The PC Isn't Dead, It's Just Evolved Into New Forms

News Analysis: The good old PC has actually been in decline for awhile. But that doesn't mean it's going away. What used to be called a PC has just evolved into a variety of highly mobile devices, smaller, faster and ever more versatile.

When IBM-PC pioneer Mark Dean said that we're entering the Post-PC era, a lot of people were surprised. After all, here's a guy who is IBM's CTO for the Middle East and Africa, one of the actual developers of the original IBM-PC, saying that its glory days are over. Who'd a thunk it?
But of course Dean is correct. When he wrote in his blog that the PC had passed the point of being the dominant type of computer in business, he wasn't saying that there wouldn't be any more PCs. What he was saying is that computing isn't about a specific platform any more. It no longer about a box sitting on a desk. It's about computing becoming ubiquitous. Computing has become integral to how the world works. Our personal computer is now our smartphone, tablet, notebook, netbook-whatever we happen to have within reach. It's about the Cloud, that mysterious information source you can neither touch nor feel, but which invisibly enriches every aspect of your computing life
Personal computing is also about the Web server at the other end of that search query you entered into your smartphone or the even the mainframe that recorded the bank account transfer you executed from your netbook.
Leaving aside the IBM marketing-speak that invades this and much else that IBM publishes, the fact is that Dean is acknowledging a basic transformation in how computing works these days. Importantly, it's a transformation that Dean played a major role in creating. IBM moved out of the PC business not because it wasn't profitable, because it was. It was because IBM wanted to move beyond device specific computing.
To put this in context, I was already writing about things called personal computers before IBM introduced its first IBM-PC. My first article about computing involved something nobody else will remember called an S-100 bus and a computer that you had to boot with an octal keypad. In those days there were no platform wars because most of us built our own platforms from actual discrete components.
But things have changed, moving progressively from the first Apple and Heathkit computers, through the PC and the Mac, and then into the world of laptop computers. That eventually led to smartphones and tablets and for a while now we've been indulging ourselves with battles over whether iOS or Android or Windows, Linux or MacOS is superior. Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't taken a stand on those issues for one simple reason - platform wars are in reality pretty silly.
Basically, all of the partisans of whatever stripe, regardless of whether it's the iPhone or an Android device, whether it's a computer running Linux, or MacOS or Windows are really missing the point. The computer as a device isn't the end. It's the means to an end. What matters is that the ability to utilize a computing device is available when you need it, in a form that will serve your needs and that is capable of doing the job you need done.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...