Give up the PC? Get real! You’d have to pry the keyboard and mouse from my cold, dead hands

My friend and colleague Joe Wilcox has a long history of quitting tech. He famously declared his independence from Apple and a month ago said he was done with Facebook. Yesterday he announced he was quitting the PC, and switching to using a Google Nexus 10 as his primary computing device. He says the journey will be tumultuous, I say why do it then?

The truth is, the transition for Joe probably won’t be that difficult. He currently uses a Chromebook as his PC and has embraced the cloud. He is a PC user, but he’s not a real PC user. A real PC user can’t just switch to a tablet and after a few weeks be happy with the change. I love my iPad, and I loved Surface for the short time I had it. But a tablet could never be a replacement for my desktop system.

Joe needs a device he can access the web on, and do some writing on. I need a powerhouse that I can do everything on. From video editing, Photoshop work, and laying out pages in QuarkXPress, to browsing the web with a million tabs open, writing an article, writing a book, or playing a 3D game.

A tablet -- any tablet -- simply doesn’t have the power I need. My main PC rocks an Intel 3rd Generation Core i7-3770K CPU (4 x 3.50GHz), 24GB of ram, and 8TB of disk space. Yes, that’s eight terabytes. I’m currently using just under 5TB. I have two 24-inch screens. My iPad works alongside this beast as support -- providing me notification updates for things like new emails.

The thought that I could swap my PC for a tablet is laughable.

I occasionally write articles on my iPad, when I’m out and about. I’m used to typing on the screen, and I’ve written fairly sizable pieces of work. But I only do this when I have to. When I’m on my main PC I can write much, much faster. I can research on one screen, write on another. I’m a touch typist so my fingers fly over the keyboard. Swapping to just using my iPad would mean halving my work rate. Write five words, switch to the web to look up something, switch to our virtual newsroom to see what’s going on there, check on tech (and other) news, switch back and write a few more words.

I can’t work like that. I’m always doing at least three or four things at once.

Imagine a sales rep who is used to travelling hundreds of miles every day in a large, comfortable vehicle like a BMW 3-series or a Cadillac ATS and then give them a Smart electric drive car. It would be fine for short journeys, like popping to the shops, but an absolute cramped nightmare for any kind of longer journey.

In his article Joe wanted, ideally, to switch to using Surface as his primary device. But I think that would be because you can get a decent keyboard for it. Because Surface, essentially, is a PC. If Joe is serious about giving up on the PC, and just using a tablet, he has to use it as is. And that means writing all of his articles on the Nexus 10’s touch screen (or using the voice feature, as he’s said he intends to). If he buys and uses a keyboard, really all he’s doing is trading one PC for another, lesser specced device, and that would be a total cop out. I have no doubt Joe will be able to make the transition, but he'll surely find it a frustrating and ultimately unrewarding experience.

Of course Joe isn’t the first person to swap a PC for a tablet, and he won’t be the last either. My wife has already done so. She uses an iPad and her Samsung Galaxy S II almost exclusively, except on the very rare occasions when she needs to borrow the laptop to do something that requires a bigger screen and Flash -- like watching kitten videos, for example.

The PC is dead, some say. And for all the people who never really needed a PC -- those lite users who only ever email, watch some videos, and view some photos -- it probably is. But for those of us who actually use a PC for meaty tasks, who actually USE a PC, it’s alive and well, and we couldn’t swap it for another device, let alone a tablet, even if we wanted to.

Photo credit: Arcady/Shutterstock

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