The Unintended Consequences of a Post-PC Era

| Particle Debris

Recently, there has been some discussion about how the tablet phenomena has altered the ideal mix of computing equipment for the home user. The classic notebook computer, while not highly cannibalized yet, may be gone in the future. What would the technical consequences of a Post-PC era be? Perhaps more PCs.


ConsequencesFor example, we always knew that it was a fantasy to believe that a notebook computer alone, even with large storage directly attached, is really the right device to store a massive family archive. iCloud is a store and forward, syncing cloud. Apple doesn’t have room for your terabyte collection of videos.

Families of the future will be storing more and more data, photos, home movies and so on. There are even initiatives to document our entire lives, or at least part of it as videos. That’s some serious storage. Most of it may be on your own server, and some may be stored on a website for posterity, but I think it’s clear that notebooks computers, constrained and compromised as they are, giving way to advanced iPads, may not be what families need in the future.

That, in turn is going to breathe new life into desktops, Thunderbolt storage, personal RAID 5, perhaps SSD RAID devices, powerful desktops with many cores, large displays to display 3D images, 802.11ac to splash all that around to an Apple HDTV and so on. The death of the desktop, PC or Mac, may be highly exaggerated. And that will breathe new life into Windows, Linux, and OS X as formidable personal OSes to handle all that data just at the time when tablets are taking off.

A consequence is that this home mix of tablets plus a server dictates a possible rethink of the Mac Pro. (I think of the iMac as a workstation in a home setting, not the server.) The current Mac Pro is for professionals and geeks at a time when the notebook was all the rage for individuals. It’s heavy and technically imposing. What would a headless family server, modestly sized, light, and designed for massive storage and video heavy lifting look like? Perhaps that’s what’s causing a rethink of the Mac Pro. (See below.)

Who would have thought that an Apple iPad would breathe new life into so many other products? Further debate for your consideration is at ZDNet.

Tech News Debris

There weren’t a lot of really good news items this week that are up to the normal Particle Debris standards. So this is going to be short.

The first, and best, is a long and fascinating article about the Apple Newton, launched 20 years ago. Harry McCracken at Time’s Techland takes a detailed look at the life and times of the Apple Newton: “Newton, Reconsidered.

NewtonImage credit: technobuffalo

You knew that crimeware is sold on the underground market as toolkits, right? Want to go into the malware business? You buy the kit and get to work. Here’s a particularly nasty one, a ransom kit used against banks but repurposed against individuals. “US warns users of new Citadel ransomware hit.

Apple Products on the bubble department. Kirk Mcelhearn wonders if Apple will kill Ping fairly soon. Others, worried that Apple has been mum about a new Mac Pro have created a petition so that Apple knows how many people are agitated about the issue. “Mac Pro petition gaining steam on Facebook.”

This article isn’t the most well written piece, but it provides plenty of inspiration. For example, how does a company, exactly, engage in innovation? Does saying your company is going to be innovative result in innovation? Check it out just to get the creative juices flowing. “Please, Can We All Just Stop ‘Innovating’?

The point here is that people can’t innovate on a schedule. They have to be involved in creative play. They have to be having fun. So when the boss charges in and says, “Stop fooling around, we have serious innovation to do!,” you know it’s time to go work for someone else.

Researchers are constantly digging into mathematical algorithms to simulate or understand human behavior. For example, we know that Siri isn’t alive. The software uses clever techniques to figure out what we’re saying and respond. But what do we mean? At Stanford there’s work being done on how to teach sarcasm to computers. “Math may teach computers to get sarcasm.

Recently, playfully, I said to Siri, “Pawn to King four.” Her response was, “I can’t find any pawn shops around here.” Perhaps with the help of the Stanford research, Siri 2.0 will say, instead, “I’ve got tChess installed. Whaddya you got? “


Teaser image credit: Shutterstock

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Dirt Road

What wasn’t said here, was that tablets will put a dent in laptop sales. I think it’s quite possible. I already use my iPhone, paired with a BT keyboard, for writing when I’m out and about. My black MacBook is probably good for another 2 years, and by then there should be a further iPad revision or two. When the time comes to retire it, I may end up with a desktop Mac (and the “server for the home” might look a lot like a Mac mini) plus an iPad.

Laptops changed the way I use a computer, and tablets (we have a 1st gen iPad that doesn’t get much rest) could well change it again.


I should qualify my comment by saying that I’m not a geek or a power user. I’m just a common user, maybe a bit more knowledgable than a lay person.

After I got my iPad, the first one - and now have the latest, I realized that I’m making use of my laptop less and less. I do have an ‘early-adopter’ addiction, so I bought the 13” MBA. Seeing it gathering dust, I’m giving it to my daughter to replace her 4-year old MB.

Of course, there are tasks that cannot to done by by the iPad. For that I’ve a MacMini, that lets me do the rest of the 10% tasks.

In additon, I’ve been using less of my iPhone for things I can so on the iPad, like email, reading, Internet, video, etc. I’m using by 64G iPhone 4S mainly as a phone, texter, calendar, camera, and iPod.

In fact, like SJ said, iPad is better at doing things it does better than a smartphone or a laptop. I agree.


A Mac Mini would be great as a home server with occasional use by non-iPad tasks that require a bit more “heavy lifting.” Will Apple move toward this type of combo (iPad-iPhone-Mac mini) for users? Or will this strategy be pursued by a device more like the current Apple TV?

Carsten Legaard

With his talent for trend spotting Martellaro is in my opinion the missing link in the advisors board of Apple Corp.


@ibuck: for a while, I have been thinking of a combo device that has a MacMini, the TimeCapsule and an AppleTV. Although, iCloud does solve some backup issues, but a TimeMachine backup is still needed.


I miss my Newton? (stolen, sadly.) Unlike the reviewer in Time, I found the reflective screen to be high-contrast and quite readable and found that the handwriting recognition reliably recognized my *cursive*, unlike any other device I have ever used (besides a later Fujitsu palmtop which I believe had the same Paragraph recognition engine.) I tried Grafitti (and its predecessor, Unistrokes, invented at PARC) but never liked it. I always used Newton’s handwriting recognition, but I also note that using the stylus on the Newton virtual keyboard I could actually type faster and more accurately than I currently can on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard (I’m a demon typist on the iPad though.) As the reviewer noted, the Newton had awesome battery life. The user interface was straightforward and sometimes charming (e.g. crumpling up notes, and the “poof” animation which later made it into OS X.) Drawing worked quite well, and I liked “tap and hold to select.” The Newton’s development platform, NewtonScript, was visionary (sort of like JavaScript or Self meets Cocoa Touch) as was the eMate 300 hardware, which presaged the iBook. (The eMate also had awesome built-in software.) I had a neat case which was made of this rubberized material which seems to be identical to what Apple used for the iPad 1 case. Fortunately Newton’s Michael Tchao returned to Apple in the 2000s and was featured in a recent Apple product video.

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