In the wake of watching the Build Keynote Presentation put on by Microsoft I started picturing the future of computers, phones and everything in between.
Before I get into anything else, I want to start by saying I’m already sick of hearing people say “The Post-PC Age”. The phrase is simply wrong, in fact egregiously wrong. Years ago when writers still wrote for magazines you might buy off of a shelf, there was surely somebody who coined the term ‘Personal Computer’ to describe computers that were owned by regular people instead of large corporations. The notion these computers were truly personal was a stretch though, given that they usually belong to the whole family. I expect anybody reading this can see where I’m headed, that the lower cost of computers and natural ubiquity of them has finally made them mostly personal. As I see it, the more people see Tablets as their general use substitute for a laptop/desktop, the more we reach the final step that finally personalizes the computer to a person rather than something intended to be shared. If that doesn’t convince you, just remember that there’s no tablet or phone on the market that supports multiple sign-in and there’s no PC operating system on the market that doesn’t.
Getting back to the point and for the one time I will use the term as everybody else does…As we enter The Post-PC Age the entire industry and how it affects our lives is going to be turned upside down. I may be reluctant to credit Apple for changing the cell-phone market as much as some people, I don’t deny that the effect was staggering. Over the last 4 years we’ve seen the explosion of portability and how much it matters that people can be constantly connected. We’ve also seen the numbers of people that are abandoning classic feature phones and getting on board with smart phones. The obvious success of the iPad and now increasingly the market for Android Tablets has shown us that people are basically ready to leave behind the shackles of devices that require a long power cord and secondary peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc.).
One of the hardest things for me to get across to people over the years is that 99% of people don’t even require a computer made in the last 5 years to accomplish any of the things they want to do. With the exception of movie editing (or watching in High Definition) and possibly larger projects in apps like Photoshop, there’s just no need for high-power processors or massive amounts of RAM (unless you always keep 40+ tabs open in Firefox like I do). In reality there’s nothing we are doing today that we weren’t doing 5 years ago with nearly the same quality and speed. A little over a decade ago I briefly worked as a salesperson at Dell; this is where I found myself constantly wanting to admit to customers that the cheapest model of computer with a single bump in RAM was all they needed when they only wanted to browse the web, get their email and maybe listen to some music. Today has only made the situation more obvious, we don’t need more power anymore, we need a better interface, a better form factor and a better experience.
In the month that I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy Tab I’ve found that I prefer reading web pages and RSS feeds on there while I want to use my laptop to handle downloads. I’m still torn because I haven’t yet found a time where I want to watch video or listen to music on the tablet over my laptop, but that will probably come the next time I travel, though the hassle of converting video and loading on the tablet isn’t ideal (worth noting, it’s only slightly better on an iPad than it is on my tablet, so I don’t think I’m missing anything).
I suspect a lot of people are starting to really enjoy the experience that comes with tablets and phones. Generally apps are safer and more easily sandboxed (kept separate from other apps and the OS), the launch time and functions of the apps are usually simple and easy to learn and the cost of the software is so low that a cup of coffee starts to sound unreasonable. The few arguments for sticking to full blown computers are usually limited to hard-core gaming. For the regular person, I suspect another year or two and the tablet will soon look like the more plausible option over the classic computer as we see it today.