Should We Care About The “Death” Of The PC?

"So how are you handling the death of the PC?"

It happens all the time: I'll be talking to someone about technology and the conversation will turn to how Intel is coping with the death of their core business. It's an interesting question but one that's based on a shaky premise; the idea that the PC industry is dying.  Are PC sales slowing down?  Sure. Does that mean personal computing is dying?  Not really. The fact is the PC is evolving, just like so many other technologies have.  PC's, those large, bulky, noisy boxes that used to sit on our desks and floors, are evolving into several different form factors as a response to how consumers want to receive their content and work in a computer environment. It may seem a little like side-stepping, but this is actually what's happening. Someone who might have bought a tower PC ten years ago might be in the market for a PC today and decide on something smaller and more attractive. He or she may want the power and functionality of a desktop PC but not the loud fan or the unattractive cables running from the box to the monitor. Something like the Intel Next Unit of Computing fits that role nicely. For all practical purposes it IS a PC, just a very tiny (and quiet) one. What's more is it can be attached to the back of the monitor, putting it neatly out of site.

Let's say another user needs a PC for their home business but also likes the idea of being able to move it from room to room easily. So rather than disconnecting a bunch of cables, lugging a large tower and monitor into another room every so often, that person might instead opt for a portable all-in-one design. It gives them the power they need but also the portability of just picking it up and carrying it into a different room.

And then there are the users who want to be fully portable. They want to be able to carry their device with them and work on the go, but they still need the power of a PC. They need the graphics and the processing power. They'd opt for a tablet, no question.

All of these devices have something in common at their core: they're all personal computers. We just don't call them that. Each one of them has its roots in the PC and is simply an evolution of that technology. Each one of them is a personal computing device. It's personal because it's yours, and it computes stuff for you.

Some people equate the PC to the dinosaur; they once ruled the Earth but now they're completely gone. I think that misses the point. We shouldn't be focused on the PC, but on computing itself. We may be seeing less of the PC as we've known it for the past few decades but computing is alive and well.  It wasn't too far back in history that most of us got around in horse-drawn wagons. Wagons didn't "die", they evolved into cars. So while the wagon gradually disappeared transportation is alive and well. These days none of us want to hitch up a wagon to get somewhere, but I'm pretty sure we still need to get there. That's really what evolution is all about; better ways of doing something. Sure the size and shape of the box will change, but the core idea of what it's there for stays the same. What we need to do is offer consumers a compelling, efficient, effective computing experience that's better than the old one. When we're making the "next big thing" we have to ask ourselves; is this a cool new toy with lots of pretty lights, or does it actually improve on what we already have?  A watch you can take a call on sounds neat, but if it's not more convenient than using your phone then why bother?  A tablet that lets you edit spreadsheets is great, but if doing it that way is harder than on your PC then why change? Make something better, faster, more efficient and it will take off like a rocket.  Make something different for the sake of different and it will likely fail.

So when someone asks me about the death of the PC I remind them it's not about personal computers, it's about personal computing.

Jason Hoffman

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