About six months ago, I placed tongue firmly in cheek and wrote satirically in FOSS Force about how we are entering the “pre-post-PC era” in technology. Depending on whom I’m talking to about this topic, sometimes I bring it up just to watch their eyes glaze over.
But for all intents and purposes, I unequivocally believe that all the talk about desktops and laptops being obsolete is hilariously misguided nonsense.
The bottom line: In our mythical race to find The Next Great Thing™, people who know better — or at least are given too much credit in the intelligence department — are grasping at straws because, heck, sooner or later they’ll be right about something.
Apparently I’m not the only one who will not go gentle into that good night of laptop/desktop form-factor obsolescence.
Avram Piltch, online editorial director of Laptop magazine, writes in an online article this week that the “death of PC” hype is dangerous, and now “has the potential to limit the tools you can use to work and play.”
Hmmm. Where have I heard this before?
Piltch starts off comparing the “tech journalism echo chamber” with “a high school cafeteria where disappointing sales news gets passed around and amplified like gossip from the popular kids’ table” and posits that “[p]redictably, pundits repeated the popular mantra that ‘The PC is dying,’ a piece of common wisdom that’s become a dangerously self-fulfilling prophecy.”
He also points out that a declining PC market is not the PC dying, but rather it’s more a reflection of a maturing, developing market for both PC and handheld hardware.
“[R]eports show that media consumption on the PC is growing and is still far ahead of phones for certain content types,” Piltch writes. “Common sense also dictates that a full-fledged computer is still the best or only way to perform certain key functions.”
Right. Let me repeat that last line in case you were distracted: “Common sense also dictates that a full-fledged computer is still the best or only way to perform certain key functions.”
There are a lot of those, but let’s go to my favorite example – one that’s not too widely used, but serves as a good example. Let’s take a key function for programmers, like using vi or Emacs. As some cranky FOSS Force columnist once mentioned, both of these are available for Android. Go ahead and download them on your smartphone and then use them. I’ll wait. Or I can save you the trouble and say that using vi or Emacs on a smartphone or a tablet is akin to cooking a hot dog with a match.
Now try using Blender. Go ahead, I’ll wait, but I’ll also offer a spoiler alert: cooking a steak with a match.
The article brings up an interesting metric: “In a recent report, analytics firm comScore noted that digital-media consumption on the desktop continues to be in an upswing, though phone and tablet usage is growing even faster.
“‘While most of the growth in digital-media consumption over the past four years has occurred on smartphones (up 394 percent) and tablets (up 1,721 percent), these mobile platforms are not eating into aggregate time spent on desktop, which has still grown 37 percent over this time period,’ the report said. ‘The digital-media pie continues to get bigger, and Americans engage with screens during more occasions throughout the day than ever before.'”
Despite declining laptop/PC sales — for reasons ranging from hardware longevity (versus smartphones, which are replaced far more often than computer hardware, which the article explains in detail) — the laptop/PC form factor has established its place in our homes and digital lifestyles.
“Even though people won’t stop using (or buying) computers any time soon, the widespread but incorrect belief that computers are on the way out has serious implications,” Piltch writes. “Corporate executives, investors and developers read the same news stories as everyone else and change their plans accordingly.”
Piltch concludes with this: “The future belongs to those who can code and build new things with technology, all tasks that require the power of a PC. Let’s hope the PC ecosystem remains strong for them.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
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