When Your Gadgets Get to Know You: The Future of ‘Personalized’ Computing

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Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

I’ve often told people who ask me about the future of technology that as we get smarter devices, smarter software, and smarter cloud services we will also get more personalized devices, software and cloud services. The translation is that smarter equals more personal.

This is not to say that there isn’t a level of personalization with these devices or services already; only that it will be more so in the future.

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The technology industry has used the term “personal computer” for three decades now. However, the term really means “owned by a person.” My personal computer isn’t really all that personal at this point in time. It knows nothing about me and everything personalized about it is because I put in the time and effort to personalize it. A better term would be to say that I have a “customized computer” rather than “personal computer.”

In the future, however, I believe these devices will become more personal rather than personally customized. To arrive at this future, the computing industry will continue to evolve into what Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls the “post PC era.” To understand this better, let me explain what the PC era was and what the post PC era will be.

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The PC Era

This is the era where a consumer’s dependence on a computing device was centered around the PC, meaning a PC was a necessity to nearly every major mainstream computing experience. In this era no single other computing device could displace the PC.

We are at the tail end of this era, although the PC is still a central part of the current consumer experience. But we like having other digital devices that have become companions to our PCs like smart phones, digital cameras, tablets, mp3 players and more. However, none of them can sufficiently replace the PC yet.

I call what we are currently in the “PC plus era.” With this I mean that a PC, plus a host of other devices complete a holistic computing experience for consumers.

The Post PC Era

If during the PC era the PC was central to the computing experience, then in the post PC era we will see a more de-centralized model become mainstream. In fact I would argue that in this era we become less dependent on what we know as a PC today and more dependent on the cloud.

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