The PC is far from dead
This week, my colleague Joe Wilcox wrote about the popular catch-phrase these days -- the "post-PC era". The only problem: this concept is wrong. Yes, he included lots of analyst information, fancy numbers and predictions, but none of it is realistic to the vast majority of computing users.
Yes, tablets are popular. There is no denying that. The iPad, despite not being the first tablet, brought the concept into the real world. Amazon and Google made the devices affordable. Sure, tablets make a great solution for checking email, weather and answering a question about that movie or show on your TV -- the one that occurs while sitting on your sofa.
But, what more can it really do? Play games? Sure, that adds to the enjoyment. After all, Angry Birds looks much better on a seven or 10-inch screen than it does on one sized to a smartphone.
But, as Mark Twain famously said, "rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated". So to have been those same rumors surrounding our trusty desktops and laptops.
Do you think I could write this post from a tablet? If I did I would have already torn out my hair before I got this far.
In my previous life I had to occasionally write a report or prepare a PowerPoint presentation. Try doing that on your iPad and then we can talk. My daughter has term papers to write and if I handed her a tablet, even with a Bluetooth keyboard, I expect I would not be in the running for "dad of the year".
I alluded to Angry Birds, which is great on a bigger screen. But what else will you play? Battlefield 3? Think again. PC gaming is still popular and guess where it can be played?
Mobile gaming is fun, but it is just a time waster, not something even considered by serious gamers and those of the MMORPG crowd. Those folks want a real computer, and probably one with a name like AlienWare on it.
Size does Matter
Screens? Seven inches is great when you lie in bed looking at the news or weather. Want to gather your family around to watch the latest release on Netflix? Hell, the computer is bad enough for that, but try doing it on a tablet. See my "legacy" section below for more on this.
All of the talk seems to be about tablet sales. But it is a ghost in the sense that the devices are basically disposable. Every time a new iPad is released people line up for it, even though most of them have one that is practically new and perfectly fine. When was the last time you saw lines for a new computer, regardless if it was Apple or Windows?
Computers do not sell like tablets. We keep them until they die, and even then we sometimes try to fix and repurpose them. The two devices are not in the same category. So forget the sales figures because they are not relevant when comparing different pieces of technology.
Perhaps HTPCs are going the way of the dinosaur, and set-top boxes like Roku and Google TV are moving into that space, but they are not gone yet and they still have a loyal following. Your Google TV still cannot act as a DVR or process a cable card. For those who choose to go through the building and setup process, the Media Center, or equivalent type of computer, is still the best device to have in a home theater.
On the Surface
If anything, the computer will not be replaced by a tablet or smartphone, but by a hybrid device like the new Microsoft Surface. It can function as a tablet or a laptop. It wont replace that HTPC, but it can do pretty much anything else.
Even the Surface provides a rather small screen for some of the functions I mentioned, but devices like it could be the future. But that future is not here yet, and it will not be brought into existence by analyst reports or the web sites that cover them. The future will be shaped by what real people want and need.