The PC is Over

MG Siegler writes:

The PC is over. It will linger, but increasingly as a relic.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I’ve been hearing this a lot recently but I still don’t see it. Smartphones and tablets are great for browsing the web or when you’re out and about, but I’m never going to want to write documents or code on them. If I’m on a business trip it’s a laptop I need, not a phone. While the majority of casual users may well switch to mobile devices there will be a need for laptops and desktops for power users for a while yet.

My kids are six and three. We have a PC in the house and until very recently I assumed that as some point in the near future we’d get another PC for “school, games and stuff”.

Only, in the last 12 months I’ve come to realise that we probably won’t ever buy another PC (much like your last blog post) and that my six year old son, already a fiend on smartphone and tablet, may never own one. What will his school require him to do on one in four or five years time? Spreadsheets?

Now the only question is do I get him his own iPad or Nexus 7 for Xmas?

Curiously, the friday a girl on a shop, after knowing that I am a software developer, asked me what will be next big thing in the field. And I said something similar, using your mobile phone as your main computer, connecting it to a couple of external devices (screen, keyboard, maybe a hard drive)…

Even more, in the future is even possible that the phone is another external device, and the core of the system (with your data, etc) is an even smaller device…

The improvements on the mobile phones in the last 5 years has been absolutely astonishing…

Get him a surface tablet and hopefully he would be able to do some useful content creation.

Well, like you, I’m a professional but I don’t know how I could get rid off of my laptop for work? What are your suggestions about that?

I owe a Samsung Galaxy S3, and I agree, it’s monstruously fast. But still, I do not see myself developing things with it :slight_smile:

“I don’t just use the thing I always have in my pocket as my “laptop”, plugging it into a keyboard and display as necessary”

How do you do this with an iPhone?

As for your argument - I have an iPad and a win7 laptop. No SSD yet - I couldn’t afford an SSD large enough. Next time… But I can’t use a desktop - I live on the road. I can finish reading my email on my iPad before my win7 laptop (loaded with database servers) is ready to start responding. But I can’t do enterprise app development on my iPad, and I think it’s going to be a while :wink:

I belong to that freakish 1% who need to run VMs, Visual Studio and some heavy-duty software so I may be biased but the PC is not over because current tablets and smartphones are great at consuming stuff, not creating. To create you still need a PC.

Yes, for the average user the definition of PC has changed and Windows 8 is an embodiment of that change. So don’t say that the PC is over; say PC has evolved!

That’s why I am so anxious to see Ubuntu for Android ( come true in one of the next phones. This would be the ultimate mobile device, where you don’t distinguish between being on the road and being in front of a keyboard/monitor any more.

MG Siegler is very much wrong, and its got nothing to do with how powerful PCs are - the problem is that PCs have mice and keyboards where phones and tablets dont (unless you want to be this guy)

I challenge you to write your next blog post (including research, image editing, uploading - the lot) on something that isn’t a PC.

Sure tablets are great for browsing the net or checking e-mails from your sofa, but once you try to do anything more complex you find that touch screen interfaces alone simply aren’t as good as a keyboard and mouse for the vast majority of tasks (maybe they will be in the future, but they aren’t there yet)

plugging it into a keyboard and display as necessary.
What we need are devices which connect effortlessly to authenticated devices like keyboards, displays, mice, printers, and others which for ergonomic reasons can't be made part of the "hub". Current hardware is more than capable of this, but it would require vendors working much harder on interoperability.

The PC has its place. It’s mainly for creating mobile content though. In terms of consumer products, it’s hard to compete with mobile products, you’re right though. It will become harder.

I’d say the future is more about semi-wireless personal area networks with hot-swappable generic computing devices and high-bandwidth cloud usage. Ugh, what a buzzwordy sentence. But, anyway, your choice of interface will be much less fixed to your ‘main’ computing device; everything will communicate with everything else.

This is kind of a matter of semantics. I come to work and sit in front of a screen and a keyboard all day, I go home and do much the same thing. I used to have a high-end Dell portable with a docking station and that was great. Now there’s a tower next to my desk. But I’m still in front of a screen and keyboard. What’s changed is that now I can put my work computer in my bag and one day I’ll put it in my pocket, but the desktop workstation is here to stay.

Screen, Keyboard, Mouse combination in which you plug your smartphone for its processing capabilities to create a desktop experience. Inevitable?

The world of the desktop is already radically different than it was a few years ago. Apple really started this trend with the iMac, but the brick and mortar stores are awash with these fancy new “All in One” computers that are still sporting Intel i5-i7 processors. That’s about as powerful as my current gaming rig, made out of mobile components, lacking a giant tower, and using a fraction of the power.

What a world.

I would say the era of the typical user is over, not the PC.

What will change is a segmentation of the majority of users who consume their 180 characters of content, and users who actually use technology to create. In other words, those of us who develop technology will have to consider different kinds of users in a wider context (if we don’t already).

CAD for example is increasingly relevant and becoming even more resource-hungry. Content creators for that space aren’t going to move away from desktops.

I defy the average consumer to model their kitchen (realistically & with some precision, not blocks in Sketchup) on a tablet. Now, if we have a greater merging of more input devices with tablets, then we may see something more interesting.

I still think that tablets are often too small, and until the current crop of technologists & designers are retired with arthritis & myopia, they won’t appreciate how challenging tiny buttons and tiny (relatively speaking) screens can be.

I must admit that when I bought my PC, it was 2009 and I’ve spent two months of my gross salary on monster-PC. I did upgrade it a few times since then, from Vista to Windows 7, 24 GB RAM, Intel Qeon Quadcore, 1.5 TB harddisk, NVidea with 1 GB of RAM and lots more. But then again, I use this system to render my own artwork, which requires a lot of processing power. And, as a software developer, it’s also a very practical system to do my work. Actually, it’s powerful enough for me to even combine those two tasks! And these tasks are where PC’s will still be needed.
But then again, I also have a few mobile devices. A phone with Windows Mobile which I use to call people, a small tablet with Android 2.3 which is nice to read ebooks from, a bigger tabler with Android 4 which I bring with me on the road so I can browse anywhere and a netbook with Windows 7 and touch-screen for experimental purposesn. I also have a 20-inch laptop but that’s a bit of an antique, older even than my desktop. Still works fine with modern software, though. And I have two mini-desktops and one is my webserver and the other a test-system for development. (And backup server in case my webserver breaks down.)

Thus, I am definitely not an average user. And most readers of this blog aren’t average users either. The “mundanes” don’t want no more desktops, no more PC’s. They want tablets that they can bring with them, that are completely wireless with a touch-screen and a nice bag to carry it in. So yeah, I can see how the PC is disappearing, becoming less and less interesting for the mundanes while the experts still need them…
I fear sooner or later, the prices for desktops will rise to a point that even experts can’t afford them without looking for cheaper mobile alternatives.

That moment is not today, though…

I have a desktop PC, Macbook Pro, and an Ipad.

I highly doubt i’ll ever upgrade the desktop, and it will eventually become a file server of some description. The Macbook Pro will eventually get replaced by something like a Macbook Air, as i want the full blown OS experience whilst on the Road. My MBP is a pain to carry around everywhere.

I could potentially imagine a scenario where i would only carry around a tablet, a foldable keyboard, and something to connect the tablet to a screen, and all my development would be done via remote desktop or something.

I’m amazed how many of the people posting comments here are saying that tablets aren’t the future because they can’t do your their job on the tablet that exists today. This being a product category that didn’t even exist three years ago.

Reminds me of the description of the original iPod: “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.”

I’m a programmer and can’t really see myself working full time on a tablet. For a start a 10 inch screen just isn’t big enough. But I can see it as useful for a lot of people. At home I use my iPad more often than my laptop. I even went away on a three month holiday, taking just and iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. Didn’t miss having a laptop at all.

This area is so new that who knows where it will go. As far as I’m concerned, this is the first major development in PC’s for at least 20 years.