Confucious Institute

Our Post-PC Future Is Going to Suck  (2011-03-07 16:54)

Did you know we are now on the brink of a "Post-PC" future? The boring old desktops and laptops are on the decline, say the tech gods, to be replaced with iPads and smartphones and an infinite number of slick little devices. This is going to suck.

While introducing the iPad 2 on Wednesday, Steve Jobs used the phrase at least a dozen times. ("Apple's third post-PC blockbuster") And it's a tribute to Apple's marketing wizardry, and the to extent to which the tech press is under its spell, that a slew of articles have now appeared declaiming an entire new epoch of computing: The "post-PC" era, heralded by the iPad.

Sounds cool. But what does "post-PC" mean? It's more than just a tablet. If you are a geek, "post-PC" is shorthand for what you believe a computer would be if it were designed by the Infallible Hand of God (i.e. Steve Jobs): impeccably designed, impervious to viruses, seamlessly integrated into every facet of daily life. "In a post-PC world, the experience of the product is central and significant above all else," gushes Joshua Topolsky at Engadget. "It's not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution or number of ports which dictate whether a product is valuable; it becomes purely about the experience of using the device." Gadget nirvana.

But to normal people, who just use technology instead of weirdly fetishizing it, the Post-PC era is a matter of posture. Where we previously sat in an office chair to use PCs, we splay on sofas while tapping out emails on our tablet. Or we walk down the sidewalk checking the weather on our smartphone, sometimes falling into open manholes. The Post-PC era heralds, "all sorts of 'connected companions' that we'll wear, we'll carry, we'll use on our desks and walls and the environment all around us," said former Microsoft visionary Ray Ozzie.

The new options of computing postures are liberating, say the Post-PC evangelists, more in tune with our workaday lives. (You can even check your Facebook wall posts on your car!) But at what price, freedom? If everyone is splaying while post-PCing, then the things made for consumption on our post-PCs will be implicitly tailored for people who are splaying. And they will likely be made by people who are also splaying, on their own post-PCs.

This is OK for watching movies and reading books. But have you ever tried to write something intelligible, while splaying? And while being zombified into a mental five-year-old by the seamless physics of the iPad's touchscreen, and the idiotic tapping required to type? (There's a reason why babies love post-PC devices like the iPad, but would rather vomit on a Macbook Pro.) If I wrote this blog post on an iPad 2 while splaying on a couch, it would read something like: Yoooooo…. writing this on mah new iPad 2, biatches.

Post-PC devices are gaining on us. While traditional PC sales growth slows, Apple is projected to sell 40 million iPads this year. By 2014, it is projected that one-in-five Americans will own a tablet computer. Someday I may even buy an iPad to shut up my yet-to-be-born baby when she cries.

But a Post-PC era? When that comes, I'll be sitting bolt upright in my office chair as the world crumbles around me, pounding cumbersome physical keys on my malware-ridden laptop. Miserable, back-aching, but lucid.

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  • margherita
    margherita 2011-03-07 17:32
    Tablets have a place in this world, of course, but so do laptops and desktops. Tablets cannot replace laptops until they are just as powerful and useful (imagine if you took the screen off your MacBook Pro). Until that day comes laptops and desktops will continue to get better (as will the iPad and its competitors). Josh from Engadget is just caught up in the coolness of the iPad. (As was Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo and his ridiculous proclamation after the unveiling of the first iPad that it would mean the end of the desktop in 3 or 4 years time. Yes he really wrote that.)
    One thing I do think the iPad (and its competitors) are becoming is the flag symbol for the eventual death of netbooks.
  • Toby
    Toby 2011-03-07 17:36
    margherita: Tablets have a place in this world, of course, but so do laptops and desktops. Tablets cannot replace laptops until they are just as powerful and usef
    Technology writers are really just people high on their own supply, especially when it comes to timelines.
  • margherita
    margherita 2011-03-07 17:45
    Toby: Technology writers are really just people high on their own supply, especially when it comes to timelines.
    There are some tech journalists that I really respect (like John Gruber at Daring Fireball) but for the most part the majority of them can't discuss the future of tech with a level head when it comes to forecasting the future. What Josh is doing with the iPad 2 I've seen over and over again from many others. I like Josh. I think he writes excellent reviews and is not pretentious or smug. But he's way off here. Go read the comments section on his piece if you care. A lot of smart replies putting him in his place.
    Like I said before, laptops and desktops are only going to get better. It's just that tablets are now awesome too and have their own place in the world. Fin.
  • Susan
    Susan 2011-03-07 17:55
    I honestly don't get it. People are giving away the ipads around here. Buy a car? Have an ipad. Raffle at a fast food joint or work? Have an ipad. Literally, my dad won an ipad at a work raffle. It's bad at all the things a tablet is supposed to be good for.
    My netbook is infinitely better, simply because it lags less, has more free hulu (you have to pay for hulu service on apple devices) and loads every site I need to be at--even flash. I can see other tablets moving in and doing it better then apple did it, but I don't see a future with only tablets.
    It's the same reason nobodies pissing themselves over touchscreen display's--it's just not so interesting. It's not filling a void like the ipod did.
  • Toby
    Toby 2011-03-07 17:57
    margherita: There are some tech journalists that I really respect (like John Gruber at Daring Fireball) but for the most part the majority of them can't discuss t
    I don't think netbooks are going anywhere. Unless we end up with a situation where tablets morph into something basically indistinguishable from a netbook (which is possible) and then we have people declaring netbooks "dead" even though they are very much alive... we just call them tablets at that point. The term "netbook" is very ill-defined as it is. We used to call them "palmtops", and everybody declared those "dead" once too... but what is the difference between a palmtop and a netbook? There is none of any importance.
    There will always be people who want a very small, light notebook with a keyboard. I think that's really the only differentiating feature that matters between a tablet and a netbook, and I'm sure that someday you'll either see a tablet with a convertible keyboard or a netbook with a convertible touchscreen.
    What we're seeing now is exactly the pattern we saw with smartphones. The iPhone came out and all of a sudden everybody had to copy that form factor, and for a while you couldn't even buy a smartphone with a keyboard unless it was a Blackberry. Eventually the phone makers realized there was an audience out there for keyboard phones and now there are a ton of them again. The same will happen with tablets.
  • Dana
    Dana 2011-03-07 17:58
    We will never be truly "post-PC" as long as Jezebel exists.
  • Toby
    Toby 2011-03-07 18:03
    Dana: We will never be truly "post-PC" as long as Jezebel exists.
    Beat me to it. O, my love/hate of Jezebel.
  • Dana
    Dana 2011-03-07 18:04
    Toby: Beat me to it. O, my love/hate of Jezebel.
    Bet on this to be the fastest-growing comment thread over the next 24 hrs.
  • margherita
    margherita 2011-03-08 09:07
    Toby: I don't think netbooks are going anywhere. Unless we end up with a situation where tablets morph into something basically indistinguishable from a net
    Where are you seeing keyboard phones? Pretty much every new smartphone coming out now has no such thing. Physical keyboards will be a thing of the past in smartphones in due time.
    I think this is the beginning of the end of netbooks. The camera element was a big talking point for the pro-netbook crowd. If you want to pair your iPad with a keyboard full time there are now options to do so from 3rd party vendors. Perhaps netbooks will still be around as a niche category, but I somewhat doubt that. I think tablets will completely take over for netbooks in 5 years time.
  • Toby
    Toby 2011-03-08 09:15
    margherita: Where are you seeing keyboard phones? Pretty much every new smartphone coming out now has no such thing. Physical keyboards will be a thing of the pas
    Many of the Droids (and Blackberries I believe) have keyboards, and it's for that reason I'm keeping mine rather than changing to an iPhone now that Verizon is crossing over.
  • margherita
    margherita 2011-03-08 09:24
    Toby: Many of the Droids (and Blackberries I believe) have keyboards, and it's for that reason I'm keeping mine rather than changing to an iPhone now that V
    I truly believe it's only a matter of time before you will never see a keyboard on a smartphone. Physical keyboards do nothing but add bulk and weight to your phone. If you prefer a physical keyboard, so be it, but honestly it is so easy to type on a virtual keypad in landscape mode that it makes physical keypads completely unnecessary.
  • Toby
    Toby 2011-03-08 09:27
    margherita: I truly believe it's only a matter of time before you will never see a keyboard on a smartphone. Physical keyboards do nothing but add bulk and weight
    I like to physically push down a letter, which is part of why I like my laptop and the aforementioned Droid. They can pry it from my cold, uncool fingers!
  • margherita
    margherita 2011-03-08 09:32
    Toby: I like to physically push down a letter, which is part of why I like my laptop and the aforementioned Droid. They can pry it from my cold, uncool fing
    For starters I personally believe that a lot of the phones you've listed are junk. So while you can still find examples of keyboard smartphones, you aren't exactly shedding light on good devices. Secondly you are simply in denial that smartphones will all eventually gravitate towards no keyboards. If you don't believe me, so be it, but a lot of people want keyboards now because either 1) they've never tried a virtual keyboard, 2) they just think banging on physical keys is faster/better. It isn't. If you prefer a keyboard, cool, but they will eventually be a thing of the past.
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