The end of the PC era is 18 months away

Paul Raven @ 08-12-2010

So claims this piece at ComputerWorld, anyhow, parroting the findings of a market research firm about the unit-numbers of smartphones and tablet devices to be shipped when compared with sales of “traditional” personal computers [via SlashDot]:

It may be seen as a historic shift, but it is one that tells more about the development of a new market, mobile and tablet computing, than the decline of an older one, the PC. Shipments of personal computers will continue to increase even as they are surpassed by other devices.

IDC said worldwide shipments this year of app-enabled devices, which include smartphones and media tablets such as the iPad, will reach 284 million. In 2011, makers will ship 377 million of these devices, and in 2012, the number will reach 462 million shipments, exceeding PC shipments. One shipment equals one device.

I think an end to the dominance of the PC is pretty inevitable, and indeed has been happening for some time – I don’t know many people whose home computer isn’t a laptop, for instance, which seems indicative of a desire for computing-as-convenient-commodity rather than computer-as-installation, than computer-as-machine.

But will they vanish completely from the consumer marketplace? I’m not so sure… I use a desktop tower by choice, because I like to be able to build, maintain and upgrade my hardware myself, but that marks me as a relic of sorts, and an inheritor of my father’s engineer-esque attitudes to computers*. But as devices get cheaper, more powerful and more disposable, that impetus may fade awy.

Whether or not disposability is a path we should be pleased to follow is another question entirely, of course…

[ * My first PC was his handed-down 8086, which he insisted I help him assemble and test; with hindsight, that’s one of those incredibly pivotal moments in a life. ]


Cheaper, more open tablets: this is exactly why I had no interest in buying an iPad

Paul Raven @ 13-07-2010

No, I’m not about to start bitching about Apple’s flagship gizmo and what it can or can’t do (although, if you want to buy me a beer or two in meatspace, I’d be more than happy to give you my two uninformed but moderately passionate cents on that).

Instead, I’m just going to point to evidence of exactly what I’ve been saying would happen: that within a very short amount of time after the iPad’s launch, you’d be able to get cheaper hardware with the same or greater functionality, and run a FOSS operating system on it that lets you get applications from anywhere you choose. So, via eBooknewser, here’s a guide to hacking the US$200 Pandigital Novel tablet device so it’ll run the Android operating system. Come Christmas time this year, there’ll be dozens of machines just like that kicking around all over the place, only cheaper still.

Speaking of Android, there’s a lot of noise about the way that Google are working on a kind of visual development system that’s designed to let folk with minimal coding knowledge to develop apps that will run on Android – again, a stark comparison to the walled-garden quality control of Apple’s development kits. Sure, the Android market will be flooded with crap and/or dodgy apps as a result… but letting the good stuff bubble to the top is what user rating systems and [editors/curators/gatekeepers] are for, right?


ZOMFG MosesTablet!

Paul Raven @ 27-01-2010

Jamais Cascio pretty much nails my feelings on the imminent sermon from Mount Cupertino:

Yes, I’m sure it will be wonderful, whatever it turns out to be. I’m also sure it’ll be overpriced, packed with glossy proprietary software and matched by more affordable (and more open) hardware within six months… but hey, I’m just one of the haterz, yo. I can live with that.

If you want a less partial and more sensible response, Charlie Stross has a post detailing what he hopes to see from Jeebus Jobs later today, including this important point:

Finally, if I’m going to ask for a pony, I’d like Apple to pursue a more enlightened policy towards folks who want to, er, compute on the computing device they just bought. The iPhone OS is locked down tight because under the hood it’s a kluge; if you jailbreak it you discover to your horror that everything runs as root, and there’s even a hopelessly weak root password (“alpine”) on what is actually a networked UNIX box as powerful as a mid-1990s Sun workstation. I’ll settle for a virtualized sandbox if inecessary, instead of a fully implemented security system — but please can I have a shell, a python interpreter, and some elbow room? (Not likely, but I can hope …)

Not likely, indeed. But hey, there’s only a last few hours left before the product specs get spuffed all over the intertubes like joyous geek ectoplasm, so there’s still time to get some dreaming done… feel free to catfight in the comments if you’re so inclined. 🙂