The Post-PC Era Isn’t What You Think It Is


Remember when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad? That was back in 2010, just a year or so before Jobs died. Apple very much wanted the iPad to exist in a special location between the iPhone and the Mac.

None other than Jobs himself declared the post-PC era had arrived. Indeed it did. Apple sold hundreds of millions of iPads in a few short years, eclipsing both iPod and iPhone as Apple’s fastest selling problem ever. The post-PC era was born.

Is My iPhone A PC?

One of the problems with new-born eras is that they change. Sometimes, even the definition of an era changes, but change seems to be the only constant. While Steve Jobs’ iPad introduction may have heralded the post-PC era, clearly the iPad did not replace traditional PCs.

For the sake of definition, let’s call traditional PCs those desktop, notebook, and server devices those that run traditional operating systems; Windows, macOS, Linux, et al (which would include the new-fangled Chromebooks; the cheapest of cheap so-called PCs). As to those traditional personal computers, their rule over mankind has ended.

The post-PC era is made up of mobile devices which now far outnumber PCs. Apple’s Mac might have 75-million users, but iPhone and iPad have over 1-billion users. That’s the post-PC era.

The Post-PC era is a market trend observed during the late 2000s and early 2010s involving a decline in the sales of personal computers in favor of post-PC devices; which include mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers as well as other mobile computers such as wearable and ubiquitous ones. These devices emphasize portability and connectivity, including the use of cloud-based services, more focused “apps” to perform tasks, and the ability to synchronize information between multiple devices seamlessly.

We’re in the post-PC era and that explains why traditional PCs– not including Apple’s Mac, which continues to sell at record levels– experience falling sales, and the only saving grace in the technology segment are the new breed of hybrids which put Windows 10 onto tablet notebook hybrids. Yet, still, PC sales go down.

Blame it all on Steve Jobs.

The term was first coined by MIT scientist David D. Clark. While both Microsoft’s and Apple’s former CEOs’ Bill Gates and Steve Jobs also predicted a shift towards mobile devices as the primary method of computing, as a complement to the PC, Jobs popularized the term “post-PC” in 2007 (the launch of the first iPhone), and in 2011 launched iCloud, a service enabling Apple’s product line to synchronize data with PCs through cloud services, freeing their iOS devices from dependency on a PC.

The iPad and tablet notebook hybrids are a part of the post-PC era, but not the main part, and a portion that isn’t growing as it once did. Today, the post-PC era is made up of mobile devices, most running Android OS, the rest running iOS (and a few laggards that refuse to die), but there’s an element that must be considered. The cloud.

Several sources, including the The Economist, have identified Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft as the four platform cloud companies which will be the key competitors in the post-PC era of mobile computing. Tech companies with a heavy dependency on PC sales such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell have seen their earnings suffer, while IBM has also struggled due to slowing demand for hardware and consulting services.

Today’s smartphones and tablets, and to a lesser extent PC notebooks and Chrombooks, have access to the cloud for storage, services, and applications. The cloud is a growing and major component to the traditional post-PC era that Jobs failed to mention, and which Apple has some obvious shortcomings and plenty of competition. Even what defines the cloud– iCloud is just one example– has changed since jobs popularized the post-PC era. Today’s cloud isn’t just where we store our data so it’s available on other devices. It’s also where Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa reside; it’s the home to artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning reside.

As how we use the cloud changes and becomes more pervasive and personal, the post-PC era’s definition of mobile computing likely changes as well. Devices become less important in an era when most of what we use our devices for each day becomes more dependent upon interaction with cloud data and information.

That’s the revolution Jobs didn’t mention. That’s the real post-PC era.

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