We are constantly being told that we live in a post-PC world, that things are changing and that the world of computing as we know it will never be the same. With the assertion of the post-PC world comes the assertion that some form of technology is “dead.” This assertion is generally supported with evidence like declining sales and/or waning consumer interest.
Take, for example, the rise of the iPad. Steve Jobs told the faithful at the iPad 2 launch that his Apple got most of its revenue out of post-PC devices like the iPod, iPhone and the famed tablet.
But, despite profiting most from it thus far, it wasn’t Jobs or Apple that invented the concept of the post-PC world or even brought it about. Some signs point to David Clark, a research scientist with MIT, and his talk on “The Post PC Internet” from 1999. Others have long prophesied a swing in consumer computing based around the ubiquity of broadband and Wi-Fi networks and the incessant connection those networks afford.
Computing has moved from the stationary, slated jurisdiction of the desktop PC to the pervasive, always-on kingdom of mobile computing. Computing has become more spontaneous and less ceremonial, more one-dimensional and less intricate. It has even become more carnal and familiar, as devices are held close and touchscreens have introduced new (and sometimes frightening) proportions of immersion.
In this environment, the desktop PC and the notebook computer still holds a momentous role.
In the case of Dell Inc. (and Microsoft before it), for instance, “PC-plus” is the standard. Desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, and mobile computing units like tablets all play parts in the overall computing architecture used by consumers. In the mainframe computing days, many users would utilize one computer. In the mobile computing or post-PC computing days, many computers are used by one user.
It’s important to note that the post-PC world says little about the actual usefulness of each device, as that is largely a subjective matter. As a writer, I find a working computer with a human-sized keyboard and a good word processing program an irreplaceable cog in the larger wheel of productivity. Other users, however, are predominantly Web-users and mostly use a series of apps to complete tasks like photo-sharing and social networking. For their purposes, mobile computing is best.
Whatever we may say about the devices in the post-PC world, whether notebooks are overtaken by tablets by 2016 or not, has to take into account the replacement rate of each devices in order to be appreciated in a larger context. Consumers simply do not exchange their notebooks, laptops and desktop units as often as they do their mobile units.
The post-PC world doesn’t mean that anything in particular is “dead.” It means that PCs, notebooks and laptops have changed with respect to their uses. It is a natural evolution, one that will see the sustained introduction of weird items like Google Glass and other neat gadgets to respond to ever-developing consumer desires and to create a larger multi-device “experience” we can all sink our teeth (and bank accounts) into.