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Except for Work, Is the PC Age Over?

It may be tempting to say that the current shift in user trends for consumer devices is limited to a generational shift, but in reality, it's affecting our grandparents and parents as well as our children.

The shift is crossing platforms from gamers to casual users and business clients, and it's changing the types of services we purchase for our homes and how we assign value to products.

This is the shift away from the computing segment to the consumer segment. As a society we are leaving our desktops and notebooks behind and moving to smartphones and tablets. But we're not going to be a society of just smartphones and tablets, no. We're going to be a society of smartphones, tablets, and SmartTVs.

How many people do you know who have already stopped using their desktop? Do you still use your laptop for anything other than business?

The first move in this shift was when we all moved from landlines to the cellular network. During the last five years or so, many people have been abandoning their TV services and switching to cable or DSL. How many people now watch their favorite shows on services like Hulu or Netflix or Amazon Prime?

It used to be that these services all came as a package: phone, Internet, and TV. So we've gotten rid of the phone and are in the process of getting rid of the TV. So the next logical step is really getting rid of our Internet service and going cellular. Do you have 4G yet? It's pretty fast and people are already routing their Internet service to their 4G network when WiFi is hard to find.

And really, why not move to the cellphone? It has enough processing power to do most anything we want to do. Watch videos? Yes. Take pictures? Sure. Browse the Internet? Yep. Check email? Absolutely. Update that Google Document? Here, use a wireless keyboard. No desktop or laptop required.

Now, most of us still have a desktop or laptop for our business needs, but how much longer will that last? Another 10 years? Five? Even now, when I'm not working, I'm not on my computer. Entertainment is done from the iPhone or iPad (streaming to the TV).

If I talk to gamers in their 20s, they're all on a laptop, console, or tablet, with more moving to the tablet every year. If I talk to grandparents, they're all on their phones. If I talk to people aged 40 to 60, they now have their phones and either a tablet or e-reader. For those in their 30s, phones and tablets are most popular. A laptop is usually in an abandoned home office gathering dust.

Indeed, the only reason these days to turn on a laptop is to print something out, but via the cloud we can now send photos or documents automatically to places like RiteAid and get instantaneous print outs at a reasonable price. Do we really need to continue to purchase a print cartridge and printer for that rare occasion (and getting rarer) we need to print something?

Photos are all now stored on the cloud. Do we really need an HDD to store them? Documents can be on Google Docs. Keyboards are wireless and we're moving to a projection market where we could make larger screens against almost any surface.

So what do you think? Is this an industry-wide shift and the way we buy and use electronics will never be the same? Is the computing segment on its way out?

43 comments on “Except for Work, Is the PC Age Over?

  1. t.alex
    October 17, 2012

    I myself only use PC at work. At home I use iPhone most of the time. Think of PC we think of slow boot up time 🙂

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    October 18, 2012

    This shift away from PC or Laptop is clearly visible in the younger generation. This new generation is relying more on their smart phones for everything that was being done on desktops by the previous generation – emails, skype calling, maps and what not.

    So the desktops/Laptops are now relegated to only office space. Nobody now wants to carry that heavy laptop bags on their back.

    With TV content now being available as a sevice on the net , the scenario at home is fast changing – no more those desktops or bulky TV sets, DVD players or home theater systems.

     

  3. bolaji ojo
    October 18, 2012

    Lugging even a notebook PC around either at home or on the road isn't fun anymore especially when there are some alternatives. I don't think even smartphone manufacturers are safe, though. Someday, we will have either paper thin devices that you can roll up and stuff into a small hand luggage or some other flexible device that weigh even less.

    In some ways, I think we focus so much on the device we forget about its function. The PC is supposed to perform certain functions. When either those functions are no longer needed or other devices can do the same thing and not impose any burdens on the user that's when the PC days will be truly over.

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    October 18, 2012

    @Prabhakar,

    you are right on that, the younger generation may never have any problem switching from PC to the smart devices unlike the older generation which have a little problem switching to the smart devices.

  5. Adeniji Kayode
    October 18, 2012

    I agree with you Bolaji,

    Our need for the PC may be reducing day by day but as long as some of these fgunctions can still not be handled by the smart devices, we will still keep our PC.

  6. Adeniji Kayode
    October 18, 2012

    Reading thriugh thr article again, I agree with one thing and that is PC is really more of work machine than fun machine now unlike those days when you can work and also catch your fun.

    And as Bolaji rightly said, its no more fun carrying a laptop about when an Ipad is more convenient and more fashonable to carry about.

    Now when we talk about PC and the tablets, we may as well refer to both as “Old school” and the “New school”.;

    The younger generation seems to embrace the smart devices because it seems to suit them better

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 18, 2012

    Faced with overwhelming evidence I have to admit it really does seem the PC is waning. I still happen to use my PC a lot, even for streaming video. But I hope I am never so old as to be inflexible. I just haven't bought a smartphone yet. But I will, and I no doubt will love it. (I have been shopping around, and so far I really like Samsung's). And I'm really trying to spend less time with my TV, but oh well…

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    October 19, 2012

    Its a sure thing that by twenty years from now, children born that time may have to see a PC in a museum or a practical lab.

    With all the smart devices around, will you really miss your PC or the smart devices are taking it place already?

    Moreover, what will you really miss about your PC.

  9. Ariella
    October 19, 2012

    I like working on a PC because I like a full sized screen and a full keyboard to type on. Even if I didn't I have some work that has to be done remotely on a PC only as the hosting site does not design for mobile. Of course, 10 years from now the site will probably adapt, but not in the next year. 

  10. Wale Bakare
    October 19, 2012

    @Adeniji, 20 years a massive but i still see PC in market pretty well, although tablets and smartphones are just additional devices — mobility, yes!

    While innovation has helped PC makers transitioned successfully from CRT to LCD/HD screen, while its keyboard part and CPU have also been miniaturized to fit in well without occupying much space. This would continue to PC manufacturing for some times.

  11. bolaji ojo
    October 20, 2012

    One other indicator is the number of people at conferences holding smart devices (iPad and other tablets) versus those still using PCs. I saw someone with an after-market iPad keyboard and the combo looked pretty nifty. I wanted one but wondered if the combination wasn't looking retro-PC! With the new form of typing on smart devices we may have finally found a way to eliminate the keyboard.

  12. itguyphil
    October 20, 2012

    What kind of computing do you do at home? Is it more recreational or work-related?

  13. t.alex
    October 21, 2012

    Mos of the time it's just browsing for information.

  14. Anna Young
    October 21, 2012

    I don't know if the age of the PC is over or not but in my family we curently have three computers and each of the kids still want their own separately. It may no longer be the most optimal equipment for accessing information anymore but personal computers have ways to go before joining typewriters.

  15. Susan Fourtané
    October 22, 2012

    Anna, 

    Do the kids want their own desktop or laptop? Except for the enterprise, and some specific types of work I believe desktops are going to join typewriters sooner what we think.

    -Susan 

  16. Susan Fourtané
    October 22, 2012

    t.alex, 

    For just browsing information a tablet or smartphone do fine. I only would think of a desktop if I need a big screen. However, soon we are going to see in the market smart screens that we can use all around the house, or enterprise. 

    -Susan  

  17. Susan Fourtané
    October 22, 2012

    Adeniji, 

    “Its a sure thing that by twenty years from now, children born that time may have to see a PC in a museum or a practical lab.”

    I would say in less than 20 years. At the speed devices are evolving we could see the death of the PC within the next 10 years, or less. 

    -Susan

  18. Anna Young
    October 22, 2012

    They want laptops to haul around the house and probably to watch movies on it or You Tube clips. I doubt anyone really thinks desktops are being bought that much by consumers. The desktops still being bought are actually going to offices and folks who need the higher processing power and storage space.

  19. Anna Young
    October 22, 2012

    Ariella, I prefer the PC for that purpose also but as you noted it may soon be possible — if not already — to hook smart devices to a wider screen for home use. That's what many do with their notebook computers today.

  20. Anna Young
    October 22, 2012

    Wale, The so-called smart devices popped up rapidly and are displacing traditional forms of computing such as the PC. You are right, though, that the central functions of many of these devices, whether smartphones or tablets, remain the same. The main use is to access information while the PC is used for processing. As long as that processing function cannot be done by the smart devices then the PC will be around in one form or the other for much longer.

    What this means for PC makers is that they will become niche producers rather than the mass manufacturers of computing equipment they are today.

  21. Cryptoman
    October 22, 2012

    Besides the full keyboard and a large screen, İ think one reason to use desktops and laptops is the rich choice of connectivity and İ/O that come with them. İ often feel that anything less than 4USB ports on a PC is just not enough. The USB hubs are just not good enough sometimes. Their drivers are too flimsy and unreliable. İt's also great to have a VGA or HDMİ connector to have an expanded desktop on a separate TFT or LCD screen besides the native monitor. Although their uses are declining, CD and DVD ROMs are still useful devices and it's good to have one on a PC. Tablets are great for entertainment but they simply come any where near a laptop or a PC in terms of peripheral ports etc. They are too restrictive and force the user to find solutions on the cloud, which is not always preferred. İ like my tools to suit my needs and requirements not the other way round. Until an alternative that is better than a laptop or a PC arrives, İ am going to stick to my good old friend on my bench.

  22. Shelly
    October 22, 2012

    As the screen of smartphone and Tablet PC expands, it seems these smart devices to abandon its advantages of dexterity and portability, adding the original dvantages in PC, so can smart devices including smartphone and Tablet PC really displace PC?

  23. Adeniji Kayode
    October 23, 2012

    It seems there is still this “little affection” for PC left in almost everybody. Taht alone may still keep PC around for a while and also most of the smart devices are made to be PC compatible for now even some of the tablets can be connected to PC directly probably still giving respect tp the “Legend PC”

    Do we not all expecting PC  manufacturers to come up with something that would still keep PC around, even if its just little modification around the present PC.

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    October 23, 2012

    Desktops are still going to developing countries too.

  25. Adeniji Kayode
    October 23, 2012

    @Anna,

    I think easy mobility is one of the advantages of these smart devices which adds to the comfort of carrying one too. Then if I have to connect to big screen, don,t you think that my “mobility” has hindered some how?

  26. Adeniji Kayode
    October 23, 2012

    @Anna,

    YOu made a good point there, but what effect will this have on sales because its not an easy thing for  a one  time most “essential equipment” to now become “optional” in market

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    October 23, 2012

    @Shelly,

    That might be the fight to occupy the place of a PC or at least to stay relevant just like PC and go beyond mere entertaiment but into every aspect of our daily lives.

  28. mfbertozzi
    October 23, 2012

    @Cryptoman: it's a good point, I've read several times your post and I am convinced you have figured out why we can't consider over PC's age. I wanted only to remind PC is a key component for new services coming soon, especially for allowing full remote control of home devices as per post-digital era paradigm.

  29. Cryptoman
    October 23, 2012

    @mfbertozzi

    In the future, there may be a good substitute for a PC but I don't think it's that time yet. I do have an ideal set up in mind that would make me consider giving up my PC. My wish list is as follows:

    1 – A tablet device that is dockable when working at a desk with a large enough screen (minimum 14 inches). The device should be th,n and light with good screen resolution.

    2 – The tablet device should have a swivel head camera that you can move rather than having to move the entire tablet.

    3 – 4 high speed USB ports, 1 VGA output, multi standard built-in card reader.

    4 – Good driver support with an active developer community actively working on applications for the OS.

    5 – Foldable and light keyboard that can interface to the tablet with Bluetooth or USB.

    6 – Optional mouse connectivity option that can be used when working at a desk.

    7 – Touchscreen interface should still work even when external keyboad and mouse are connected and working. (i.e. these interface options shall not be mutually exclusive)

    8 – Good processing horsepower, good battery life (8 hours when working continuously).

    9 – 256 GB SSD hard drive.

    10 – A slim blue ray, DVD-RW, CD RW combo drive. It should be one of those Mac drives that you simply push a disc through to allow for a thin enough design.

    10 – Of course, last but not least, a price that will not break my bank account!

    Wouldn't it be a joy to have such a machine?

    I am thinking for the full remote control you have mentioned, maybe the tablet devices we have today will suffice. They will certainly need an IR or a suitable wireless interface though.

     

  30. Mr. Roques
    October 23, 2012

    I agree with you in that the edge devices are changing. Some groups are still “lagging” in the move away from PC but some of those groups are and have been the most techies (gamers) who are always looking for higher clock speeds, ram, graphics, etc.

    Regarding your comments that we will migrate to a mobile-only connection, I have to disagree. Mobile infrastructure is not ready, and I don't think it will ever be, to handle all of our traffic. The push of FTTH and other fixed services validates that. 

    What I think is going to change is the data plans offered, those “all-you-can-eat”, will cease to exist (and I'm not talking about mobile plans).

  31. mfbertozzi
    October 24, 2012

    @Cryptoman: well, your list is so long then doable to self-explain how PC is still a strategic component, at least for now; with regard to tablets, I think so, potentially some of them are in condition to replace most important I/O you have mentioned, but another point to discuss is about the power; right now battery still doesn't allow an H24-a-day operation, then we need to recharge it by using network power. PC are made for strong usage, for optimizing power consumption and they are also doable to manage better then smartphones the overheating phenomenon.

  32. mfbertozzi
    October 24, 2012

    @Mr.Roques: I agree with you, the fiber brings any broadband capacity we need, but sometimes it is not easy to install and setup; the picture, at the end, is different, depending on country. It seems the future is towards mobile, in the sense that mobile providers are a step for deploying across the globe a whole wireless network. Have you ever heard of Interplanetary Network?

  33. Susan Fourtané
    October 24, 2012

    Adeniji, 

    Why would manufacturers be interested in continuing a product that is less and less bought by consumers? 

    -Susan

  34. Adeniji Kayode
    October 24, 2012

    @mfbertozzi, Good point, but the coming devices may not look any thing in common with PC

  35. Adeniji Kayode
    October 24, 2012

    Cruptoman, You really have taste but you asked for all this and you don,t expect it to be much expensive!

    First of all, consider the effect of a 14″ inch screen on your battery

    second, a blu ray DVD-RW

    Third. high resolution screen etc

    you really looking forward to a power house gadget.

    At introduction, it will really be expensive.

  36. Cryptoman
    October 24, 2012

    @Adeniji

    If this dream machine is going to replace my PC at home, I am sure I am not the only PC user who expects that. I would expect it to have the required specs. I do realise it is too much to ask for given the current state of the art and I do not expect this configuration to arrive anytime soon at an affordable price.

    If this dream configuration will become a reality at an affordable price in say 5 years, I can wait. No problem.

    My point was to give an indication of how unrealistic it is to expect that the PC era will be over soon. I think the PC era will not end but it will be “transformed” into something else potentially with a much better operating system than the traditional Windows. One thing is for sure though: if a market opportunity is created, some people will always be willing to fill it. This applies to the PC as well.

  37. mfbertozzi
    October 25, 2012

    @AK: exactly, it seems exactly that scenario; that said, are you agreeing we can't say (at least for now) PC age is over?

  38. Mr. Roques
    October 25, 2012

    I have, actually from Vint Cerf himself [interplanetary networks]. Very interesting.

    Regarding mobile, it is a lot cheaper and faster, but available spectrum will always, always be a limitation. The limitation of fiber is cost, which is going down…

  39. mfbertozzi
    October 25, 2012

    @Mr.R: exactly Mr.Roques, that's right, the matter is really fascinating. Coming back to the debat on network media deployment, on one hand is true, spectrum is usually limited, on the other hand fiber delivery impacts, sometimes, on physical urban path and the timeplan; usually, apart for smartcity or towns which already hold a broadband physical network, costs for fibers are still quite huge because we need to consider the physical impact for the deployment. Anyway I am convinced the near future is bringing several innovations for mitigating similar problems.

  40. itguyphil
    October 28, 2012

    OK in that case a non-computer device should be fine. It might actually be more convenient.

  41. Adeniji Kayode
    October 28, 2012

    @crytoman, I ageewith you on that, i also expect PC to come up with somthing but then, in the world of electronics nothing is design to stay forever.

  42. Mr. Roques
    October 31, 2012

    Cost, in technology, is only a short-run limitation… in the long run, the cost will undoubtedly go down. So, even in rural areas, the cost of launching a fiber optic network, at least FTTx (to the curb, etc) will be reasonable. 

    Also, Universal Service Funds (USF) will continue to gravitate towards broadband adoption. This will create PPPs that can make the best use of the available funds.

  43. mfbertozzi
    November 12, 2012

    @MrR: well, absolutely yes, I agree with the fact fiber deployment's cost is only a limitation for now; other point to by-pass the issue, should be for example the possible infrastructure sharing among several players which are real owner of several infrastructures already deployed like Utilities, for instance. It could be a little help even in speeding up endusers' connections.

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