IDG, the publisher of PCWorld and Macworld, launched a new site today: TechHive. Created by a bunch of PCW and Macworld editors, it’s currently a “beta blog” which Editorial Director Jason Snell says is “free to cover smartphones and tablets, Android and iOS and Windows Phone, digital cameras and Facebook privacy settings and E Ink Bluetooth watches and whatever the next big tech thing is.” Or, in other words, everything that isn’t a PC and isn’t a Mac.
Jason says that the blog is a warm-up act as the team readies a full-blown TechHive site, which IDG plans to unveil this summer. With TechHive casting such a wide net, it sounds as if PCWorld will concentrate on PCs and Windows a bit more than it has in recent years.
I cheerfully admit to having an abnormal interest in all this, since I worked at PCWorld from 1994 until 2008, a period during which the PC and the ecosystem around it underwent sweeping, never-ending change. We may spend a lot of time debating whether we’re currently in a post-PC era or a PC-plus era or something else, but the more I think about it, the more I conclude that the post-PC era got underway in 1994, about the time I was getting started at PCW. That’s when the Internet began catching on with consumers — and from then on, PCs were devices you used to get online, rather than a phenomenon unto themselves.
As time went on, devices which were once dumb got smarter and smarter, and less and less dependent on the PC. They also began sidestepping it altogether. Steve Jobs’ “digital hub” concept, which involved a PC –or, to be precise, a Mac — sitting at the center of the universe made perfect sense a decade ago. In an era in which even thermostats can connect directly to the Net, however, there’s less and less need for the PC, or anything else, to serve as a hub.
For much of the time I was at PCWorld, we worked very, very hard to emphasize that the World part of our name was as important as the PC. We covered MP3 players and digital cameras and phones and GPS units and HDTVs, all of which are part of the larger story of personal computing, and kept at it even though a noisy minority of readers squawked about our liberal definition of our mission. We didn’t want anyone to think that PCW was about a topic that had already seen its best days.
We also stubbornly insisted that “PC” was not synonymous with “Windows,” a notion which was controversial even among some staff members. (When I started using a Mac laptop to supplement my Windows desktop, some of my colleagues were startled, and a few of them didn’t seem to be particularly pleased.)
I still think that the PC is a vibrant topic: I’m as excited about Windows 8 as I am about any subject I’ll be writing about in 2012. But I also understand that the pace of change has only accelerated since I left PCW’s staff in 2008. Back then, the PC was still the uncontested BDOC (Big Device on Campus); today, you could make the case that the smartphone is more important to more people. And while it’s not a given that tablets may eventually overtake conventional PCs, it’s also not an irrational theory.
So TechHive makes sense as an organizing principle for the topic that IDG’s editors cover. I’m just a curious outsider now, but I’ll be watching the site — and PCWorld, and Macworld — to see what develops.