Here’s what people think about the end of the PC

by Chris on November 26, 2013

About 6 weeks ago I published one of my weekly columns in the Globe and Mail as part of the Strategy Lab project. The topic was how Apple may turn iOS into a PC replacement. You can read my column here.

I firmly believe that PC sales are now in a long term decline. Many of us still need and want PCs. I’m typing this on a Macbook Pro connected to a 24″ monitor by HDMI. While I type this I have a video rendering in the background, thanks to Final Cut Pro. I won’t be throwing away my PCs anytime soon.

But smartphones and tablets are getting more powerful every year. Apple now has 64-bit processors in the iPhone 5s, and I think it’s only a matter of time before the operating system can render the visual output onto a large screen via Airplay, and support multiple user interface styles. Think touch screen when on the go, more of a mouse/keyboard UI for when connected to a giant monitor. The Mail app could look just like the Mac Mail app when plugged into my giant monitor, and the Pages, Numbers, or Keynote app can do likewise. At least that’s how I see it.

When this happens, less people will buy PCs. They won’t die, but they’ll keep shrinking. It seems obvious to me, but when I read comments from those who read my column, there is a clear polarization in views. Some people think I’m pointing out the obvious. Others think I’m a total idiot. I agree with the former, duh … but what do the latter people say?

The people who disagree with me are pretty much stuck in the present, and seem unable to think about the future. As evidence I present the following:

Suffice it to say, the functionality of iOS is so far and away limited to an actual personal computer, be it laptop or desktop, that this article seems utterly ridiculous. You can’t even send an email document attachment in iOS.

and then this…

Yeah, whatever. And the office apps that will be run on your smart phone are what? Are you only using your desktop for email and a browser?

oh, and let’s not forget this …

The folks who want to tweet inanities and hype their trivial self-centred lives on Facebook find a smartphone perfectly fits their needs. But some of us have actual work to do.

That’s just a small sample. There are another bunch of people who didn’t seem to understand the concept of having a smartphone or tablet render its output to a larger screen, so they attacked me for suggesting people do “actual work” from a tiny screen. So this presents an whole new aspect to the problem. There are either people who agree with my view, or there are people who disagree because they don’t think about this in the context of evolving technology. Many people seem to only think about their current use-case and the current technology. If I did that I’m say the same thing. PCs will be the next big growth market … yay!

I wonder if anyone who reads this will actually agree with my view that smartphone/tablet technology is evolving yet still come up with a good argument for the growth of the PC market. If so, I’d love to hear it. Genuinely.

I’ll close with this comment: Let’s assume I’m right about what I consider to be an obvious call on the direction of technology (and not a call I created. I simply paid attention to other smart folks). Does this mean Apple is a great stock? Not necessarily. Google and Microsoft are not dumb. They’re already somewhat down this same path. I just think Apple may be ahead of the curve. If not Apple then I’d bet on Google to execute this vision between Chrome OS and Android (or some eventual bastardized combination of the two). I would not place my bet on Microsoft. Too much history of failure in mobile. And mobile is what’s driving ALL of this.

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