Blog Post

Here’s why the PC will still be around in the “post-PC” era

In two years’ time, your personal cloud will replace your PC as your go-to computing resource, according to new Gartner(s it) research. The prevailing wisdom is that the desktop and laptop PC  — or any non-smartphone, non-tablet device — is headed for the dustbin of history.

Last week, former Microsoft(s msft) chief software architect Ray Ozzie reiterated his contention — building on thoughts expressed two years ago in his “Dawn of a New Day” memo  — that we’re in a post-PC world. For a sitting Microsoft exec to utter those words back then was revolutionary. Now they’re just accepted as fact.

The PC’s problem is the proliferation of ever smarter, more feature-filled smartphones and tablets that pack a lot of compute power into tiny form factors. These devices have the capacity to do more than communicate.  I know reporters who can thumb-type full feature stories onto their smartphones with seeming ease, for example.

Still, it would be a mistake to conflate tablet/smartphone success with the total demise of the PC. Here’s why.

Broadband is not ubiquitous

First, despite the proliferation of broadband connectivity, we are still not always online.  Not even in metro areas. And most people still need to be productive when they’re not connected.

And, as bandwidth is added, it will be quickly consumed as more businesses implement video and other bandwidth-hungry technologies. The title of a new research report by Network Instruments says it all: “Cloud and Bandwidth Demands Challenge IT Teams.” And that’s inside the firewall. (Fun fact: 70 percent of the 163 networking pros surveyed said their companies will implement video conferencing within the year.)

Second, thumb typists notwithstanding, there are jobs for which a PC is just a better tool.

The PC makers are all over this notion and are scrambling to offer “personal cloud” services with every PC sold. The latest example is Lenovo’s SugarSync deal that bundles 5GB of free storage with any Lenovo tablet or PC. By wrapping their PCs in cloud services, the PC guys are trying really, really hard to prove their relevance.

Not either/or, but many devices

In a statement, Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans provided some nuance. The move to a personal cloud is fueled by the consumerization of IT, by the growing replacement of fat client-server applications by lean mobile apps, and by what he called the “ever-available self-service cloud” that lets people (connected people) download what they need when needed and upload their files for offsite storage.

“Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices,” said Kleynhans. “Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life.”

The reality, as Kleynhans states, is that very few things are either/or. And in this case most users will continue to use multiple devices.

At a meeting Tuesday, Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, a cloud-storage company, dismissed the notion of the post-PC era.  “My iPad(s aapl) is never going to replace this,” he said, gesturing to his MacBook Air.  Like Jain, many consumers — and not just those who lead high-tech companies — will continue to use tablets, smartphones and — PCs for various tasks.

When things settle down, the post-PC era will look a lot more like the PC-plus era.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user manuelfloresv.

12 Responses to “Here’s why the PC will still be around in the “post-PC” era”

  1. deeceefar2

    I think people are conflating the idea of the device that does the “computing” with the device they interact with. So they fail to acknowledge that processing IS switching from local to cloud based.

    Why is it switching?
    1. It is significantly cheaper to write software for a homogeneous computing environment, and the software will be more efficient.
    2. The vast majority of desktop computers are not power efficient, not reliable, not cost effective, not well maintained, and not upgraded frequently.

    There will always be the notion of computing with a largish screen, and likely a keyboard and mouse, desktop style if you will, but that doesn’t mean the computing needs to be done in that device, and realistically shouldn’t be.

    The tin hats will complain about the cloud all the while everyone in the world including them is transitioned to it. They’ll pretend like their computer runs perfectly with no downtime, and because they don’t have control over that new fangled cloud thing it is unreliable. Even though they often times turn a blind eye to their own computer’s reliability issues: viruses, hardware crashes, blue screens, driver incompatibilities, the list goes on and on. Desktop computing is far more complicated then cloud computing because the environment is massively heterogeneous, and that necessitates an unreliable experience.

    Data control will always be an issue, and once again just because the computing is occurring in the cloud doesn’t mean the entirety of the data has to reside there just the majority of it will.

    This shift has been obvious to me for a very long time, and now I feel like James Cameron having to wait for technology to catch up with my vision of the future. Now that it is finally getting here it is time to start tackling the new opportunities this shift presents.

  2. Cloud computing imo seems to reflect the trend in America of avoiding personal responsibility. By putting their data on someone elses server, it illiminates the need for them to manage the system holding that data. This all great, until you connection dies or your windstream virtual machines experiance a 48 hour outtage. That’s not good enough for me or for most of my clients. “Cloud computing” has its place and benefits, but is quickly falling into the same layman marketing category as “synergy”, “envisioneering”, “paradigm”, and “re-conceptualization”. As for me, keep sending me my replacement 2TB hard drives from Taiwan.

    • deeceefar2

      Again redundant internet connections would solve that, and don’t forget your computer fails too and has to be rebooted, and the power goes out and any number of other things, but cloud infrastructure is designed to handle and respond to those failures far better than your computer.

    • Bryan Lee

      Actually, I think it’s way more than 1% that will find PCs more useful in many situations. Even when I’m doing something simple like typing URLs or search strings, the experience with a real keyboard is so much nicer. Just add a keyboard to an iPad? Sure, but then the larger screen of a laptop is also much more comfortable for browsing. The desktop machine is by far the most comfortable to use (and ergonomic). The tablet is a great companion device, but no way does it replace a PC. More experiences with my new Kindle Fire here:

      • Bryan, the 1% was to illustrate a point, mainly that way more people will be more than satisfied with what an iPad can do.
        Screen size isn’t really an issue imo. Just look at the resolution, and the small MB Air’s as examples – flying off the shelves.
        I’m sure there’ll be cases for PC’s (I’M one of them), but 99% (maybe 95%?) of the people don’t need a PC.

  3. David Dadian

    Cloudpaging will solve the connectivity and bandwidth issue for the mobile workforce. I do agree that there will be many devices and PC’s are not near to entering a by gone era. But there is a game changer in the cloudis-sphere at that is Numecent.

  4. It would be a huge mistake to put all the data eggs into one basket.
    And too much of what I do is accomplished on my Mac Pro, things which cannot be done on a smartphone.