29 Comments

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.

    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!

  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…

  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.

  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.

  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.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel David Monday, March 12, 2012

      Curious: Just iOS devices or all smartphones and tablets?

      1. Just ios devices, check out “swype”

        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.

      2. 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

      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.

  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.

    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

  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…

  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.

  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).

  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.

  11. David Simmons Monday, March 12, 2012

    I think “post-PC” refers to what I’ve been calling the “consumer electronics revolution” for years — a revolution which is now finally in gear. Apple has embraced the concept and calls it “post-PC” for their own marketing purposes. I think the PC form factor (including Macs, etc.) will remain important for a long time for professionals and others needing to do creative work, but the majority of the population is shifting to non-PC devices for their routine interaction with the digital world.

  12. Robert Stoeber Monday, March 12, 2012

    A lot of people I know have been “Post PC” for years already. We gave up the big box on the floor and replaced it with a notebook computer that plugs into a desktop display and keyboard in the office. (A MacBook Air with dual 27″ Thunderbolt displays makes a pretty nice office setup.) It’s not hard to imagine many of these people replacing those notebooks with a new iPad if they really only use a keyboard when they’re in the office. And from there it’s not a big step to using a next generation phone as your computer. Even today phones have HDMI output and Bluetooth keyboards, so in another year or two maybe the phone will be the only computer.

    I’ve recently been researching retail point-of-sale solutions for some clients. In the retail space a traditional Windows-based PC can be a serious problem since there is no support staff on-site – when the PC crashes the whole business is down so a simple, reliable solution is required. I’ve found two different iPad apps that address this market in a really comprehensive way. One of them actually uses the first iPad as server/hub for a complete restaurant management system. Waiters, bartenders, the hostess and manager can all use other iPads, iPhones or the iPod Touch to take orders, accept payment, etc. These secondary devices talk to the primary iPad/server. No PC is used at all. The system manages reservations, work schedules, inventory, menus, etc. and it creates reports and analysis of all the data.

    The other POS system I found is less elaborate, using only a single iPad as a cash register and inventory management system (barcode scanners, cash drawers, and receipt printers are options). Again, no PC or other computer is required. Sales data can be exported and sent to your accountant. The iPad even generates purchase orders as PDF files, and sends those to your vendors to reorder products. Why would a small retail operation ever purchase another Windows PC if all they need is an iPad?

  13. Shameer Mulji Monday, March 12, 2012

    The best definition of Post-PC I’ve heard so far came from Tim Cook’s presentation last week;

    “….we’re talking about a world where the PC is no longer the center of your digital world.”

    After that he mentioned that the PC (or Mac)is not dead, it just becomes another device.

    It’s a world where we use devices that are mobile & always-connected as much, if not more, than traditional PC’s.

  14. Post PC means that people are moving away from PC’s toward iPads. It’s not a hard concept.

  15. I think we are at the beginning of “post-PC”. What I mean by that is that 99% of the people do not need the latest and greatest Mac or PC, because they do not utilize it’s resources. 99% use it to surf the web, check email, look at their pictures. That’s it. Nobody who falls into that category needs a “real” computer.
    http://scottsscripts.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/mg-siegler-parislemon-on-the-99/

  16. PC is a personal computer … so I want a PC when I jog, in my car, when I sit in the park, on the couch at home and when I play my favorite MMO over a 22″ monitor. So far that required me for 4 PC devices. My smartphone, my tablet, my laptop and my desktop. With a 5th appearing lately in the form of my watch, for even less weight/size.

    The problem is that a PC should really be just my watch or a device that is tiny as a ring. Really that is the true meaning of a PC. Heck I want it in my bath. Now the only thing that matters is what display is connected to it!

    If that tiny thing – lets call it a watch form for now – is the PC, then it has the connectivity, and can talk via BT with anything around. I can then decide what I want to carry with me outside – a smartphone form factor? A 7″ tablet? … I can decide what form factor of a display to use at home too on the couch. And it can definitely also display on the TV, and most importantly it can connect to the big monitor and input streams on the desktop.

    We are like 5 years away from this, but this is the only way the future will look like. Its one tiny PC and a lot of display and input hardware that can connect to it.

  17. I think that the whole concept of Post-PC is more along the lines of “device and location independence.” No longer am I tied to A desk or A location. I have two offices and I float around at client sites all day and I’m just as functional wherever I am.

    With the popularity of these devices, I have been re-jigging clients away from SBS servers to cloud-based solutions, which all of these non-PC devices work like a treat with. Everywhere we’ve done this, the clients have felt a sense of freedom and the companies have benefited from employees being willing to be more accessible at all times, on their own bought and paid for devices.

    So, I think Post-PC really means untethered from a single desk.

  18. Well, put the term post-PC in a context: Apple’s market is mainly in the homes of PC users. There the post-PC era already is in full swing and the home PC is about to cease completely. So what’s wrong about that term?

  19. bill gates need to get out of computers and concentrate on spending some of that 61B. What is the point of making a permanent dead end for the fortune once the envy and fear of others who dared to dream about contributing to computer world they love to work in. the gates foundation moving into vaccines don’t innovate their either, with the species of eggs on planet where vaccines are grown so numerous yet same old materials used; possibly an egg not likely to give bird flu to anyone since noone handles many of world’s birds, but eggs can be used; this is a no brainer in world of problem solving; anyone want to debunk me quickly and with viscious defense of monetary interests; again, we change the egg choice to one that noone handles as much as chickens are; tell me someone knows how easily this could have been handled years ago

  20. Tell Apple to call me when I can plug a digital camera into my iPad without a $35 adaptor, when I can customize my desktop more than changing the wallpaper and order of apps, and when there is no instance in that I need to connect my iPad to…you guessed it, a PC. And don’t tell me they couldn’t have done any of that because we had tablet PC’s that outstrip the raw functionality of the iPad nearly ten years ago! We’ll only enter a post PC world when these devices can do everything and more that a PC could ever do.

  21. Michael Salmon Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Once upon a time every one who used a computer used a mainframe but they got too big and cumbersome mini computers were developed to cater for the jobs that needed less computing power and more flexibility. Eventually the minis got to big and expensive and the PC became popular. Now the PC has way more power than many people need and so a lighter more portable computer has arrived.

    We still have mainframes and minis although the names may have changed. We will continue to have PC’s because they are the right tool for some jobs, it’s just that they will be fewer.

    1. Love this analogy and perspective, Michael. You said it better than I could – thanks!

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