October 1, 2012
MG Siegler writes:
The PC is over. It will linger, but increasingly as a relic.
I now dread using my computer. I want to use a tablet most of the time. And increasingly, I can. I want to use a smartphone all the rest of the time. And I do.
The value in the desktop web is increasingly an illusion. Given the rate at which these mobile devices are improving, a plunge is rapidly approaching.
Don’t build an app based on your website. Build the app that acts as if websites never existed in the first place. Build the app for the person who has never used a desktop computer. Because they’re coming. Soon.
Realize that MG Siegler is a journalist, and a TechCrunch air-quotes journalist at that, so he's well versed in hyperbole. You might say he's a billion times better at hyperbole than the average blogger. In his own way, he is a creator, I suppose: he creates hype.
But he's not entirely wrong here.
I've noticed the same pattern in my own computing habits. As I wrote in The Last PC Laptop, it's becoming more and more difficult to justify any situation where a traditional laptop is your best choice – even a modern, svelte, fancypants laptop.
Desktops, on the other hand, are perfectly justifiable. That is, if you want three monitors, eight blazingly fast CPU cores, 64 GB of memory, and fire-breathing multi-GPU configurations. If you need absurd, obscene amounts of power, a desktop computer is the way to go. And it's probably cheaper than you think, because desktops are all built from the same interchangeable pool of parts. It's also a lot more fun than laptops, because willingness to tinker combined with lust for ostentatious power is the essence of hot rodding.
And it is freakin' awesome.
But even as an inveterate PC hot-rodder, I've noticed that in the last few years I've started to lose interest in the upgrade treadmill of ever faster CPUs with more cores, more sophisticated GPUs, more bandwidth, more gigabytes of RAM. Other than solid state drives, which gave us a badly needed order of magnitude improvement in disk speeds, when was the last time you felt you needed to upgrade a powerful desktop or laptop computer? If I dropped a SSD in it, do you honestly think you could tell the difference in real world non-gaming desktop usage between a high end 2009 personal computer and one from today?
Because I'm not sure I could.
Imagine the despair of a hot-rodder who regularly sees the streets awash in boring Chrysler K-Cars and Plymouth minivans with more ponies under the hood than a sweet custom rig he built just two years ago.
I think we're way past the point of satisfying the computing performance needs of the typical user. I'd say we hit that around the time dual CPU cores became mainstream, perhaps 2008 or so. What do you do when you have all the computing performance anyone could ever possibly need, except for the freakish one-percenters, the video editors and programmers? Once you have "enough" computing power, for whatever value of "enough" we can agree to disagree on, the future of computing is, and always has been, to make the computers smaller and cheaper. This is not some new trend that MG Siegler revealed unto the world from his journalistic fortress of solitude.
We've already seen this before in the transition from mainframes that fit in a building, to minicomputers that fit in a room, to microcomputers that fit on your desk. Now we're ready for the next stage: computers that don't just fit in your lap, they fit in your hand
. The name of the game is no longer to make computers more powerful, but to radically reduce their size and power consumption without compromising the performance too much.
I mentioned how boring the performance scene has gotten for laptops and desktops. It's so boring that I can't be bothered to dig up representative benchmarks. Let's just assume that, outside of SSDs, there have been at best cost-of-living inflation type improvements in desktop and laptop benchmarks since 2008. Now contrast that with the hyperbolic performance improvement in the iPhone since 2008:
In case the graph didn't make it clear, in the last four years of iPhone, we've seen a factor of 20 improvement in Browsermark and a factor of four improvement in GeekBench. In the smartphone world, performance is – in the worst case – almost doubling every year.
Ironically enough, these results were printed in PC magazine. I'd like to draw your attention to two little letters in the title of said magazine. The first one is Pee, and the second one is Cee. That's right, PC Magazine is now in the business of printing the kind of smartphone performance benchmarks that are enough to make any hotrodder drool. What does that have to do with PCs? Well, it has everything to do with PCs, actually.
I have an iPhone 5, and I can personally attest that it is crazy faster than the old iPhone 4 I upgraded from. Once you add in 4G, LTE, and 5 GHz WiFi support, it's so fast that – except for the obvious size limitations of a smaller screen – I find myself not caring that much if I get the "mobile" version of websites any more. Even before the speed, I noticed the dramatically improved display. AnandTech says that if the iPhone 5 display was a desktop monitor, it would be the best one they had ever tested. Our phones are now so damn fast and capable as personal computers that I'm starting to wonder why I don't just use the thing I always have in my pocket as my "laptop", plugging it into a keyboard and display as necessary.
So maybe MG Siegler is right. The PC is over … at least in the form that we knew it. We no longer need giant honking laptop and desktop form factors for computers any more than we need entire rooms and floors of a building to house mainframes and minicomputers.
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Posted by Jeff Atwood
It's true that for most people all their computing needs can be met by a phone or tablet but people are taking that assumption way too far. What about an accountant? Are they going to do spreadsheets on their tablet? Obviously not. If you had a monitor and keyboard at work and at home a tablet could maybe suffice for this type of demographic, but it's still not practical. The main reason being that the applications are watered down because they're designed with the 8.9 inch touch screen in mind.
Maybe if all the tablet productivity apps had a "docked" version that was fully featured. That would work for the business people but why would the tech industry bother to provide that them? We won't do that for two reasons; we'd be losing a lot of the work put in on our existing products, and we'd be merging two markets when it would be more profitable to keep them separate.
The 'human factor' of one Jeff Atwood is strong in this case. Hotrodding has become less interesting to you - because of you, not because of something technological. That's about growing up and stuff. ;)
The rest of the article: sure, we're beyond satisfying typical user needs. We have been for a much longer time, actually - we computer geeks are not typical users.
@Dleppik "CargoBot was written entirely with Codea, a Lua IDE for the iPad."
What you failed to mention is the fact that you still need a desktop pc (or laptop) in order to compile the program and upload it to the app store.
Good luck programming, and running apps on your mac air, ipads etc. PC is never going to die for developers, programmers and people who use them at work. this is ridiculous. I sense an apple fanboy!!
I'm surprised to hear this from you because I've read your blog long enough to know you're a productivity focused guy. My day job provides me a nice machine (3+ GHz quad-core hyperthreaded CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive), but I'm very frequently pushing its limits.
And it's not that I'm playing Skyrim in the office. I'm often working on architectural diagrams and/or reverse engineering code in Enterprise Architect while I have two or three sessions of Visual Studio 2010 open, a couple of version control system apps (usually Perforce and Mercurial), always Microsoft OneNote, usually Microsoft Word, sometimes Excel/Access, and two or three virtual machines running various servers/clients for deploying/testing code and/or doing research into other things. And of course that says nothing about the memory/CPU hog that is Outlook 2010.
Sorry, but I max out my use of the system I have, and I'd love to have another 1 - 2 monitors and more RAM. I'd use that too. When I'm working at home I regularly have between three and five machines maxed out, depending upon what I'm doing.
Used to be, back in the day of 80 column monitors, that I'd print out sections of a program on green-bar paper, and crawl around on the floor with colored markers.
Sometimes, you simply need to see more of what is going on, at once, than you can squeeze through an 80x25 character display.
I've not done that in a couple of decades. Monitors are larger, resolution is higher, the ability of editors to display relevant sections from disparate large files have improved, and using multiple monitors is now a sine qua non.
But tablets? They're a huge step backwards when it comes to working with large amounts of data.
But then, laptops aren't all that much better. Laptops, at least, can work with docking stations that allow you to easily connect them multiple large monitors, quality keyboards, mice, pens, etc.
Tablets won't replace PCs until they can do the same.
We're a mobile development shop, so we're armed to teeth with all kinds of tablets and smartphones. Most of your non-development staff is equipped with personal iPads. Yet, it's mostly their MacBooks I see them lugging around.
Why? Because tablets, at least in their current form, are incredibly cumbersome and inadequate for any kind of even semi serious work. You don't want to type your Emails on it. You certainly don't want to develop or design on it. You can't really use them to display your office docs or presentations on it, because it's either just way to much work to get a hold of your files or get the programs to display them. Before they bother to put the stuff they made on their PCs on their tablets, they just bring their PCs. Tablets are essentially still a toy.
And until you can optionally plug in some proper input devices, like a keyboard and yes, a mouse and actually run some decent productivity apps on them, they will remain just that.
I guess Microsoft is currently in the best position to deliver just that. But they wouldn't be Microsoft if they couldn't manage to squander that opportunity somehow.
I've been rocking a tablet-pc since 2002. I currently have a hp tm2t. The only thing I want in this world is a proper pc that is just the screen, and have the keyboard detach. Microsoft surface w/ intel processor, (or, in my case the equivalent lenovo offerings) are going to meet this dream.
And all the bitching about accuracy on a tablet, they haven't used a good digitizer pen-enabled computer.
As for gaming, the mobile graphics cards are improving at quite a hitch.
Tablets are just PCs in another form factor, most often running and OS other than Windows or Mac OS. Soon, they will be running the latest version of Windows.
It is best, to be a bit philosophically correct about this. PCs ARE personal computers, and that is what tablets are.
The greatest change in paradigm here is the move towards using these as terminals for centralized computing instead of local application processors. I.e. whether the move into cloud services will be total or the market and need for local processing remains. This has the potential to deeply change the way we use IT, since we are practically both handing over the responsibility but also the power and control of ones software to third parties; this goes for your data as well. The biggest issue is, how much we really want to integrate our personal lives with corporate interests and influence.
Besides that, its all down to peripherals.
Fantasy 1 (soon)
- Small phone sized computing unit
- Wireless charging - so many places, you never run dry
- Wireless interfacing (data transfer - video, audio, data)
- Hexacore 2GHz low voltage CPU
- Very fast & secure wifi - 4-5G
- All wireless connection to TV, Keyboard, Mouse, Touchpads
Kinetic, 2D printers, 3D printers, 3D glasses, Hifi, Car,
Google Glasses, Projectors - Everything IT now and then.
In this scenario. The PC is not dead, it just evolved. This I think, we will see soon.
And, not so soon...
Fantasy 2 (total sci fi stuff, you will see it, if your under 40)
- Implanted or wearable computing (Whatever is easiest)
- Mind Control & interfacing. (Already done, to some degree)
- Direct neural interfacing. (Stuff projected direct into cortex)
- Total augmented reality experience. Code becomes reality.
- AI: Paradigm change, how much thinking and control do you want?
I think - thats where it is all going. The PC will never die, I think humanity will die before the PC. After which the P will be taken out of the equation and there simply is Computer. Thats when it dies - without the person the personal computer siezes to exist :-)
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Know what a laptop can do that a tablet can't? Multi-task
Good article! Thank you so much for sharing this post. Your views truly open my mind.
The one argument in favor of desktops that really struck a chord with me was the following (I'm paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact sentence): "Everything that my tablet/smartphone can do, my desktop does it better. Except giving phone calls".
Just an example that happened right away: I need to go somewhere I've never been to tonight. I always like to first take a look at where I shall be going using Google Maps / satellite view / street view to "get a feel" of what I'm up to. Did I use my iPhone to check Google Maps? My girlfriend's iPad? No... I did launch maps.google.com on my 27" desktop and this gives me the best overview about the itinerary.
Then tonight I'll be driving there and... I'll have the help of my car's integrated GPS to get there.
My iPhone? Useful? Sure, if I do get a phonecall today...
I do think most casual users will abandon desktops: and good riddance to them!
There is no conceivable way any smartphone or other 'mobile computing device' can replace the functionality of a keyboard, desk, mouse, and multiple monitors; that revolution will come with the advent of neural interfaces, or some other mechanism which allow the degree of flexibility and flat-out speed of a desktop interface while on the go.
Of course, if we think texting and driving is bad -- what about coding & driving? Or watching porn in our retinal implants and driving? I guess it's probably good that manual vehicular control will be an anachronism before much longer, provided civilisation doesn't collapse first.
Anyway, the desktop is dead: long live the desktop!
Tablets and smartphones can already drive a decent screen (lots of them have HDMI out, iOS can use AirPlay), but it's going to take some reengineering to be able to use the tablet as the input device and the big screen to see what you're doing. You might decide that you don't need a mouse any more - and you can use the tablet for some basic text entry, too. You could certainly do a powerpoint presentation with an iPad as your input and a decent monitor as output, for example, provided the software had a desktop mode as well as the tablet mode (I wonder if Windows 8 will move in that direction).
I can't see anyone ever wanting to input large amounts of text without a keyboard with some travel on it, though. RSI is bad enough with an ergo keyboard on a proper desk. Even laptops make it worse, and what it's like doing large amounts of data entry on an iPad doesn't bear thinking about.
That means that any creative activity that requires large amounts of text also requires a real keyboard - which includes programming, of course. There are some other jobs that are text-heavy: lawyers, for example, but perhaps the best example of all are writers. If you read any blog by a novelist, you will endlessly read about them managing their RSI to get enough words into the computer.
The future in technology is moving to smaller and more concise technology. Efficiency and performance are the key factors. To combine both, you make things smaller and faster.
For businesses, where I work most, the software is the key. Whether we use it on tablets or desktops, software must enable us to get the job done. I guess it's a matter of opinion when it comes to which device to use. The older generation typically enjoys larger gadgets and the new, upcoming generation wants the smaller ones. It's whatever you were raised on.
But we need good software in business to be efficient. http://www.allshore.us/
The first time I used a minicomputer in the seventies, I wanted one but could not afford one. So when more affordable PCs became available, I bought one (1978: paid $4k for an Apple2 with 48k memory, 16k language card, 2 floppy drives; At this same time a new Chevrolet Camaro cost $8k). In 2012, people stood in line for 5 days to buy a scuffed iPhone5 for $699, $799, or $899. I find this odd since this is close to the price range of a decent PC based upon Intel's Core-i7. To me, buying an iPhone at these prices is a dumb as paying $200 for a pair of sneakers with a red light in the heel.
Even if I didn't code, I would never switch to tablets until they allowed me to do everything I can on a PC and just as efficiently. Writing with a virtual keyboard doesn't compare with using a physical one. I like playing games of all kinds -not just casual ones- with a gamepad or a keyboard and a mouse. I can surf much faster using Firefox thanks to many of its time-saving extensions than I can with a tablet. I like multitasking, customization and freedom. Tablets might be alright for casual users who like simplicity, but they're a joke for power users.
"This whole "tablets are for consumers, PCs for creators" meme is ridiculous. Next they'll be claiming you can't create on paper because it doesn't have a keyboard. Yes, they have constraints that PCs don't have; but that doesn't prevent creation, it just changes what you can create."
Not really. There's nothing you create on a tablet that you can't create faster and more efficiently on a PC. Prove me wrong.
"Its amusing to witness the arrogance of many here."
It's amusing to see your paranoia.
"The simple fact is that the vast majority of people don't code. They don't do statistical analysis of big data. They don't edit movies."
No, but plenty of non-programming people write long texts, multitask and game. Tablets are nowhere close to touching PCs in those areas.
"For everyone else - a tablet and/or a smart phone will work just fine for their work and play."
Not if you need to do your work efficiently.
Interesting article. I find myself loosing interest in "the upgrade treadmill" as you describe here. In fact I do not have a working desktop computer, but use my laptop. I use it both at home and at work.
I use my iPhone a lot and has minimized the need to use a computer to do simple stuff, such as e-mail and being social on the Net. Of course the iPad is handy as well.
"Its amusing to witness the arrogance of many here.
The simple fact is that the vast majority of people don't code. They don't do statistical analysis of big data. They don't edit movies. For these tasks - use the appropriate tool to complete those tasks. Which is typically a desktop or high end laptop. For everyone else - a tablet and/or a smart phone will work just fine for their work and play.
I now return you back to your echo chamber and fake outrage."
What a load of bullshit. I don't do any of those tasks and yet a tablet or a smartphone would NEVER satisfy my needs. I like being productive in my work -which means I must be able to use a keyboard-, I'm always downloading stuff off the web, and I would be bored senseless if all the games I played were casual touch-screen based iOS games.
You seem to be under the impression that no one who isn't a data analyst, a programmer or someone who specializes in video editing cares about productivity or plays non-iOS games. Why? Because YOU don't care about any of that stuff? Well, I must say that it's amusing to witness your arrogance.
This whole "tablets are for consumers, PCs for creators" meme is ridiculous. Next they'll be claiming you can't create on paper because it doesn't have a keyboard. Yes, they have constraints that PCs don't have; but that doesn't prevent creation, it just changes what you can create.
If by "it just changes what you can create" you mean "it limits both the quality and quantity of stuff that you can create", then you're right.
"in that comic, the guy seems to have ended up in the same place. Except with his new setup, he can actually get up and take the screen with him as a tablet."
He would be able to get up and take his computer with him if he used a laptop, too. And not only that, but he also would have a far more productive tool and would be able to use a keyboard wherever he's.
"For people claiming that tablets are just too underpowered, that's true for now, but I think that's a shortsighted view. As the supply of fast, reliable mobile Internet increases to meet demand, the concept of "augmented capabilities" will become more and more common."
Tablets will ALWAYS be too underpowered. That's the very point of tablets, that they're less powerful than regular computers and thus are lighter and have better battery life than laptops.
When we claim that smartphones and tablets are made mostly for consumption, and that laptops and desktops are where most of the creation and editing takes place, we ignore the fact that a huge amount of photographs and digital video is created directly on phones and tablets and then uploaded to Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, or other clouds.
This should not be so casually overlooked in the battle to understand the balance between creation and consumption.
Well what about the ergonomic factor. Sitting there with a tablet or small device all day, how does one avoid getting all kinds of physical issues? You cannot work on these small devices all day without getting pains and aches. And working on them solely all the time? Ouch.
What do you do when you have all the computing performance anyone could ever possibly need, except for the freakish one-percenters, the video editors and programmers. london apartments
^ You keep using your computer, rather than switching to a inferior (as in more limited and less versatile, productive and powerful) device such as a tablet.
And enough with the moronic "only 1% of people need power" myth, already. Gamers need to upgrade their PCs every few years and they definitely make up far more than 1% of people.
Well, like you, I'm a professional but I don't know how I could get rid off of my laptop for work? What are your suggestions about that? モンクレール レディース
I've been reading similar posts about the post-PC era since 2006 (regardless of the dawn of tablets and whatnot).
The only thing which ever happened since then is that PCs have become more powerful.
In a nutshell, the statement "The PC is Over" is opinionated utter nonsense.
You pull out the pliers, but they don’t have those serrated surfaces; it’s flat and smooth. That’s less useful, but it still turns bolts well enough, so whatever. Páginas Amarillas
no more desktops, no more PC's. They want tablets that they can bring with them, that are completely wireless with a touch-screen and a nice bag to carry it in. So yeah, I can see how the PC is disappearing, becoming less and less interesting for the mundanes while the experts still need them. buy facebook fans
I now own an iPhone 5, several retina iPads, and a Nexus 7. I'm sure there are many more of these devices on the way. In the calculus of deciding what kind of computing device I want with me, even the most awesome ultraportable laptop I can find is no longer enough. iPhone 5 Unlock
That's is true. So, as long as you're not involved in any kind of productivity area that involves PC's (I work on film editing and 3D design) and you only consume content instead of creating in, well, you're nice and tidy on a tablet and a smartphone. buy facebook fans
Tablet / Smartphone computers offer great trips and convenient way to view, read, listen to music and podcasts, and so on. This works, of course, if you should not be productive, and if you do not mind small text sometimes cowardly behavior, difficulty printing (iPad), the problems of data entry, no flash, and so on. And if Apple Tablet, if you do not mind being tied to control freaks of the company. Android App Development
there are 3 flaws to the argument the the PC is over for most users.
1- offices will continue to use PC for they won't want their employees using their own tablets with "who-knows-what-software(malware)" on it. And there is zero advantage in using tablets. Actually what will likely happen is one PC/server will service multiple users, each with their own monitor, etc. And offices are still going to be a plenty for some time.
2- virtual worlds will increasingly become more popular not only for entertainment but also for communication, it'll gradually become more worthwhile to meet online then offline. And that will continue to require the greatest performance available for quite some time.
3- the upcoming rise of A.I.s and distributed computing (I.E. for large projects), lending/selling/donating computing cycles; will basically mean: the better processing-power/price ratio the better, no matter what the individual processing-power requirements are.