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Summary:

In the final quarter of 2011, Apple sold more iPads than any traditional computer maker sold PCs. Are we headed toward what Apple calls a “post-PC” era? A former Apple director of 10 years suggests an interesting reason for the company’s positioning of “post-PC” devices.

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Looking at the numbers, it’s difficult to argue that the iPad is anything less than a success for Apple. The company sold more iPads — 15.4 million — than any traditional computer maker sold PCs in the final quarter of 2011. What is debatable, however, is whether the iPad will take us to the “post-PC” era, as Apple calls it. A former Apple director of 10 years suggests that the PC isn’t going away, agreeing with Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, who recently said the same.

So why the recurring mention of that pesky “post-PC” phrase, then? Michael Mace, who also worked as a VP for Palm after his Apple days, made the observation on his personal blog:

I’m sure I’ll get some push-back from people who disagree, but I think the whole ‘PC era’ meme from Apple is self-serving hype.  Of course they want to convince you that the world is shifting away from a market where Apple has less than 10% worldwide share to a market where Apple has well over 50% share.

I’ve previously said that trends suggest we are moving to a post-PC era, but never because of Apple’s overall market share of the PC market, which actually continues to grow. My thought is that PCs aren’t going to suddenly disappear, but people will continue to opt for capable tablets or hybrid devices in the place of future, new PC purchases. The mobile market is shifting traditional tasks away from PCs of old, and for people who need a PC occasionally, they will likely be able to access one remotely.

Apple is simply calling out the post-PC era because it has successfully transformed its business lines ahead of the curve and before its peers. Android is a worthy contender — more in smartphones than tablets, so far — but by and large it has followed the lead of iOS, almost as if it were a reaction and built out of the fear of being left behind.

Mace also focuses on what’s important about the new iPad. No, not Bluetooth 4.0 — although I suspect that will help bring new wireless devices to market sooner rather than later.

It’s about the high-resolution display and the usual tight integration between Apple’s new software and the improved hardware. I can’t disagree here, although I’ll know for sure when my iPad arrives later this week.

When all is said and done, Mace makes one last salient point worth noting: How will Microsoft respond to the iPad? We know the answer is Windows 8, but there’s still an open question as to how well the platform will do on tablets. Perhaps, Mace notes, we’re not exactly on the cusp of a post-PC age, but instead, a post-Microsoft era. Ouch!

  1. Post PC can mean a lot of things. Honestly, I don’t really care what device I’m using. As long as its convenient for the current environment and can connect to the services I use the most (mainly google and VPN into company resources). It has been this way for quite some time now.

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    1. Peter, that’s an excellent point. This market is becoming less about specific devices and far more about where and how we can access apps, data, etc….. Form factors are being added as hardware evolves, but the key is that people can connect and work on whatever devices they see fit. Thanks!

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  2. Kegan Blumenthal Monday, March 12, 2012

    Great topic! I recently wrote a blog about this and where [as society] we are headed. Now that we’re in the ubiquitous computing age, anything and everything is a computer. That being said, computer’s aren’t what they used to be – as to the most important piece being the hard drive. As you well know, hard drives are a thing of the past…

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  3. Dennis D. McDonald Monday, March 12, 2012

    The term “Post PC” forces us to look back as a frame of reference for where we are now. It would be more useful to focus instead on where we are going. Where we are going is having powerful communication and information processing power accessible at any time or place that can be taken advantage of via a variety of devices but which, in reality, requires a complex network of systems to work together behind the scenes.

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  4. Personally, I think the idea of “Post PC” really means “after the PC” but not necessarily “in replacement of the PC.” There will still be desktop PCs for a long time, but tablets are a relatively new device that come after the PC for a different market of people. I think we’ve been pigeon-holed for 25 years into thinking that a computer has to be a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a bunch of wires, and a gaudy looking box for too long. If nothing else, the iPad changes that thinking. A PC can just as easily be a multi-touch monitor with no box at all. It can go anywhere. Even be portable.

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  5. To me, post-PC means that when I want to post something, I use a PC. Because iOS devices are just too clumsy to type anything lengthy on.

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    1. Curious: Just iOS devices or all smartphones and tablets?

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      1. Peter Pottinger Tuesday, March 13, 2012

        Just ios devices, check out “swype”

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        1. Yup, I’ve used Swype since it was a beta product; definitely a super tool. But I still don’t have any problem entering text on iOS, and based on the sales, neither do tens of millions of others. Definitely some personal preference involved as I’m sure many iOS users would love Swype as well.

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      2. John Harrington, Jr. Wednesday, March 14, 2012

        Here are some tutorials on the MaaSters Center forum where you can learn to Swype on the iOS or Android devices: http://bit.ly/xzuPW4

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      3. “But I still don’t have any problem entering text on iOS, and based on the sales, neither do tens of millions of others. ” I don’t understand this rather flawed interpretation. I own 5 iOS devices but continually avoid “lengthy” posts because they are, in fact, quite clumsy when typing more than a few sentences. And I can’t think of anyone I know that would disagree.

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  6. Yohannon Hadden Monday, March 12, 2012

    I have also heard the argument that “post-PC” is a bit of a misnomer, as in many respects we’re entering a world where the computer truly is PERSONAL — a device that you are unlikely to share with other users, that is always with you and (in most respects) ready to assist in ways that “PDA’s” were never up to.

    Post-Microsoft? That certainly is possible. Even as a booster of Linux and Mac OS X, I have always been baffled by the apparent inability of MS to create a cohesive solution, particularly when you realize how much money they have thrown at the problem. I remember seeing Win 98 as a big step in the right direction (although Apple denigrated it as being the equivalent of the 1987 version of their CLASSIC OS), only to have millenium fall like a rock. Then XP seemed to get them on the right track… and then Vista, an OS so bad that MS was forced to support XP far longer than should have been necessary.

    Then Win 7 seemed to get things back on track (and back on an easy to understand versioning system that was NOT tied to the OS date or a desperate attempt to “brand” the OS) — while my own experience with the OS is limited (something I need to fix!), reports from peers and friends who have used it are generally very positive. However, unless they opt for a complete re-design, it looks like Win 8 is going to be another dud.

    Imagine if the sequence was 98, XP, Windows 7… It’s almost as if Microsoft should just drop every other attempt at an OS.

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    1. It would be nice if Microsoft could have moved from 98 to XP to 7… but, I think Millennium and Vista were mistakes that Microsoft learned from, and the users who skipped those over-glorified beta tests have benefitted from it. Those who did not were actually unpaid beta testers, IMHO…

      Steve

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  7. We simply don’t require a PC to do much of what we did. Half of my day is responding to questions and issues. Some of that requires a PC. Much of it does not. Frankly, I still cannot survive without a PC, but look forward to the day the iPad replaces my Air.

    That day will come, whether we like it or not…

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  8. Roshan Shrestha Monday, March 12, 2012

    I think we need a term like NoSQL, which normally means “NO SQL” to most people, but could also mean “Not only SQL” to others.

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  9. J.C. Colosso Monday, March 12, 2012

    Post-Microsoft era is exactly what Apple means… And in general, the post PC era relates no to the extinction of the PC or anything of the like, but to the fack that tablets, not PCs, dominate the lion share of purchases.

    One can argue that streaming is the emerging Post DVD era. Again, DVDs aren’t going away, but sales are drastically declining (with no possible recovery) and video streaming is on the rise (with no slowing down in the forecast).

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  10. Yes, Post-PC really means Say Goodbye to Microsoft. As many already have, given their own impetus. Most clingers-on are stuck on an enterprise XP machine, under the retardation of a turgid IT dept.

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