Monday, February 10, 2014

The PC is dead, long live the personal computer

As we look to the future of computing, what do you think will change? Business Insider wrote in 2013 about shifts in computing platforms: "Just a few years ago, Microsoft had 90% of computing market share. Now it's gliding towards irrelevance." Android has become the dominant player in global computing platform market share.

This chart is interesting for several reasons. Certainly it demonstrates the decline of Windows; we are no longer in a "Windows-centric" world. The term "WinTel," bandied in IT shops throughout the 1990s, is quickly becoming meaningless. But the chart also visualizes a change in platform, not just operating system. Users are moving away from the "PC" (desktops and laptops) and adopting mobile platforms.

In 2013, industry analyst Gartner shared results forecasting a 10% drop in PC shipments, while mobile phones assume 77% of Internet-connected device shipments. I see this as a continuation of a trend, where in a few years the smartphone becomes the computer. The difference is that you'll carry this one in your pocket, rather than in a backpack or laptop bag.

Most of our applications run in the Cloud (think Gmail) and very little actually needs local computing power to run. Look at what programs you use everyday; most of your time is spent in a web browser, and probably less than 25% using a traditional desktop application. While "power" users need to run big applications , the rest of us simply need a device to connect to the Internet.

When the smartphone becomes the computer, you'll "pair" your phone wirelessly with a kind of keyboard-video-mouse setup, which may resemble a laptop in form. You'll run all your apps on the phone, but the mouse & keyboard input and audio & video output goes through the new device. Disconnect the phone, and your data and apps go with you. Your laptop will be in your pocket, on your smartphone. This will be the next evolution of the personal computer.

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