I recently read an article on The Verge by Tom Warren that talked about the notion of living in a post-PC world, and how he felt that the PC was far from dead, and that there’s no such thing as a post-PC world. He summarizes his argument with the following:
Perhaps it’s time to kill off the idea of “post-PC” in favor of just personal computing. After all, smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all just PCs anyway.
I agree with his sentiment, but I want to unpack the notion of post-PC just a bit more. Throughout his article he talks about how, despite traditional PC sales sliding in favor of tablets and smartphones, they are still the best tool to get traditional business work done on. He then cites the difficulty of working with large documents and complex interactions without the aide of a mouse and keyboard. While this is valid, I think the idea of being post-PC is more than form factor.
Back in 2000 when I moved into a house, the first thing I did was buy a spool of cat5 and some wall mounts. I wired the entire house up, made a patch panel in my basement, and set up my Linux router/server in the laundry room. I had many devices around my house that could utilize this network, but everything from my main file and media storage to my basic network routing went through that central server. Over time, that Linux server slowly disappeared until all of it’s functionality was replaced with a simple desktop computer (an iMac in this case) that morphed into the family computer hub.
I would use my iMac to stream iTunes music around the house, and to other computers and TV’s. I used my Mac as central storage of my photos, and since it was the beefiest computer in the house I played games on it. I had laptops and other computers around the house, but the notion of the central hub still persisted. Let’s fast forward now to 2015. Even though I still have an iMac as my primary computing device, and I do some heavy lifting with it (photo and video editing for example), it is no longer the computing hub of the house. The Internet has evolved to take it’s place, allowing me to store every piece of media that I digitally own and make it available to all the various devices that my family uses, from laptops to tablets to cellphones. Even most of my gaming has shifted over to consoles that are intimately connected to the internet to deliver content and games.
So when I consider the notion of a post-PC world, I can’t help but think of us not abandoning the form factor and capabilities of a PC, but the purpose for which so many of us used it for in the past. Our PC’s are just another gateway device to the Internet, which is where everything in technology has evolved to live. The beauty of PC’s is in their ergonomics and ability to hold immense onboard power in a single container. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to keep an iMac around in the future when this one goes. Perhaps by then tablets will contain all the power of our PC’s and we simply need to extend their ergonomic capabilities to meet the demands of a user who needs some local processing power.
Welcome to the post-PC world. However you define it, it’s a lot different place than where we’ve been, and the optimist in my sees it as an amazing new world.