Apple’s Steve Jobs proclaimed that we are entering the “Post-PC era” back in 2010.  This refers to a time when a PC is no longer needed since everything can be done from a tablet connected to the Internet.

Post-PC technologies include tablets, touch screens and cloud computing.  Die hard Apple fans might agree with his statement but I just don’t see it.  Rather than a Post-PC world, I believe we are in an evolutionary phase of personal computing.

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While tablets and smart phones have been selling like hotcakes in recent years, PC sales have been declining.  This must mean that the days of the PC are numbered, right?  I don’t think so.  We are simply seeing a shift in consumer demand towards more portable devices.

Post-PC World?

To better illustrate this shift, let’s explore what computing devices a family of 2 adults and 3 children would use prior to smart phones and tablets.

Device Parent 1 Parent 2 Child 1 – Age 10 Child 2 – Age 15 Child 3 – Age 20
Family desktop 1

X

Family desktop 2

X

Work laptop

X

X

Laptop for school

X

Feature phones

X

X

X

X

In this example, a family of 5 may have 5 PCs (2 desktops and 3 laptops) and 4 feature phones.  Feature phones are the “old” type of phone that have a simple calendar, address book, etc.

Fast forward to 2012 and the table may look like this:

 Device Parent 1 Parent 2 Child 1 – Age 10 Child 2 – Age 15 Child 3 – Age 20
Family laptop

X

Work laptop

X

X

Laptop for school

X

Family tablet

X

eReader

X

Smart phones

X

X

X

X

The family now has one less personal computer but has more “smart” devices in the form of a tablet, smart phones and an eReader.

Looking at what else has changed, the biggest difference is that desktops are gone and laptops are in.  As laptops have become more powerful and less expensive, they have been adopted by more people.  The family has also bought a tablet and an eReader to cater to their changing media needs.

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What about feature phones?  Those are all gone, replaced with iOS or Android smart phones.

If we are in a Post-PC world, how come this family still has 4 PCs?  There is one big thing to consider.

PC’s are used to create

Tablets, smart phones and eReaders are used to consume.  To put this into better perspective:

  • Would an author write a book on a tablet?
  • Would a composer write a score on a tablet?
  • Would an entrepreneur create a business plan on a tablet?
  • Would a graphic designer create a layout on a tablet?
  • Would a programmer write code on a tablet?
  • Would a film editor edit video on a tablet?
  • Would a photographer touch up pictures on a tablet?

For the most part, the answer to all of these questions is no.  There are certainly people who create things on a tablet (beyond emails) but this is limited.

Since we are going to keep on creating things, PCs will remain a huge part of our lives.

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PCs have a couple of huge advantages over tablets and smart phones because their screens are bigger, they have more processing power and they are designed to sit on something like a desk!

Tablets and smart phones are great for socializing, corresponding, finding directions and keeping organized but they are not good for working.

Touch will only take you so far

Another big factor that Apple first sold us on, and others followed suit with, is the benefits of touch.  We are all tapping and sliding these days on our new devices.

Steve Jobs was looking to do away with the mouse for a long time.  Touch has been revolutionary but it alone will not bring about the Post-PC world.  Touch is imprecise.

Touch is a technology that is geared to consuming, not creating.  As soon as you need to draw or write something that requires precision, touch goes out the window.

Cloud Computing

Technology companies have been investing heavily in cloud computing in recent years.  This technology is another player in the Post-PC world which aims to store all of our data somewhere out on the Internet and provide us with internet hosted applications.

This technology moves your data and applications onto internet accessible systems run by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and others.

Cloud technology is another great step forward, but it also won’t result in a PC-less era.  We’ll still need to interact with our content, we just might store less of it on our own devices.

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So what is the future of personal computing?

Since I don’t think we’re in a Post-PC world, what comes next?

It’s my belief that the next step in the PC evolution is the touch enabled Ultrabook.  This class of PC has a keyboard, mouse and touch capability.  They are lighter than a laptop, have longer battery life and employ solid state hard drives (SSD) to reduce boot up time.

Ultrabooks are trying to duplicate the success Apple has had with their MacBook Air product.  The difference is Ultrabooks will appeal to a much wider audience since more people use Windows PCs than Mac, their price points are also lower.

Where tablets, smart phones and eReaders have been revolutionary for consuming content and media, Ultrabooks are the next step in personal computing. Microsoft’s surface tablet is another step forward since it offers touch, pen and keyboard interface.

The PC is not dead and won’t be for a very long time.

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.


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