The Post PC Era Will Happen in Two Stages

Ben Bajarin / July 27th, 2011

In much of my work providing industry analysis to many companies in the technology industry, I come across the question of what the post PC-era actually means quite often. As the technology industry shifts from one computing platform (the PC) to multiple computing platforms (tablets, smart phones, TV, more) the landscape is changing and continuing to bring new challenges to industry leaders.

I believe the Post-PC era is going to happen in two stages. First there is the stage we are just entering into that can best be understood as the PC plus era. In this phase the PC is still needed as a central platform in the lives of most consumers. Meaning the PC is still a valued and sought after part of the ecosystem. Other devices like smart phones, tablets, smart TVs etc are capable and complimentary computing platforms but none can adequately replace the other.

The traditional PC as we know it is still the central computing device in this phase; however more devices are entering the ecosystem that allow consumers to become less dependent on it. Another key point of the PC Plus stage is that the PC is a general platform for computing and other devices are more specialized.

The next phase will be the phase where truly de-centralized personal computing starts to take shape. In this phase you will be able to do most if not all desired computing tasks comfortably, reliably, and conveniently from any connected smart screen. In this phase the personal computing cloud becomes a key ingredient that is the central glue of the personal computing experience.

I say this phase is de-centralized because our dependence moves from the PC to the cloud thus allowing any device connected to our personal cloud to become our computing platform of choice.

Consumers in this model can choose just one or any number combinations of screens that fit their fancy to accomplish any and all computing tasks. The key difference in this stage from the PC plus stage is that most if not all computing devices can become general purpose devices rather than specific function.

There is of course going to be a great deal of variation in how this plays out in the market place. We will see quite a bit of experimentation by both the manufactures and the consumers of these products as we flesh out the needs of the market.

This personal computing market is large enough that a one size fits all approach will not be the standard. This opens the door for many different innovations and product approaches to support each other and allow for healthy diversity and competition.

De-centralized computing becomes more personal
I’ve often explained that as we get smarter devices, smarter software, and smarter cloud services we will also get more personalized devices, software and cloud services. The translation is smarter = more personal.

This is not to say that there isn’t a level of personalization with these devices already only that it will be more so in the future.

The technology industry has used the term “personal computer” for three decades now, however the term really means “owned by a person.” My personal computer isn’t really all that personal at this point in time. It knows nothing about me and everything personalized about it is because I put in the time and effort to personalize it. A better term would be “customized computers” rather than “personal computers.”

In the future however I believe these devices really do become more personal rather than customized. The roadmap the semiconductor companies are on will pack an incredible amount of compute power into nearly everything imaginable. When that happens smart software and smart cloud services will have the opportunity to transform devices into truly personal computing companions.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Anonymous

    you’re on the right track. but there will always be some constants too. most of all for this topic, you will always want a large screen device, whatever it is, on your desk at home and at work. just because it is easier to see what you’re doing if no other reason. but of course there are other reasons too.

    what has to change then is the classic desktop OS running underneath that large screen. Mac OS X Lion really did not change that much, despite some superficial nods to iOS. it would have been much more significant if Apple had enabled it to run iOS apps too, but it did not. we’ll see what Windows 8 does next year (?), but i doubt it really will change that much either, since backwards compatibility is an essential requirement for MS to retain its dominant market position.

    what would be a huge step to the post PC era would be for Apple to launch a third variant of iOS for large 16:9 screens – both desktop monitors and HDTV’s – and just build it in to its line of Displays. for many consumers that would be all they ever need, with no Mac or PC at all.

    actually, you will be able to hook up something close to that soon – using iOS 5 video mirroring from your iPhone/iPad to display iOS on your desktop monitor via a connected Apple TV. just lay an iPad in front of the monitor like a keyboard. obviously not consumer ready nor optimized for 16:9 screens, but i’ll have to give it a try for the heck of it … and get a peek at the future.

    • Anonymous

      Very good thoughts. I am very interested on how more heavier OS’s like OSX and Windows evolve to support at a foundational level touch.

      Also interesting points on iOS on larger screens. I’ve been wondering for a while about Apple making an HDTV. Will be interesting to see what happens next year in this area.

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