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Are we close to the end of the PC era?

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With HP announcing they're getting out of the PC market and Mark Dean from IBM declaring the PC dead, but with so many still in use, are we nearing the end of the PC era?  If so, what does this mean to enterprise tech?

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  • ROFL talk about doom mongering for the sake of it.

    We haven't gotten rid of Mainframes yet, majority of IT I've encountered has only just started to migrate from NT to XP Professional. It's going to be a long time before the PC in it's current form will become extinct. It'll just become a cheaper form factor and sit alongside the likes of mobile devices but it won't die for a good while yet.

    If anything, enterprise technology will embrace the corporate 'app' culture that folks like Apperian are ahead of the game with, and the mobile platforms will proliferate in number but they'll not replace the PC entirely as the bedrock of the company infrastructure.

  • What Theo said!

    Better than my first thought, which was: "about as far as we are from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."

    Although I will say, for my needs, I don't ever see buying a desktop PC again -- today's laptops have plenty of horsepower for my writing, podcasting, and Youtube needs!

  • No, we are not. Are we at the end of a consumer-PC era? Yes. But it's not the end of the line for the enterprise-PC. The compute resources required for many enterprise tasks such as development and data analysis is not yet satisfied by the thinner-computing devices available today. Neither are the application and security management systems used by enterprises to manage "desktop" deployment ready to manage alternative devices. And while VDI is making inroads at changing the way we handle application and security management, it has not experienced wide enough adoption to be considered a viable replacement.

    There are also certain tasks for which portable devices are simply not well-suited: documentation, development, graphic design, database management, integration tasks, and anything involving Office-productivity apps.

    While there are many parallels between the consumer and enterprise markets, and the former often influences the latter, a truism in the consumer realm does not often translate to the enterprise demesne. If it did, we would no longer need to worry about mainframes, wiring and switching closets, or how to migrate to IPv6.

    We may see some replacement of enterprise desktops with consumer-grade devices where the majority of tasks required of the role can be accomplished via web and mobile applications. We may also see more issuing of mobile devices like tablets as a replacement for laptops for roaming/traveling employees, but the majority of enterprise technology will likely remain firmly rooted in some form of PC (including laptops in this category) for the foreseeable future.

  • What a daft question :)

    Essentially the PC is no where near dead, just that the competition in making PCs is really tough. So much so that companies like IBM believe they will make more money from software.

    As Theo states, "App Culture" will make its way into business and I have no problem with that. With the cloud, web services, SaaS etc and the success of mobile Apps now all in play, things are starting to align, meaning that the PC will remain and get stronger. Sorry, HTML 5 web apps etc, dont deliver the end user experience we demand in business, nor expect as consumers. That means we need real applications, just that they may need to be deployed via the Cloud...In a very similar fashion to "Apps"...

    The PC is here to stay, we need the prcessing power of a PC to run our apps, though they way we find them, install them etc may change. We / business will also find that its not just PCs we need to be able to leverage, rather its the good old desktop along with tablets, smartphones, notebooks etc. And who knows...

    I believe that there is a lot of technology out there that people are working on / hedging their bets on that simply are now too late. The cloud along with "app culture" delivers us so many options for how to work and solve problems...

    This is something I only blogged about a few days ago


  • Can only agree. I'm a roadworrier. Have been looking at whether a tablet can replace my notebook to allow me to travel lighter. The answer at the moment is definitely NO. So, I cannot understand the traction of tablets as it's just another burdon to carry with another power supply and another set of cables. Frankly, I have no space for that in my traveling office (my rucksac). Way to heavy. So, I see PC's evolving, becoming more user friendly, but the PC is there for quite a while.

  • There are a number of factors coming into play here. And I'm going to omit gushing about Apple PCs because that might be off-topic :)

    Computing will remain a very personal thing, so I don't think "PCs" are dead. I think we're moving into a 3rd generation of PCs with tablets. In other words, the desktop is obsolete (except for high-end graphics work), the laptop is the new desktop, and the tablet is the new laptop. What is next after that? Wearable computers - yes - heads up displays in our eye glasses.

    A related trend is (or should be) companies abandoning the purchasing and "imaging" of personal computers. Frankly, I think its a waste of time in this day and age. Give employees a stipend for a machine, provide minimal extra software to load (VPN, Virus Protection) and be done with it.

  • Excuse me, dear fellow commentors, but denouncing mobiles for the lack of a keyboard, processing power or because they are 'consumer devices' is not very clever. Steve Balmer is very sorry that his public laughing about the iPhone for its lack of keyboard can't be erased from history.

    First, I use my iPad with a keyboard very frequently, while I admit that I do not travel without my MacBook. What you are all missing is that the next big step is around the corner which is voice recognition that is so good that no one will bother to type. I use Nuance's Dragon for a lot of my writing since a couple of years and today it hardly bothers a half i7-processor-core. It runs equally well on a iPhone 3GS. So much for lack of power ...

    I see daily that businesses that had a very strict Blackberry rule, suddenly allow iPads because the executives or management want them. The biggest benefit of iOS touch apps is that the ones that aren't just ported PC or browser appplications are intuitive and don't require training. To train a person to use ONE APPLICATION is more expensive than the whole PC.

    The other key issue that will kill PCs even in the enterprise is application deployment. I already pointed out in a previous question here and on Andrew Smith's blog that it is the AppStore ecosystem and not the mobile device that makes all the difference.

    While PCs are here to stay it is clearly the beginning of the end of the PC-dominated era. And while we are at it, the BROWSER is equally doomed!

  • Indeed we are – I’d say that we’re already beyond it. I think that the proliferation of web applications is the curtain call of the PC era, leading the way to the Cloud era. I consider myself an avid PC user and cherish its stand-alone autonomy, yet I already use my PC mostly to access web based applications. And without web access, much of the stand-alone value would become a moot (or should I say Stale?) point.

    The PC era introduced the practice of Business Empowered IT, in which the central IT department was short-circuited by business units who needed situational solutions “now and here”.

    The introduction of the Cloud and SaaS brought back some of the PC era Business Empowered IT practices, as the well-known example of Salesforce.com demonstrated. But at a very different level. What we see now is actually Business Empowered Solutions (or Business Technology, as Forrester termed it), in which what really matters is the process and not the IT implementation.

    The PC, or any other IT equipment, has become immaterial and a commodity.

    I expand on this topic at Cloud and the end of the PC era.

    So here we go – applause to the good old PC, and Hello Cloud.

  • What is a "personal computer" anyway? It can be a small handheld device (hooked to a keyboard and monitor, if need be), it can be that clamshell device you sit on your lap, it can be something larger sitting on the floor. Is not the Apple device you hold in your hand a PC for all intents and purposes?

    That being said, we will probably always need something with the standard PC form factor, meaning a desktop set-up and large monitor. Can you imagine a call center rep trying to access your account information from his or her Blackberry? Can you imagine writing a detailed business proposal or white paper from your iPhone?

  • I think the more relevant point is that "PCs" as we normally think of them - boxes with keyboards and monitors - are not where the action is.

    The action is in mobile phone and tablets and possibly other form factors we'll see in the future. The "PC" is not going to be where the volume of sales are in the future, perhaps. Steve Jobs said PC's were like "trucks" ... well, check the sales on autos in the US, trucks are >50% of sales. That would be a great fate for PC manufacturers :)

    Finally, as Avigdor points out, the "action" in software is in lightweight apps + cloud, and web apps + cloud, and web content... the device is in danger of being commoditized (or already is in most cases).

    Doesn't mean there won't be a ton of pc's sold over the next decade, it just won't be as interesting of a market.

  • As Lori said so well, "No, we are not." Until there are non-PC solutions for inputting data (which is now best done by keystrokes), we will depend on PC's in the form of laptops and desktops (and desktops are going to become less important).

    On the data consumption side, however, we are absolutely moving toward tablets and other mobile devices. Touches and swipes are powerful and fast ways to access information, and an occasional search doesn't justify having a keyboard.

    Business process will benefit from this trend as the applications become mobile and process data is accessed, analyzed and acted upon wherever and whenever it is needed. Distributed workforces are already consuming process data on oil platforms in the North Sea, with the enormous benefit of access to owned, change managed and mobile-device enabled operational and safety procedures in the moment and physical location they are needed. If you see it, you get it immediately, and you realize it wouldn't happen if not for the move away from fixed PC's and laptops.

  • no. We will use PCs for many years to come. However, they could be a lot different from current PCs.
    Joe ask the key question What is a "personal computer" anyway?. My answer is if it looks like PC and "behaves" like PC it is a PC.
    The future PCs will be not as "smart" as current PCs because most apps will be SaaS apps. Business users do not need to manage complex software systems on their desktops. Virtualization tecnologies such as VDI will soon make complex desktops software unnecessary. Most home users are not able to manage these complex systems properly anyway.
    Its Operating System will be simple and most of current features will be ommited or moved to the Web. The Operating System will be a kind of new incarnation of the failing Network Computer advocated by Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy in the 1990s.
    read an old post I wrote
    Do we need a Consumer Operating System?

    But users and especially developers, still need a large enough screen, mouse and keyboard so the future PC will look like PC and behave like PC and we still will name it PC at least until a totally new kind of human intrface (voice?) will replace current human interface.

  • Why spend time on thinking about if the pc will disappear or not?

    Are you still using a horse to carry your goods? New technologies will come and disappear. If they are useful they might stay for some time (for example the pc) if they are not, they will have a short life.

    If any technology enables a process to perform better at affordable costs, why not?

    Next question ;-)

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