The PC is dying, long
live the tablet
By Andy Goldberg in San Francisco -
He has spoken, and his words provide both hope
and fear to the computer world. In front of a rapt audience of tech executives
at an industry conference, Apple maestro Steve Jobs predicted the end of the PC
era. And what will replace the device that has transformed every aspect of
business and society over the past 25 years?
Well, it just so happens that Jobs believes the next phase of the computer
revolution will be dominated by a device that looks a lot like the iPad tablet
he introduced so successfully two months ago. You could write off Jobs’
prediction as just some more of the infectious hyperbole that seems to mark
every pronouncement the Apple founder makes. But if you subscribe to the mantra
of another great American visionary, Abraham Lincoln, who famously remarked that
“the best way to predict your future is to create it,” Jobs’ comments could
quickly turn into reality.
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you
needed on the farms,” Jobs said at the D: All Things Digital conference. “But as
people moved more towards urban centres, people started to get into cars.
“I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this
is going to make some people uneasy.”
This may sound like a crazy rant to people who haven’t used tablets. Their
portability and touch screen interface offer an easier, more intuitive and
altogether more pleasant way to surf the web and interact with media content of
all kinds. Other more complex tasks, such as video editing and teleconferencing
will soon become possible with improved processors, while hybridised and
dockable tablets will offer all the advantages of keyboard and mouse controls.
Since the success of the iPad, such an evolution of the dominant computer form
factor seems long overdue. While manufacturers can make PCs faster and faster,
and pack in ever more features, consumers have realised that for the usual tasks
of surfing the web, sending emails, doing things on Facebook and watching
YouTube clips they don’t really need the newest super-charged data crunchers.
That’s what led to the explosion in low-cost netbooks in recent years, and to
the decline in laptop and desktop purchases. It’s also the dynamic that will
fuel the surge in tablet computers, according to tech analyst Carmi Levi.
“It’s pretty darn clear that putting everything in a box and keeping it isolated
there is very much a creation of the 80s,” he said. “The net has rendered that
model obsolete very, very quickly.”
It’s not just the advances in computer hardware that are making this
generational technology shift all but inevitable. It’s also being driven by the
increased ubiquity and speed of Internet access, which within a few years will
allow people almost everywhere in the developed world fast and wireless access
wherever they may be.
Jobs acknowledged that the iPad, which has sold 2 million units in its first 60
days on the market, may not win the new platform war. There’s certainly lots of
Google, of course, has readied its own operating system for tablets, which Dell
debuted last month on its Streak device. HP is also coming out with a tablet,
while up-and-coming Taiwanese computer maker Asus unveiled its own
Microsoft-powered gizmo recently.
The non-profit organisation One Laptop Per Child, whose initiative to launch the
$100 laptop for children in developing countries spurred major computer makers
to come up with their own cheap netbooks, announced its new target — the $100
tablet to debut next year.
Even Intel, a company synonymous with the rise of the PC, has seen the writing
on the wall, announcing a new chip architecture for tablets, which marks its
largest-ever deviation from its traditional PC products.
But while companies like Intel and Microsoft may be threatened by the rise of a
new form factor, it will be good for consumers and a computer industry hitting
the limits of a mature market. “Computer makers should be thanking their lucky
stars,” Levi says. “The new tablet form factor will give them a powerful hit.” —
DPA / Oman Observer