Fallacy of the Post PC Era

I have noticed that the greatest proponents of the Post PC Era are also fans of Apple products, especially the truly loving ones.  Let me get it off my chest that I don’t believe there is a Post PC Era. The Personal Computer Industry is by nature transformative. When the portable computer and later the laptop emerged the computer was no longer tied to a single location. Likewise, when the PDA market rose, it arose as an extension to the PC market. Neither of these developments were particularly transformative until the emergence of the smart phone, which significantly predated the iPhone.

Forbe’s Magazine Maribel Lopez believes that in the Post PC Era is defined in four ways – Computing as a Non Destination, Cloud Technology Making Mobile a Serious Contender, Transformation of Software to Suit More Platforms and the Significance of Contextual Intelligence. Lets dismiss a few of these.

The transformation of software to suit more platforms is par for the course for the PC market. We’ve been rewriting and upgrading to work with new processors, new peripheral hardware and taking advantage of new storage options since day one. The ability for applications to adapt to different platforms dynamically is also nothing new.

Most of her argument rests on cloud computing and cloud storage; cloud computing is a service that builds on top of old PC and mainframe paradigms, but leverages improved software and incredibly cheap storage and hardware to allow you to use just as much external computing power as you need. Cloud storage with synchronization of data between devices – again – this is nothing new in the PC based client-server world of business.  It does allow you easy access to your files using a service. Convenient, yes.

Her point of contextual significance is interesting, though more through augmented reality than the location based services that already exist today. Your smart phone doubles as a GPS, it can help you locate locations (and people, if you’ve totally given up any sense of privacy) based on your present location. There are plenty of vertical interest location based computing solutions.  All as it should, since the smart phone is simply a smaller, lower capacity computer. Where this becomes interesting is when you begin to add in augmented reality, real time sensors and the combination of artificial intelligence with huge data stores – when the device begins to be able to actually sense what you sense and anticipate what your needs are. That is not what you have now. You have a small, convenient computer that lets you eliminate many other devices, but is otherwise a consumer product.

But it all comes back to Computing as a Non Destination. Yes, and that’s Apple. When Steve Jobs announced the change of Apple Computer to Apple, Inc, in parallel to the announced strategy to focus not so much on the computer but on the digital lifestyle, he was saying its more profitable for Apple to be in the high end consumer electronics business – sell lots of stuff (iPods, iPhone, later the iPad) that lets you get more pleasure out of the things you already enjoy by making all of these devices work well together. Heralding the end of the PC Era comes easy to Apple because the Apple strategy pulled the plug on Apple being a personal computer company. Sure, they still make Mac Pros, iMacs and laptops, but these computers no longer compete based on performance – and not pulling the plug on these devices most assuredly confirms that Apple does not believe the PC Era is over. Without MacOS X based computers, there would be no shared hub in the home or the office – and then, that role would be played by a Windows based computer – entirely contrary to the Apple philosophy of removing all dependencies that can have real world repercussions to Apple as a business.

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