The Road Ahead: The Death of the PC

| Particle Debris

Recently, we saw that Apple’s iPad had outsold the largest maker of PCs for the last calendar quarter of 2011. Tim Cook pointed that out in the introduction to the new iPad on March 7th.

iPad sales

Image Credit: Apple

Now, the question is, when will all tablets (meaning mostly iPads, but also Android and eReader tablets) outsell all the PCs combined? Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that these trends are hard to reverse. For one, Apple is a capable company and when it starts the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop the momentum. Secondly, Apple doesn’t roll out charts like this unless there’s a sense that the trend will continue to snowball. And yes, it’s also a self-fulfilling prophesy to show the charts that, in turn, influences the public.

The upshot is that not only do I and many other people believe that a day will come when all tablets outsell all PCs, but one can back that up with some math by making some reasonable assumptions. Horace Dediu has done precisely that: “When will tablets outsell traditional PCs?” Check out the article and it’s terrific charts, but the short answer is “sometime in the fall of 2013.” Also note the expected plight of Windows 8 tablets.

This prospect brings up some interesting questions. The wrong question to ask is, “Will Apple start to lose interest in OS X?” I think the right question to ask is, “When will the total sales of iPads start to reflect the percentage of people who really just need an iPad and not a traditional computer?” I think that percentage is about 90 percent. If tablets outsell PCs in the fall of 2013, (gaining 50+ percent of the market) when will they represent 90 percent of all sales? I think I’ll ask Mr. Dediu, but my guess is early 2015. The same year Microsoft files for bankruptcy.

Of course, when companies can’t grow and their bread and butter is gone, they go under. But Apple is healthy and looks to stay that way thanks to the iPhone and iPad. So one can believe that the Macintosh will hang around, the pickup truck, in Steve Jobs’s analogy, for those who need to do the creative heavy lifting. Whoda thunk.

It’s a shame Mr. Jobs isn’t here to see it.

Road AheadThe road ahead: bumpy for Microsoft

Image Credit: Shutterstock

This Week’s News Debris

One of the new features in iOS 5.1 is a new one that’s too SciFi to be believed. It’s the Geofence indicator. If you penetrate the fence, you get an alert. Macworld has a summary.

How fast is the new iPad? Really? Don’t forget, it still has a dual core processor and the clock speed remains 1 GHz. It has a quad core GPU, but then there are also four times the pixels to manipulate. Jason Snell, Macworld’s editorial director, has done a great job with his iPad 3 review that includes some informative benchmarks shown in bar charts.

With tongue in cheek, and perhaps biting it, John Paczkowski admits that Apple may be preparing for production of the mythical Apple HDTV (which he calls iTV, much to the chagrin of the real iTV in the UK). “Rumored Apple Television Will Offer All-Unicorn Channel.

Apple HDTV & Family

There was a big fuss this week about a Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, who wrote in the New York Times about why he left the company 

There seems to be some of that going around. James Whittaker wrote an equally damning essay on why he left Google. The salient sentence: “Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room.”

But that’s not all. Mathew Ingram poured on the coals with his own take on Google+. “Google Plus: The problem isn’t design, it’s a lack of demand.” Another salient sentence: “Whenever I use Google+, I feel like I am doing Google a favor, but it’s not clear what I get out of it.”

 

My take is that you have to have passion and believe in the things you do. If you just jump on the band wagon to make a buck because you’re envious, you’ll fail every time.

Did you notice that FaceTime is Wi-Fi only on LTE iPads? Cult of Mac explains how Apple had to avoid the wrath of the carriers. “Why FaceTime Is WiFi-Only Despite LTE On The New iPad.”

It seems that everyone wants to get into the TV delivery business. First, “Intel Talking to Networks About Internet TV Service.” [One article I saw said that this initiative developed because Intel is concerned about future PC sales.] Another company, Aereo TV Service thinks it can deliver TV over the airwaves, redirected onto the Internet, with its new service in New York. The CEO, Chet Kanojia, explains why he thinks it’ll be found legal. [Sorry, Adobe Flash required. Take it up with Bloomberg.]

Technical Word of the Week

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a new entry. This occurred with a friend on the phone who, after I slipped up, accused me of having one of these:

Android Moment (n.) A moment of blissful stupidity, a mental lapse. Credit: Dr. M. Behl.

________

Family TV image credit: Shutterstock

Comments

Eugene King

Hi John;

A friend related a recent experience to me. He was at a business meeting where many people had tablets (I don’t remember how many were iPads). When it came time for the tablet users to take notes they all reverted to auxiliary keyboards. This make me think that laptops will likely be around for a while still.

barryotoole

I believe the carriers are having a long, sustained Android Moment.

I could see their reason why unlimited data plans should go, but now that we have metered access, why should they not allow FaceTime over 3G/4G?

If someone wants to burn 2MB a minute on FT, and wants to pay for it at $8-10/GB, why not? It sounds like Russia where you are told what you can use, and how much.

BTW, even Veizon’s supposed 4G/LTE is only UPTO 73mbs, while the standards body describes the 4G as having AT LEAST 100mbs. And AT&T calling its 17mbs or so as 4G is so totally laughable. I wonder if AT&T could have been successful to have Apple show the 4G sign with the iOS 5.1 if SJ were alive.

tellis301

A friend recently bought an iPad and after seeing my bluetooth keyboard, promptly went out and got one, to take meeting notes.  I think you’re on the right track, John.  Love the Friday columns.

geoduck

?Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn?t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google?s party became the elephant in the room.?

I had a Google+ account. I’ve compared it to walking into a high school gym on Sunday morning. The emptiness and echo was deafening.

Then last week Google changed its privacy policies. Suddenly I had dozens of posts on my Google+ page that I didn’t want from people that I didn’t know related to things that I was not interested in, all because Google had decided that it was what I wanted. I shut down the account. At one point in the process it asked for feedback. “Why did you decode to leave us?” I answered simply “Because I don’t trust you any more”.

Lee Dronick

Then last week Google changed its privacy policies. Suddenly I had dozens of posts on my Google+ page that I didn?t want from people that I didn?t know related to things that I was not interested in, all because Google had decided that it was what I wanted. I shut down the account. At one point in the process it asked for feedback. ?Why did you decode to leave us?? I answered simply ?Because I don?t trust you any more?.

A few weeks ago I switched my default search engine to Bing and deleted my Google cookies. Now, even thought I have 3rd party cookies blocked, when login to Facebook then Google will set a cookie. I trust neither Facebook or Google, but the former is amost a necessity for keeping in touch with certain family and friends.

Peter

I could see their reason why unlimited data plans should go, but now that we have metered access, why should they not allow FaceTime over 3G/4G?

I don’t know either.  Perhaps you should ask Apple, Since AT&T and Verizon say that it’s Apple’s call.

iJack

I don’t think the “Death of the PC” matters a dot.  Because it won?t actually happen. 

Until recently, the “PC” was all we had; all that all of us had.  The same basic machine was used for everything from simply using email and watching some YouTube, to more serious tasks like creating complex CAD drawings, and editing and color-correcting feature films.  Creating and maintaing web sites.  Curating huge databases.  Even making war against our enemies.

I think it’s just fine that there is a way to winnow out purposes ? one from the other.  Apparently, serious work can be done on an iPad ? doctors on their rounds; pilots at Flight Level 350, somewhere over Kansas, and so on ? but my guess would be that the Facebook-Twitter-YouTube crowd will be the dominant user-group, and that’s just fine.

The upshot will be that iPads, et al will become as ubiquitous as cell phones, and I see that as a Good Thing, since at that price they are much more accessible to the entire world population, which means news sources, Wikipedia, and other learning tools are also more accessible.

I may actually buy an iPad for the first time, but I shall be doing it with my eyes wide open.  It will never be a replacement for a desktop computer, nor should it be.  I see “Pads” as something different than PCs, and while many may abandon their PC for a Pad because of their limited set of needs, many of the rest of us will not, because we can’t.  Our livelihoods depend on it.

Lee Dronick

Good points Jack.

Steve Webb

While I know a number of people who need the power of a workstation computer, I know others that don’t. In fact, I know people who, when their PC breaks, don’t rush to get it fixed or replaced. I call them the PC “on-occasionals”.

I’m betting many PC ‘on-occasionals’ currently own their last PC. They could get a tablet if they want, as long as they can still you their PC on occasion. I’ll even go once step further. I’m willing to bet that many would give up their PC altogether if you showed them how to file their taxes using an iPad.

Gareth Harris

Most people don’t need a pc. But when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. That was the world of the personal computer, derived from mainframes 30 years ago.

As tablets came on the scene, we only heard from the fanboys, trolls, early adopters and hobbyists. But also [as I said then, heh, heh] the real volume market for tablets is not geeks but the workaday world: factories, warehouses, truckers, doctors, retailers…

Now that tablets are mainstream, business, government and other organizations are buying them by the thousands. Much of work today is retrieving a small block of information out of a larger database to your working location, reading and understanding it, bringing in some new information and recording it back into the central repository as you take some local action. The platform for this activity is now the tablet and Apple has defined it.

The next big step is the maturing of voice input. Siri is just thte tip of this iceberg. It won’t be long before we, like Scotty say: “A keyboard - how quaint.”

geoduck

Years ago I had desktop computers. Then I got a laptop but the PowerMac (which what it was by then) was still my major computer. The last desktop PC I bought was a G4 PowerMac in the early 2000’s. After that my PowerBook and MacBook laptops were enough for what I did, pictures, iTunes, work, and gaming. I sold my last G4 PowerMac three years ago (got $400 for it too.) Now we only have MacBooks. I’m in the market for a new MacBook Pro this year because I need that much power for what I do (same as before plus a bit of video editing).

Last summer we got an iPad2. It’s nowhere near capable enough to replace my MacBook. Not enough storage for my photos or music. Won’t run a Windows Virtualization package. However as fast as tablets have been advancing I can see that this might be my last MacBook. My last Macintosh computer. In three to six years when I replace this unit I could see there being a tablet powerful enough, with enough storage to take over. Already I’m doing nearly all of my gaming on the iPad and iPod touch.

wab95

Much of work today is retrieving a small block of information out of a larger database to your working location, reading and understanding it, bringing in some new information and recording it back into the central repository as you take some local action. The platform for this activity is now the tablet and Apple has defined it.

 

I can see that this might be my last MacBook. My last Macintosh computer. In three to six years when I replace this unit I could see there being a tablet powerful enough, with enough storage to take over.


Gareth, Geoduck:

I concur with much of what you say, particularly the Scotty quote, Gareth. That said, I think we in the Apple client community run the risk of missing the real centre of mass here, and therefore posing the wrong question. In my mind, it is not so much when, if ever, one can replace a tablet with a PC, but when will cloud services mature to the point, with adequate supportive infrastructure, to provide us with more options as to hardware tool of choice.

I see the key to the future as the cloud, which in turn will have decisive impact on hardware tools. I think this is the quiet revolution Apple have been waging while letting the hardware take centre stage. I foresee a day when, whether in the personal consumer or enterprise spaces, individuals will simply port the tool with the least footprint necessary to get the job done. By that time (e.g. 5 years hence), all of these devices will far more capable than they are today, and likely capable of the most common functions we require today.

[My train of thought temporarily broken during that last sentence by a notable earthquake here. Hopefully, it is coherent.]

geoduck

[My train of thought temporarily broken during that last sentence by a notable earthquake here. Hopefully, it is coherent.]

Baltimore or Dhaka?

iJack

In my mind, it is not so much when, if ever, one can replace a tablet with a PC…

Don’t you mean that the other way around?

Lee Dronick

[My train of thought temporarily broken during that last sentence by a notable earthquake here. Hopefully, it is coherent.]

Baltimore or Dhaka?

I just checked the USGS earthquake website, as a Californian it is bookmarked in my favorites. Anyway I think that he is somewhere east of Suez, where the old flotilla lays, and the sun roars up like thunder from China across the bay.

Dean Lewis

The takes on Google+ are interesting, because they seem to be more a reflection on the user rather than on G+. Google+ is not Facebook. You can’t treat it like Facebook and expect to get anything out of it. I’ve found it to be more like old 80s BBS forums: you get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t have anything in your Profile page and don’t post anything, people aren’t going to pay attention to you, and they certainly aren’t going to find out about you if you don’t engage them in discussions. While G+ has its share of cat JPG sharers, if all you do is share the same cat pics and nut-kick videos everyone else is, you’re probably going to get ignored, too.

A vast empty space? It certainly isn’t that for me and a lot of other people. I can’t keep up with the content, even after scrolling through all the cat pictures. By searching for topics I like, I’ve built some fairly good-sized circles for board games, role play games, Mac users, Fringe science (I like Ancient Aliens and Bigfoot—sue me), and more. On a place like Facebook, you usually start with family and friends and begin adding people from there, and maybe you have some common interests. usually, even among your family, you end up pissing each other off until everyone unfriends each other, leaving you with just the musicians and brands you’ve followed. In Google+, you start with ideas and interests, and begin circling people from that. Properly managed, no one in your Crochet Fiends circle ever has to see your posts to your Macfanatic circle (slowly becoming easier to do on Facebook…)

Managing the privacy rules is so much easier than Facebook, you can’t even compare the two. And the recent privacy change mostly amounts to combining services, which is a bonus for me, but others have their reasons for disliking it.

Hangouts are fun, easy, and interesting. Google has APIs building up for them, so there will be interactive applications to use in them. One example: a virtual tabletop for handling characters, die rolling, maps, etc. for role playing games.  Read about it at http://tabletopforge.com/ . Mike Elgan of Cult of Mac is already running, as are others, hangouts that stream so people can watch live, and those hangouts can be saved to Youtube for people to watch later: instant vidcasting from your web browser. There is more, but this is getting way too long now.

If Google+ is a ghost town or an empty high school gym, it’s the busiest one I’ve ever been in. I seem to remember a certain computer that was being declared dead a couple decades ago, with reports that nobody used them except for a couple of niche types. And yet, here we are today.

If anyone wants to give Google+ another go—or even a first try—here are a few of articles to check out:

G+ is not Facebook

10 tips for G+ Beginners

Why G+ is not a social network

But most of all, have fun. If you can’t have fun, or if you already make use of other places like Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever and the thought of yet another one no matter how different doesn’t thrill you, or if the privacy simplification is just too worrying for you, then, by all means, don’t join up. But never leave or don’t join G+ because you think no one is there. That is as much FUD as the beleaguered Apple was when it still had $4.5 Billion in the bank and millions of users.

wab95

Baltimore or Dhaka?

Dhaka. Thanks for asking.

No official confirmation yet, but strong enough to shake the house.

wab95

Don?t you mean that the other way around?

Thanks for asking, iJack, but no, the sentence is correct as I meant it. In shorter version,

“In my mind, it is not so much when…one can replace a tablet with a PC, but when will cloud services mature to the point…”

I did have to get up and check that my staff and the building foundation were okay, but the interruption was after that sentence.

wab95

Anyway I think that he is somewhere east of Suez


You guys are impressive. Yes, east of the Suez. Dhaka to be precise.

And later this week, another quake zone, Istanbul.

geoduck

No official confirmation yet, but strong enough to shake the house.

I did have to get up and check that my staff and the building foundation were okay,

Glad to hear that it wasn’t serious.

geoduck

The takes on Google+ are interesting, because they seem to be more a reflection on the user rather than on G+.

Well, that could be true. I’ve concluded that I may just not be social enough for social media.

MacFrogger
Neil Anderson

“[...] early 2015. The same year Microsoft files for bankruptcy.”

You think it’ll take that long? wink

Nom

Relevant question: are PC sales growing or shrinking, and where?  PCs tend to be deployed in one of two modes, which I’ll call “general purpose” (home/office) and “industrial” (where the PC runs a single piece of custom software), and each mode has one or more markets.  Are tablets replacing PCs in these markets, or are they primarily moving into new markets where even the laptop just can’t go?

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