one button, that the masses couldn't handle two buttons.

      Now he insists that the masses can only handle one form of interaction with a tablet: touch. Unfortunately, touch isn't the only way we interact with devices. Sometimes a stylus makes more sense. Sometimes a mouse makes more sense. Sometimes a gamepad makes more sense.

      Apple likes to take features away and mock others who provide alternative input methods. I wish I could use a precision stylus on my iPad and draw real diagrams. I can't always be fingerpainting.
    • The "Big Ole Box" vs. Everybody Else

      @PriMinister; even the "big ole box" (desktop) PC has factors that none of the other forms can match. I'm thinking particularly of the price/power ratio. Just comparing desktops and laptops; pick just about any non-premium-priced desktop (or maybe compare Apples to Apples) and try to find a laptop with comparable computing power (CPU, RAM, HD, benchmarks of your choice) for a comparable price. You won't find it. If you do, tell me where! Portable computing of any kind comes at a premium price. <br><br>A major reason for that premium price is that even the few "industry-standard" parts available for laptops (like hard drives, RAM, optical drives) have to be designed smaller and with finer precision, just to get comparable performance. That costs. That doesn't even count the proprietary parts in a laptop. If a desktop dies, we DIY geeks can get an industry-standard mobo from a variety of manufacturers that'll fit in the same box. Try that with a laptop. Try getting INTO a laptop, period! DIY doesn't work as easily (if at all) with a laptop--more often it has to be taken to a computer fixit shop. That adds cost to ownership--and the shop likely will charge more because it takes more time PLUS may have to get proprietary parts to fix it (so you're without your laptop longer than you might be without your desktop). A cost-conscious person, all other things being equal, will be drawn to a desktop.<br><br>Moving on to other devices like tablets and smartphones; generally you're looking at a different platform than anything that exists on a desktop or laptop--your choices of software change (and I'll leave it to those who have them to judge how good the selection is). A Windows PC, just for office use, has at least MS Office, WordPerfect Office,, several other options PLUS everything available via the cloud (e.g. Google Docs & such). Macs and Linux PCs have multiple choices as well (which is good, since I depend on the Penguin). Are there applications for tablets (iPad, Android or others) which have comparable capabilities, much less variety of choice? The dinky screens & dinky keyboards definitely make work harder. I constantly read apologies and comments on Facebook from friends who are using a mobile device because of spelling errors, inability to copy/paste and all kinds of other limitations of the mobile platform.<br><br>I see mobile devices as niche products--for particular purposes where a full PC (desktop or laptop) would not be impractical, or where someone simply does not want the capabilities of a full PC. Collectively, the devices are supplanting some full PCs, I'm sure. But I don't see anything now or on the horizon that can truly replace the power, flexibility and economy of a full PC (and particularly the desktop). That's my 2c, FWIW.
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

        That should be "wouldn't not be impractical"
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      @PriMinister - Hear hear. Absolutely agree with the authors' points.
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

        @bitcrazed Here here
    • Apple now No.1 PC manufacturer in USA, No.2 in world

      If an iPad is a PC then you all had better admit that Apple is now the biggest PC manufacturer in the USA and second largest in the world. Here's what Asymco has to say on the matter:<br><br>"Excluding iPads, Apple is very close to being 5th largest global PC vendor. Global share likely to be above 5%. Including iPads, Apple would be 2nd.<br><br>Platform year-on-year growth was Windows: +1.3%, OS X: +26%, iOS: +170%. <br><br>In Q2 2011 one million more Windows PCs were sold than in Q2 2010. In same time, 903k more OS X PCs (Macs) and 5.5 million more iPads.<br><br>Excluding tablets, nearly 50% of the global PC growth was due to the Mac. Including iPad, Apple was responsible for ~70% of the growth in the PC market in Q2."
      • OK...

        @marthill So, what if Apple IS number two? What is your point, exactly? Please remember that this article is brand neutral.
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.


        Hallowed are the Ori
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.


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    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      @PriMinister I've always thought the same thing as this article. I even owned a wristwatch which had a faster processor and more RAM than my first desktop. I thought of it as a very personal computer, considering it was often attached to my person.

      Basically, pundits are misusing the historically-defined term "PC." What they really mean is "big bulky computers which must be plugged into AC to operate." Even then, I disagree with their premise that those machines will disappear. There are still far too many things you simply cannot do with a highly-portable PC. Editing high-definition video or 12 megapixel images from my DSLR using my iPad 2 would be a nightmare. Rendering 30 minutes of HD video after the editing would take weeks. Yes, portable devices will get faster and higher resolution, but the next iteration of video will be 4K, bringing that new system to its knees just as badly. Plus, desktop screens just give you more space to work on high resolution content. There will likely always be tasks which require a desktop system because our requirements change just as fast as the hardware.
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      @PriMinister Post-PC does NOT mean SANS-PC.

      We had previously REQUIRED a PC to do things that we are now doing without a PC. Want to look up information on Google? The majority now reach for their smartphone to do so than a PC. Also, we are now purchasing content on the target device rather than the procure with PC then load to device model of the past.

      Yes, we know that ALL these things are computers. BUT SO IS A CALCULATOR!

      When we use PC, we mean general service personal computers and not the generic "anything that computes" definition.

      And since our primary computing tasks (obtaining information via web, communication, gaming and content consumption) are being done less and less on our general purpose computers and more on our mobile devices, that is what DOES marks the beginning of a post-PC *as the center of our computing activity* era.

      NOBODY said that the PC was or is no-more.
  • Almost exactly right.

    I agree with nearly everything. The exception is that I don't think a 1981 PC would have included a mouse. The Microsoft Mouse was released in 1983, but I don't think a mouse became standard on PCs until later.
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      Didn't Xerox and Apple have 'mice' in the 70's? I think I remember reading something about that on Wikipedia (I'll have to go back there and check again). And by the criteria of the article, a Xerox or Apple machine would be considered a Personal Computer ...or am I just picking nits? {he asks with a grin on his face}
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.


        You wrote: "Didn't Xerox and Apple have 'mice' in the 70's?"

        Nope! Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) did use mice, but it was until 1979 that Apple visited PARC, and stole the idea. The first Apple mouse appeared in 1983 alongside the monochrome Macintosh boxy and tiny computer.

        God will be present, whether asked or not.
        {Latin Proverb}[/i]
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

        Actually Apple paid Xerox $1 million dollars in pre-IPO Apple stock for access to Xerox's technologies.

        Jobs and several Apple employees including Jef Raskin visited Xerox PARC in December 1979 to see the Xerox Alto. Xerox granted Apple engineers three days of access to the PARC facilities in return for the option to buy 100,000 shares of Apple at the pre-IPO price of $10 a share.
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.


        Please, don't rewrite history... you don't do it well. The Mac was in '84. The Lisa was in '83. Development on the project was in '78, prior to any visit to Xerox. For that matter, Xerox didn't invent the primary technologies in the GUI (bit mapped graphics, mouse, icons). These all predate Xerox's work. Xerox made contributions, as did Apple in parallel development. One thing's for certain, modern GUIs borrow much more from Apple's design than from Xerox's work. You also neglect to mention things like Jeff Raskin, who started the Macintosh project used to lecture at Xerox about the GUI concept, etc. I know, I know, facts often have a way making your story seem less interesting. All the same, we can't ignore the facts.
      • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

        @HawaiiBound The Xerox Alto used a mouse in the 70's. It was invented years before they started using it on their computer. Apple first began using a mouse with the Apple Lisa in the early 80's. Microsoft offered a mouse to be used in the DOS version of MS Word and MS Multiplan before Windows was released. I know, because I was using a mouse with both before Windows 1.0 (which I called "cartoon Windows" because of the whacky primary color scheme) came out.
    • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

      @WilErz <br><br>You're absolutely right. I noticed that gaffe immediately. In 1981, mice were extremely rare. The Macintosh wasn't out until 1984, and while Windows 1.0 had been released, mice didn't become commonplace until Windows 3.0.
  • RE: The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.

    Its just a word someone invented to tell everyone that a PC (usually seen as a device running Windows) are dead. Everything else is alive and well. Which as you said, are people who like to dream.