The PC is Over


I really enjoy you Atwood, but for some reason I was surprised at you having an iPhone. It honestly made me a little sad to read that you were willing to wait for over a year for 4G because you had to wait for Apple to finally put it in their phone, along with every other technology that Android makes available as they become available and not just when Apple makes it friendly enough for my grandma to use. You’re a PC hotrodder, and you’d choose these devices over a Razr Maxx or the Galaxy S3?

You read like a really smart individual, I didn’t picture you being yet another Apple Kook-Aid drinker.


All the “you can’t create on a tablet” stuff is FUD. There’s a distinct tradeoff there, but it’s not impossible. SunVox/GarageBand/Music Studio (depending on your preferred genre) all run on iOS devices. I can “do work” via Prompt from an iPod Touch, though it is painstakingly slow, and an iPad+keyboard makes it 90% as fast as a real desktop because all the compute resources are spent remotely.

I’d agree that there are limits to what a tablet/phone can provide (ArtStudio, even with a smart pen on the newest iPhone, is never going to touch the capability of PhotoShop on a contemporary x86+GPU with many times the RAM) but it turns out that limitations can enhance creativity. Like, say, if you decided to build a phone that was all touch screen…


DIY-ers, gamers and life-long technophiles like myself (that have been at a terminal long before the rest of the world jumped on the bandwagon) will ALWAYS want the most powerful computing platforms that our budget allows.

Your argument is invalid… But it will be nice weeding a decent percentage of people out of our circles. There are clearly too many assholes in our kitchen, nowadays.


I’m eager for us to get to the world where we can carry around our processor (and memory + data) in our pockets, and plug it into different peripherals based on our needs and location.

Capi hit on this above with mention of Ubuntu for Android ( ). Asus has also taken a very good-looking jab at the problem with the PadFone ( ).


I still use Desktops and Laptops plenty (Laptop for digital DJing, Desktop for everything else) and I don’t have a tablet, but I do agree with the upgrade commentary - I built my desktop PC to a fairly high spec over 5 years ago and I haven’t done anything to upgrade it in that time other than to chuck in a bit of extra RAM and some hard drive space. I’m currently considering an SSD addition (for the OS and main programs) and a Graphics Card upgrade to handle the latest games slightly better, but for day to day use it still performs absolutely perfectly. Common PC spec has definitely outrun the requirements for most common uses by a long chalk.


Good luck productively programming (with test suites, build tools, etc) on your ipad.
Good luck playing high-end games on your ipad.
Good luck playing any RTS or FPS on your ipad.
Good luck reading anything for more than an hour on your ipad.


Fine, let’s have a device the size of a cigarette pack that holds all the computing power. But then I need a trackball to relieve my “mouse elbow,” a keyboard because my business is editing tech docs, and TWO monitors (big ones) because I’m webmaster for a small private school in Palo Alto and a bunch of yoga-related sites. And I’m never, ever on the road. (Sorry, but the library is just too noisy to work efficiently.) Despite the obvious appeal of tiny devices that can do many things blazingly fast, there are task for which they will always fail, fail, fail without an adequate human interface.


I don’t like using tablet computers because I hate smudge marks on the screen. I’d much rather use a desktop or laptop anyday. So short of having fingers made of microfiber cloth, I think I’ll have to stick with the desktop.

Brilliant! Microfiber cloth gloves for OCD tablet users who like sparkling screens. I’ve gotta get on that.


Just a couple of days ago, I was wondering this exact thing. What is needed to enable tablet to be used as a desktop, and I have pondered (from a programmer’s perspective) over, and found couple of things:

  1. A flawless speech recognition engine
  2. Making use of 1, a programming language that lets you speak your code ( i am talking about syntax being speakable/readable )

Also, another thought was, instead of thousands of programmers writing cutting edge code (for the purpose of high performance) why not invest in electronic engineers to make computers quicker? Have we hit the limits of speed of computing yet?


Mobile devices are becoming more mainstream, but they still can’t compete with pcs on their power/life ratios. As mobile devices become stronger, batteries get drained faster.

I have a Galaxy s3 and I love it. I’m a ui designer and app developer, I’m also a gamer. Those are three activities I do not want to do on a mobile device (except maybe very casual gaming). Laptops can match some of that power, but the cooling solutions are often not as good as what you can put in a PC.

Smartphones and tablets are booming because they are very casual friendly to the public and good for entertainment, but word processing, 3d modeling/rendering, animation, video editing/rendering, design, programming, and heavy gaming need the power of good cpus/gpus and with no interruption in battery life.

I think that until there is a mobile device with the power to match PCs (but not drain the battery), PCs will be here for a long time.

In terms of building web apps, that’s why responsive design is so big now. To address the variety of devices connecting to the internet. Mobile devices and stationary devices have always survived different purposes, and perhaps always will. You have to have a mobile phone anyway, so smartphones are a great investment. Tablets on the other hand are more niche. But you wouldn’t replace your computer with your phone, and for some of those same reasons, you wouldn’t replace your computer with your smartphone (maybe for the least complicated tasks).


Atwood clearly says that there is a small group of people for whom a phone or tablet isn’t good enough (“except for the freakish one-percenters, the video editors and programmers”). Why do people keep commenting that programmers still want desktops and laptops?


I could use a computer with iPhone 5’s specs as my main “device”, but I’d miss desktop software and an external display and a keyboard much more.

No-one was writing blog posts like this before iOS. There’s no reason why something like that couldn’t happen for desktop computers, and it’s too early to say that they’re over.


I mostly consume content on my iPhone, but I get stuff done on my hot rod (


I hit the end of the yearly upgrade cycle back in 2003. That’s the year I put together a P4 based (screaming fast at the time) machine. That’d be the one I’m still using today! There just isn’t any need for more power driving me forward. Sure, I added more RAM, updated a video card, and replaced (with larger faster) failed hard drives. However, the core system still is plenty fast enough for all my work and play needs. No problem using it as a coding platform and even does flight sims with plenty of FPS!

So, upgrades to my PC are basically dead (at least until I can’t get repair parts). However, the tablet/smartphone is not a replacement. I’ve tried them. I have a couple. They sit in a corner and collect dust, basically unused. They do not solve any of my problems as a software developer.


The cloud is the new PC. So no, you’re wrong, the race will continue. The race never stops or even slows down, it just shifts into a different plane (I like to think about it in terms of the number of transistors involved in a given computation).

But you’re absolutely right, the actual device you use to get to your data and computations will become smaller and more diverse.

I purposefully avoid using the word “screen” here because it’s not about the size of the screen.


I respectfully disagree, Jeff, for one very important reason: interface. Although a tablet is a ‘natural-feeling’ interface, it’s not an optimized one. It’s neat to be able to swipe your fingers and make things happen, but that’s nowhere near as efficient or precise as a mouse and keyboard. Mice and keyboards, with their multiple buttons, make (near) full use of the ‘bandwidth’, if you will, available through the fingers. The tactile feedback mechanism, absent on tablets, allows a decoupling of input and output. Tablets are interesting and useful in many situations, but I find that I can’t stomach the accompanying reduction in power of the interface. In many ways, that link is the slowest one in the chain now that computer hardware has basically exceeded all other needs. (Try playing an FPS for an hour on a tablet and tell me it’s not worse than a mouse and keyboard!)


Stephen Schaal, name a single Android phone a year ago that had decent battery life? I’ll wait. Hint, the Maxx has not been out for a year, and that was a phone that was only on one carrier. You Fandroids are even more horrible than the iSheep were back when they were a niche product in the early days of the Internet. The Galaxy S3 was released with LTE in June… a full three months before the iPhone 5. The S4 devices were the first Androids on more than one carrier with a 28nm process LTE modem that didn’t kill battery life and require a giant battery like the Maxx. I’m always amazed the Fandroids make that comment like sheep and don’t mention the entire truth on why battery life was crap on early LTE phones. It’s BSing of the highest order, and it ignores the technical facts they claim to treasure. This is why technology is hard to use for many people, because it’s geared to those who think they’re smart about tech, but they’re really not.


I wonder how many tech bloggers talk to people outside their demographic bubble. It was always bizarre reading articles about how the Mac was taking over, with the only basis being “because every laptop at my Silicon Valley coffee shop had an Apple logo.” I wish I were making that up.

Now it’s the desktop, even though everyone I know still uses their desktop regularly. Most run Windows 7. Even if the desktop is truly on the way out, technology will find a way to loop back around to it, much as it has for the mainframe.


The move from PC to mobile is kind of like the move from hotels to those tube-sleepers in Japan. We’ll be fully “there” when a lot of people, for (relatively) low cost, at least in good climate areas, have a tube for night, mobile computing for the day, perhaps telecommuting with office on park benches, crowding into Starbucks when it rains (which it does in Southern California, as I experienced my only trip to LA), and it’s a TV for evening too. The neo-homeless. Still, I figure most will have a house and…a pc, with mobile being a “second” computer, or computer for the kids or whatever


I’ll use a tablet as my main computer when I can attach my Model M

Without a real keyboard, a computer is just a toy to me.