In 1981, hardware giant IBM unveiled the IBM Personal Computer. While the name (along with other terms like “microcomputer” and “home computer) had already been in use, most machines had limited compatibility and therefore limited value in the work environment. Within a few years of the PC’s release, the popularity of the product caused other companies to release clones of the system, ensuring widespread compatibility and standardization. Within the next two decades, the PC became as ubiquitous as the television, the telephone and the automobile. It was seen as a life necessity, to the degree that experts soon began defining PC ownership as the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Simply put, the PC is everywhere.
So why does Mark Dean, a CTO for IBM Middle East and Africa as well as one of the developers of the first IBM PC, say that we’re moving into a “post-PC era?”
“I […] have moved beyond the PC as well,” he says, explaining that he now uses a tablet device as his primary computer. “While PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer on the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent bulbs.”
Many insiders have been wondering when the tipping point will occur, when sales of mobile devices will outpace those of personal computers. What many don’t realize is that it’s already happened. Smartphones and tablets combined for a whopping 487.7 units shipped in 2011, compared to 414.6 million PCs. The PC era, it seems, is over.
Or is it? Before we forget, over 400 million PCs were shipped in 2011, a year that saw a weak overall economy and an Asian market that was affected by natural disaster. Microsoft posted revenues of $17.41 billion for Q1 2012. The 6 percent increase over last year’s numbers led Wall Street analyst Josh Olsen to quip, “Perhaps the demise of the PC is not as great as everyone is anticipating here.”
Are PCs still the cutting edge of the technology world? Probably not. At their core, they’re a 30+ year old piece of technology that has already innovated the business world as much as it ever will. But the same could be said of the automobile, which fundamentally hasn’t changed since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.
Perhaps this is a case of apples and oranges. After all, people use mobile devices far differently than they use PCs. Tablets and smartphones are fundamentally media consumers; PCs are fundamentally media producers. This article, for example, was written on a PC. And as long as the PC continues to do what it does so well, it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay.
- Dan Lothringer
Dan is a contributing writer for VideoConferencingSpot.com