Post PC is already here and it's not about the gadgets

Post PC is already here and it's not about the gadgets

Summary: When Steve Jobs first mentioned Post PC, it was all about the gadgets that would replace the traditional PC. Fact is, it’s not about the gadgets at all. It’s about people.


Mention the Post PC era and you’ll probably kick off a boisterous debate about if it will ever happen and what gadgets will replace the PC. The arguments will likely mention the tablet and how they will/won’t totally replace the traditional PC. What you won’t hear is that the PC doesn’t have to be totally phased out, and that the Post PC era is already here.

Post PC
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Let’s face it, the traditional PC, and I include desktops and laptops running Windows, OS X, and Linux, will never completely go away. Even with the appearance of tablets, PCs will be in the workplace for the foreseeable future. They fit the function as well as they ever have and that’s not going to change.

Post PC is about lifestyles changing to largely exclude the PC, and that’s already happened.

It’s not the same outside the workplace. The vast majority of folks use something else to do the things they used to only do on a PC. This includes going on the web, using social media, and similar activities. Those are now done almost exclusively by most on smartphones and tablets. PCs don’t enter into the picture at all, and that’s the very definition of Post PC.

This is hard to argue against if you just look around you. You see people everywhere with a smartphone in hand walking down the street. They are surfing the web, checking Facebook, or similar functions. They are checking something on Google or using Google Maps to find something nearby. They are doing activities they only did on a PC not that long ago.

The same is happening in restaurants, coffee shops, and sidewalk cafes. If not the smartphone, there are tablets in hands everywhere. Most importantly, the same is happening in homes. The vast majority of folks are now doing all of these things without a PC in sight. 

There will be those who don’t give up the traditional PC in their personal lives. They will continue to sit in front of a desktop or laptop and happily do things the way they always have.


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Post PC doesn’t mean all PCs have to disappear everywhere, just in most people’s lives, nor does one gadget type have to replace all PCs. It’s about lifestyles changing to largely exclude the PC, and that’s already happened.

Those arguing that the inability to do "real work" on non-PC devices, which some folks actually can, is not an issue. Post PC has nothing to do with work and everything to do with lifestyle changes.

While PCs will continue to rule the enterprise, this move away from the traditional PC at home is pushing into the workplace. The paradigm shift to non-PC devices is the force behind the bring your own device (BYOD) programs in the office. It’s the reason enterprises are deploying tablets. The big move away from the PC is the reason companies now routinely make other types of gadgets available to workers.

PCs don’t have to be totally replaced by other forms of computers to put us in a Post PC era. There only has to be a major shift in mindset in enough people for a profound change in the way the majority approaches tasks formerly done only on a traditional PC. And that shift has taken place, thus we are already in the Post PC era.


Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets, Bring Your Own Device

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  • Steve Jobs said...

    "The PC is very resilient". He is correct. PC's still make the world go round, are desperately needed by the all-day office worker, and still sell very well. The only thing post-pc means is that most people also have gadget device too.
    Sean Foley
    • also

      I detect a little reflection in Mr. Kendricks column. Kind of like he woke up and finally realized that mobile devices are good for...surprise..."mobile work". While PC's are better at everything else. Yet the devices co-exost just fine. The correct term for the era we are in is called "PC+" era.
      Sean Foley
      • PCs Are Dinosaurs

        With the right mobile device and app, these days you can get just about anything done (unless it's an esoteric function like: gaming, using adobe Photoshop, or working with CAD software). The latter cases will definitely require a PC. Other than that, mobile rules the day!

        This should actually be called the "Post Microsoft" period, as millions have already adapted to mobile computing lives that don't revolve around MS or their arcane and buggy software.

        No one longs for the days of constant, never ending, and otherwise "nagging" updates, bluescreens of death, RRODs (on XBOX), unintelligible Indian support reps, $400 Office suites, $500 operating systems, random crashes, viruses, spyware, malware, a white, bald-headed gorilla foaming at the mouth while hopping around on stage, that smug look on the face of the richest geek in the world, and the litany of other awful things associated with that company known as Microsoft.
        • Meanwhile In Entertainment News

          Apple keeps us entertained with their daily security fails.

          Thanks for the giggle!
        • Speak for yourself.

          It all depends on what you value most. You like a device that's portable and free of all the hassles you just mentioned; fair enough. I've managed to avoid most of them, apart from the updates, which I've found ways to handle relatively easily.

          I like a device that's upgradeable and repairable and therefore does not need frequent replacement, can run just about any kind of software I might conceive a desire to use (including 'esoteric' cases, which I have tried on a whim in the past and wound up using and enjoying immensely,) can be built to my exact specifications but still doesn't cost an arm and a leg, doesn't require recharging, isn't tied to a contract or prone to running out of airtime, has plenty of ports (including legacy types) so I can connect anything I want to it, rarely loses connectivity and enjoys some additional security because it's physically hooked up to the Internet, and which compared to a phone or tablet, is a pain in the neck to steal.

          When portability is required, I do have a little netbook I use for a few hours about once every other week. It runs Windows 7. The rest of the time, I am quite happy to sit at my desk with my clunky old tower. My husband and daughter do the same with their respective PCs.

          Mobile is a useful additional tool for those who need to be continually on the go, and as a full computing solution for people who have a short list of daily tasks from which they rarely deviate. But that's not all of us.
        • Millions that use the computer to perform simple task

          But complicated heavy processor function are still done best on MS OS pc's. Maybe we can store our sensitive data in the Icloud.
        • Post Microsoft

          Wow, the ignorance level about computing in todays world astounds me. Home we get an APP for ignorance soon!
        • Is my work an "esoteric function"?

          I am a freelance translator working from home. I need the ability to write long texts using a comfortable and productive keyboard, to view both the source and the translated text at the same time comfortably and readably, to use sometimes large and complex computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that are way too heavy for any tablet (and usually only available for Windows), to have multiple screens/windows open and all visible at the same time, to be able to open documents in a plethora of different formats (often needing to do format conversion jobs), and to do all that for long hours a day without getting spine problems and sore eyes. I could also add how mobile connectivity is slow, erratic and expensive where I live, and that I don't need mobility to do it - when I'm working, it's work time and I work at my home. Is it a surprise that I do my work on a relatively powerful desktop PC with an ergonomic keyboard and two large monitors?

          While my work has its specificities and idiosyncracies, the general pattern of countless millions of people doing intellectual work matches mine. Is that "esoteric"? The PC is the best tool for my job - and still the ONLY feasible one. I'm sure that many serious professionals who have less demanding processing and comfort requirements can do their work on a tablet, that it's still "real work" and that a tablet or even a phone can be more adequate to them, especially if the nature of their work requires mobility. But not to me and to millions of other people.

          What really, really pisses me off in this "post-PC" discussion is that assumption that because now there are alternatives to a PC in many instances and for many uses, the PC is an anachronic object and anyone who uses one is stuck in the Stone Age. Far from it. It's like saying that since microwave ovens were invented, the stove became useless. The analogy is especially good because anyone knows that there are many foods that can't be prepared in a microwave, or that don't get as good. Most modern kitchens have microwaves now, but they also still have stoves, and one will use either (or both) depending on what one wants to cook. Are those who still cook in stoves worthless pre-historic cavepeople who missed the train of modernity and are stuck in a bygone era? Why do many seem to think exactly that of those who use PCs?

          I have a smartphone as well as a PC. There are things I can do with both at will, there are things that I can do with only one of them (or only feasibly and realistically with one of them), and there are things that, while possible with both, are much better done with one of them. And in this latter category, more often than not I find that for me, the PC is still the better choice. That's only me, of course, and it's great that the market has evolved to have a device for everyone and for every need. People are different and it's a good thing that their different needs are being met.
          • @goyta: Yes, your work is an "esoteric function"

            Yes, your work is clearly an "esoteric function". This is evident from the specialized "CAT" software on which you depend, your requirement for multiple monitors and greater than quad core processors, and your need to handle specialized file formats and use vertical market applications that are only available on Windows.

            Most people don't.

            I haven't seen anyone here arguing that "the PC is an anachronic (sic) object and anyone who uses one is stuck in the Stone Age". Post-PC simply means the PC is no longer the primary means by which most people compute. That's obviously true just given the remarkable extent by which Android devices now outsell Windows devices.

            It's nothing personal, and we're not laughing at you behind your back because your esoteric work requires a Windows PC. Promise!
        • So says Ophony, the Dinosaur

          "I hate Microsoft,
          It's easy to see
          I hate them, and their families.
          With some great big lies
          and a troll from me to you,
          won't you say tat you hate them too?"

        • Gaming?

          "unless it's an esoteric function like: gaming"

          Last I checked, gaming wasn't so "esoteric," and is actually a growing industry. IMO it's the future of entertainment.
          • and where is gaming growing tbe fastest?

            On smart phones and tablets, post-PC devices.
        • Post Microsoft?

          Uh, not for the 3 (3+% depending on who you're reading) percent of U.S. market people who do do the Microsoft products. There are even more windows phone users in the European markets. Just sayin'.
          Crashin Chris
      • Sean Foley: "PC+" era

        Not in the developing world.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Well... some of them.

      There is no real need for the receptionist to have a PC... The same job can be done by a Chromebook.

      And the same can be said for any job with such limited functions. Most secretaries don't need a PC either.
      • You mean like printing out the bosses'.....



        I forgot, no printing. (Unless you have Google cloud print, for which you need.... well, not to put too fine a point on it, a PC.)
        • No PC needed ...

          ... just a cloud-print-ready network printer, which are very easy to find now. Are they as easy to setup as a direct-by-usb connection? Not as of 6 months ago when I got one, but hopefully they're getting better. Worth it, though, because now I can not only print from my Chromebook, but also from every other wireless device in the household.
          • I have an ancient xp laptop

            (got for free) sitting next to a windows only printer in the basement at home whose only purpose is to allow Google cloud print from all our phones, Mac, etc. Just try to get me to upgrade that XP, MS!
          • Thanks, now I know what to hack :)

            Really, Windows 8 could probably run on that laptop.
          • Hack away

            I'm not putting Windows 8 on. It doesn't even have a screen, the wires leading to it got pinched in the hinge and poof so I removed it. I used a external monitor just long enough to get it set up and it just sits there running as a headless cloud print server forever.