Today marks the 30th anniversary of the IBM Personal Computer. This has revolutionised the way computing has been brought to the masses and has led other manufacturers such as Dell and HP to manufacture IBM Compatible products, making the IBM PC an industry standard.
Yet the Chief Technical Officer at IBM Middle East and Africa, one of the original IBM engineers who pioneered the design of the IBM PC, mentioned in his blog post that PCs are ‘no longer at the leading edge of computing’. Dr Mark Dean also stated that ‘They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs’.
One of the concerns I have found over the years is how people have become so dependent of the PC in order to perform their daily computing tasks. Many individuals and organisations are reliant so on the PC and specific applications to perform basic tasks such as email, document writing and presentation that anything disruptive taking place can have a significant impact on productivity. It is almost as if business tasks and specific technology adoption are so tightly coupled together. Many individuals and organisations that have developed software have been specific to only one or two platforms, and don’t normally focus on the broader scope and on open standards. Even today, there is a variety of operating systems and web browsers to choose from, yet there are inconsistencies between these platforms that affect productivity.
Since the emergence of web standards has changed the perception. With many decent web browsers on the market to choose from, it is made apparent that a wide variety of web browsers are used worldwide. This means that individuals and organisations cannot afford to take risk of developing web sites and web application to a specific platform as this would alienate them away from the wider audience. A lot of popular web and cloud services such as Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Zoho and various Google applications base their services around web and open standards. People who access those web and cloud services wouldn’t notice the difference across different platforms, thus keeping productivity consistent.
This is what the emerging and disruptive technologies need to focus on how they can add value to social activities. We can take an example of how smart phones, tablets and mobile internet has made it possible to access social networking services on the move. To add to that, one can take photos on their smart device and upload them straight away onto Facebook, sharing their photos to their family, friends or colleagues all at once. Don’t be surprise if very soon we would be seeing cameras with 3G capabilities as standard. As Dr Mark Dean has stated, ‘it’s becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact’.
Steve Jobs also mentioned back in 2010 about the vision of the Post-PC since the launch of the iPad. With the recent announcement of iOS 5 with one of the features making the device PC free, it is clear that these organisations know what the upcoming trend is. It is also clear how industries have responded to the upcoming trend, with Windows 8 that is to be tablet friendly and the emergence of GNOME 3 and Unity graphical desktops shaping the Linux market.
That said, the PC is not going to disappear any time soon. Rather, it would act as a channel to access social and cloud services alongside with other disruptive technologies. It may evolve into something else, perhaps to something lightweight as Google has demonstrated with their Chromebook. It is also evident that some smart devices cannot carry out certain tasks quite well, such as placing attachments into emails using an out of the box iPad, but with (short) time this will mature. I guess one of the key challenges to face is the cultural shift to move away from being heavily dependent on the PC. It is going to take a lot to convince individuals and organisations to break away from that dependency, and the benefits of using alternatives clearly need to be demonstrated.
Link: A Smarter Planet