What is the Post-PC era and are we there yet?


IBM PCI picked up on a debate between Michael Greenland and Simon May questioning whether we are living in a Post-PC era, or to put it another way, do we still need PCs?

They both summarise their thoughts well and at first I agreed with both of them to some extent. However, in my opinion, neither of them go far enough.

Michael thinks we are already Post-PC as he explains on his blog. he backs this up by saying on his blog

… many people are carrying around with them a smartphone that is as fast, in terms of processor speed, as a laptop in 2003. In other words – the device in our pocket can do a similar job to a laptop from seven years ago.

So – why are we ‘Post-PC’? The rub here – is that entire businesses, can now be run away from a fixed location – or away from a laptop…

The mass population though, as group of users are now stepping away from the ‘box’, and bringing ‘The Grid’ with them…

Simon counters this by saying that the Wikipedia definition for a PC needs updating, his blog reads

… A lot of people are wedded to the idea that the PC is a grey box ‘o bits on your desk with a keyboard and a mouse.  It’s not.  It’s a human enablement device something that lets you do something in a general purpose way, an affordable price and in the right size (read that as form factor).  That form factor is going to change because technology changes as will the price, as will what people want to do with it.  So the premise for my believing that we are not in the post PC era is that what we are in the post grey box era and people saw an object and believed it to be a definition…

While I agree with what Simon says about the PC is now the phone in your pocket or the slate in your briefcase that doesn’t really help us figure out when will we be in a post-PC world.

To me, “post-PC” is something we are seeing the beginning of but it’s not due to the latest slate/tablet or whatever smartphone is around. Those devices are, as Simon states, still Personal Computers.

Post-PC is not about the device, it is about the user.

I, as a person, will become “post-PC” when I don’t need to worry about one particular device. The Internet was the beginning of the journey and the “cloud” is taking it to the next level (along with the connected services and devices). Post-PC is when people come before the device

The Microsoft Future Vision 2019 video (see below) is a good example of what I see “Post-PC” as, with children communicating through glass etc. This is not because the beige box isn’t on the table, or they aren’t using a smartphone to Skype one another, but because of the way they are communicating with each other without barriers.

Microsoft Office Labs Vision 2019 Montage

Technology is a big barrier. “Change” is another big barrier. Fortunately, children are now born in to technology. The children of today will see our mice and keyboards as dated as we may view a BBC Micro. As we progress through time the barriers will fall by the way-side and maybe then we can claim to be post-PC.

Showed the kids here how to eat corn-on-the-cob typewriter style. Now explaining typewriter - @beingtheo
Twaggie Illustration by Kaz Foxsen
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8 thoughts on “What is the Post-PC era and are we there yet?

  1. Excellent post – for me, post-PC will only exist when we have the internet hardwired into our augmented human bodies…actually it’s probably coser to an all pervasive “internet of things” where everything is internet enabled, right down to my coffee mug.

  2. Nice post Thom.

    The original question was about if we’re living in a Post-PC world already. I think we are. Mobiles and Tablets are not PC’s. They may be PC-like, but are not what we would describe as a bone-fide PC. I think the PC, as a model, is old hat. We’ve moved on.

    I do agree that Post-PC is all about the user. It’s about user enablement. However – I think we shouldn’t get too carried away.

    ‘Augmented Human Bodies’ and Coffee Mugs with internet? No. The idea that the internet is enabled in EVERY transaction of our lives is a folly. It won’t be.

    The promise of Post-PC, and our enabled future – is about how human needs for information are satisfied, or enabled. It’s not ‘how can I bring the tech into every facet of my life?’.

    True enablement only comes when something is truly useful. Coffee Mugs, on the net? Sorry, but no.

    Simon – we need to get the video discussion going 🙂

    1. While iCoffee may be a step too far (and I don’t think Simon was being too serious!) there are already refrigerators that keep an eye on your stock levels and order replacements to be delivered. That is a good example of a Post-PC world as the “user” doesn’t need to log on to any PC/Smartphone, they “hardware” can effectively think for itself (or as it was programmed to think)

  3. I think we truly are Post-PC then – I think you agree with me Thom.

    For me, the term ‘PC’ remains in the past, where it lives with a Sony Walkman, a Betamax collection featuring Miami Vice and some really skinny ties. And Thriller, Top-Gun, Sixteen Candles and Nik Kershaw. And Monster Munch. And Post-it notes.

    ‘Personal Computer’ is a leading edge term from the 70’s, coined when computers filled a room. In essence – when everyone has a PC (and it’s normal), no-one has. I think we’ve moved on.

    1. Well I definitely agree the term “PC” will fade into the past. My kids would probably never use it.
      They are more likely to say, “I want to go on the Internet”, or, “I want to play a game” rather than, “can I go on the Computer”.
      Again it’s about what they want to achieve, not how they achieve it.

      However, don’t agree with your thoughts on Monster Munch, they are very much in the present. In fact, I’m off to get a packet of pickled onion now!

  4. I don’t think we’ll be Post-PC any time soon – then again maybe the PC will just keep developing as people program the PC to do other jobs. I still need my PC to do my work (although I can sign into my work emails via the browser on my phone when necessary but it still has a server at the end to send out the information.

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