Is it really the Post-PC Era, or Is the Plus-PC Era Simply Continuing?

Ten years ago I bought one of the first devices I ever had that could be classified as a post-pc device or as I like to call it, a plus pc device.  That was a Toshiba e740 Pocket PC.  This was the first device I had outside of a laptop that included wi-fi.  I remember taking the e740, a flexible USB keyboard, the keyboard adapter and a compact flash modem on a trip with me and chatting with my wife and other family members every night on a SLOW modem.  It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.  I also remember my wife telling me to shut it off at night as I was surfing the net with the abysmal PocketIE in bed.  It wasn’t much, but I liked it and I certainly did more than most people did with devices like this at the time.  Most people just kept track of their calendar and occasionally took notes with it.

Fast forward to today.  Now everyone is doing the things I used to do with my old Toshiba PocketPC. They are watching movies, surfing the internet, taking notes, listening to music and managing their calendar like they used to on PocketPC and Palm device.  It’s no longer just geeks like myself that are using these devices.  In fact, there are even some who don’t even have a PC anymore and going it alone with just an iPad.  Does this mean that the PC era is gone?  Not by a longshot.

ReadWriteWeb’s Joe Brockmeier has an excellent article that outlines the things we lose when we look at the world as a Post-PC world.  First, he says forget about upgrades.  To a large extent, this is true.  There are devices like the Galaxy Nexus, the iPad and the iPhone where you can’t upgrade the ram or sometimes even storage.  My EeePad has a full-sized SD Card slot and USB ports in the keyboard dock, but if I wanted to upgrade ram, the processor or graphics, well I just can’t do that.  A PC allows you to do this and more.  If you play the game right, you can continuously upgrade a PC for five to ten years.  Try that with an iPad.  My oldest PC is over 5 years old and I still use it for somethings.  In 5 years, not even Apple will support the first iPad.  Also, imagine having to pick your ISP when you buy a PC.  That’s something you have to do if you want to have an iPad with integrated 3G or 4G wireless.  Once you do, you are probably locked into using that device with that carrier.

Larry Cafiero says that we’re further than a lot of people think we are.  In fact, he says we’re pretty far off:

You can see it all right, with the Hubble. It’s that far off in the distance.

There are many things that you can’t yet do with an iPad, iPhone, Android Phone or tablet.  For example, programming.  If you want to write a program for one of these devices, you WILL need a PC.  Granted, there aren’t many normal users who would want to do that.  However, there are other things that normal people do that just aren’t possible on a iPad or Android device just yet.  While the iPad excels at being a game machine, I have yet to see a stir of running 3D animation software like Maya.  While there is a version of Photoshop for both Android and iOS, there’s so much more that you can do with the full version of Photoshop.  Plus editing pictures with your finger is less than ideal.

There’s also a comfort level too.  For example,  I COULD write this post on my EeePad with or without its keyboard dock but I am writing this on a desktop PC.  Why?  Comfort.  While I can be comfortable using my EeePad, it would take me much more time to write a post like this on it than it would when using a full-sized keyboard, a mouse and a nice big screen.

So where does that leave me with the Post-PC Era thing?  I think we’re in the same era we have always been in, but there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see, some day, people using only devices like the iPad.  The reasons are less maintenance, portability and ease of use.  Storage won’t be a problem in the future and I also see a dock or some other way to get the output of your iPad onto a bigger screen AND add a keyboard in a similar way to your laptop or desktop.  Until then, we’re just not there yet.

So what do you think?  Are you Post-PC now or do you feel that it’s further off?

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5 replies

  1. Thanks for the mention, Joel. You are absolutely right — we are definitely in the PC-plus era (or plus-PC era — take your pick) where our personal computers work in tandem with other devices. I’m beginning to think that post-PC is just a marketing tool for, ahem, marketing tools, but that’s just me. 

    [By the way, can you fix my name? It’s “Cafiero.” Thanks.]

    Anyway, good blog post and thanks again for the link.

  2. I am already in a post-laptop world. Does that count? Out of my desktop, iPad, laptop, and PS3 (for Netflix), my laptop is the odd man out. Even on vacations, I only take the iPad along.

  3. I have personally been using mobile devices as a major part of my daily life for over 20 years, since the first HPLX device came out … and I fell in love with the ability to have a full Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, calendar, note-taker, and HP calculater (RPN FTW!) in the palm of my hand.  I haven’t owned a desktop-style computer in more than 15 years since I went ‘laptop only’ … so perhaps I am more primed for the ‘post-PC’ world than most.

    I really think you are missing the point of what is meant by ‘Post PC’.  If you look to the link from SumoCat you will see that what Jobs said back in 2007 was “post-PC devices are not replacements for PCs. Rather, they are computing devices that are more focused on specific usage scenarios and less general purpose”

    The so-called ‘post PC era’ reflects the move of such devices from the accessory era to the companion era to the secondary device era now to the primary device era.  But it is worth noting that all of those things are referenced to a PC (or Mac, or SparcStation, or NeXT Cube, or whatever).  While my smartphone might be more powerful than a PC I had 5 years ago … that doesn’t mean I would want to attempt to accomplish the same tasks! 

    What I see as ‘post-PC’ is the relative position of these things in your life.  You are very likely to have a phone with or near you all the time and that can do some things, and then next likely to have your iPad (i.e. tablet) with you which can accomplish much more.  Finally, if you need more than that you can grab a full computer.

    But let’s be real here:
    – If you are using a computer where you can replace the microprocessor, you are an anachronism.  Chances are you are using Archie to find some stuff before telnet-ing into a server to FTP the core files for supporting the new processor.  :)
    – Upgrades are a rare exception – similar to phones, most (~90+% last I read) simply buy whatever computer off the shelf they like and then get a new one 2-3 years later like a phone.

    Personally I find using my iPad every bit as comfortable as a laptop, and much lighter – even with a Blurtooth keyboard!


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