I've been seeing a flurry of articles on the future of personal computing -- they bubble up on a regular basis -- that say something like "The PC is dead." You have to admit it's a great headline.
The latest to catch my attention was this one: Engineer of original IBM PC declares end of PC era, in TechRepublic. Mark Dean, the engineer in question, is quoted thus:
PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device — though there’s plenty of excitement about smartphones and tablets — but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress.
Author Jason Hiner's take is that:
computing is no longer about a box but is being absorbed into everything and is now about creating experiences that connect people and enable them to do work wherever
Fox News already reported the death of the PC in early 2011 from the Consumer Electronics show. Others had reported it earlier, and still others (such as Steve Ballmer) argued that it's not really dead.
So is it really dead or what?
I'm not sure anyone cares. The real debate seems to be about the form of a computer, which is probably not something that consumers think about much.
What we are really experiencing is such a pervasive presence of computing ability that we don't even think about it as computing ability. Cars that lock their doors on their own, and keep their lights on while you go in the house, for example. Information accessible from so many devices, that when we see a screen of some sort, we kind of assume it is connected to the web.When it isn't, invariably you see someone pushing the screen looking for a reaction that isn't forthcoming.
Form factors (fancy term for the way stuff looks and works, what components it has to use) are changing, definitely. I don't think things like keyboards are disappearing though. I don't think big screens are disappearing. What is disappearing are the limitations of devices -- we're going to be able to go all mix and match.
What is likely changing is that the divide between users and engineers is becoming more entrenched, and more permanent. More on that in the next post.
Early computing in pictures - Royal Pingdom, kind of an interesting technology site
The PC is dead - Fox News - January 2011
The PC (as we know it) is Dead - MSNBC - June 2011
Dawn of a New Day, Ray Ozzie's blog - Chief Software Engineer at Microsoft from 2008 to 2010 -- this is a more nuanced article. Long, but interesting. October 2010