Post-PC: Tablets and Phones Are Killing Computers, Right?

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A coworker came by my desk late yesterday afternoon and, seeing that I had an iPad propped up next to my laptop, asked why we weren’t writing more posts here on Techland about how to use the iPad. Before I could say something like, “You see a square you like and you poke it with your finger,” he asked why I was using both an iPad and a laptop.

Fair question. I use this DisplayLink app to turn the iPad into a secondary monitor because I have many, windowed balls in the air. The irony that this setup only works with a Windows PC is not lost on me and it’s caused several curious Mac users here at work to immediately lose interest in it.

The discussion then turned to whether or not I thought someone could do everything with an iPad that they could with a computer. This is a question that’s picked up plenty of steam since the iPad was first released, and falls under the auspice of the “Post-PC” movement—the idea that we’ve moved past using traditional computers in favor of tablets, smartphones and other non-traditional computing devices.

For the record, no, I don’t think tablets are killing PCs. People may be buying iPads instead of second or third computers, sure, but the day that tablets (or any devices) “kill” PCs dead won’t happen for a long, long time.

Can you use an iPad as your one and only computing device at home? Yes indeed. But given the current state of technology, if you don’t at least have access to a regular computer—at work, through a friend, whatever—life with only an iPad is by no means perfect.

My coworker then said, “So you’re telling me you couldn’t do all your work just on your iPad?” I thought about it for a moment and replied that I probably could but everything would take a whole lot longer, which is a tradeoff I’m not willing to put up with. Time is money, and so on and so forth. That’s another strike against tablets: They’re good for a lot of things, but computers are usually a better option for producing content quickly and efficiently.

Forrester has a good, level-headed blog post on the whole Post-PC discussion, arguing that the PC isn’t dying as much as the way we work with information nowadays is changing. “In the post-PC era, the ‘PC’ is alive and well, but it morphs to support computing experiences that are increasingly ubiquitous, casual, intimate, and physical,” says Forrester.

That’s the whole point: Your computer, if you have one (or have access to one), may simply serve to supplement what you do on your tablet and smartphone instead of being used as your primary device. And if you have a computer, the likelihood that you’ll buy a second computer may not be nearly as great now that tablets and smartphones have become so popular.

You may sit down at your desk if you need to do some actual work, but you’re probably more likely to pull up info on your phone or tablet just about everywhere else. But the personal computer still maintains an important role, even if that role is slowly becoming a supporting one.

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