post-PC

Steve Jobs was right: Jobs was the opening act at the D: All Things Digital conference on June 1 2010 in Southern California when in a 90-minute interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, he proclaimed that the post-PC era had arrived, while acknowledging that PCs have “taken us a long way” and that the transition will be lengthy, and uncomfortable for some.

And he went on to illustrate his idea with an analogy:

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? … We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.”

Indeed, lengthy and uncomfortable it has been -so he was right, at least, on those two accounts. But Steve Jobs was not the first person to propose this concept. He didn’t even coin the term -that honor goes to David D. Clark, an MIT scientist who in 1999 saw the future of computing as “inevitably heterogeneous” and a “network full of services”. Clark described a world where “everything” would be able to connect to the internet (including watches and toasters), computing would primarily be done through information appliances, and data would be stored by centralized hosting services instead of on physical disks. 

Sounds familiar? Of course it does, in no small part after Apple launched iCloud in 2011 -a service enabling Apple’s product line (especially their by then bestseller iPhone) to synchronize data with PCs through cloud services, freeing their iOS devices from dependency on a PC.

But it wasn’t until September 19 2017, with the release of iOS 11, that Apple reached a point when their iPad could be considered as a true post-PC device, one that could be used totally independent from a PC, up to the point of replacing it (whether desktop or laptop) -even making some of us wonder what’s a computer.

Getting there took many years (more than seven) and many iterations both in terms of hardware (iPad) and software (iOS)… and even then, living the PC-free dream requires that you go for the more expensive iPad Pro and that you shell out even more money for the Apple Pencil and the Apple Smart Keyboard (or else your user experience falls short of being called a dream).

Trust me, I know: I am typing this on a 10.5-inch iPad Pro using Apple’s Smart Keyboard, so I’m living Apple’s post-PC dream. Thus, I can bear witness that it does work, like a charm, and that the iPad Pro can be your main computing device. In fact, I don’t own a PC anymore.

The funny thing, though, is that many other millions of people live in a post-PC era -even if they don’t own any Apple devices. How come? Because in many countries, mostly in the developing world, a huge percentage of their population only have access to the internet via mobile devices (especially smartphones). China is a great example: as I mentioned a few weeks ago, when dealing with the topic of e-commerce, 95% of the people who connect to the internet there do it from their phones.

Since something similar happens in India, in Brazil, in Indonesia… or in the UK, the reality is that more and more of us are living in a PC-free world. For many, that also happens to be an Apple-free world. Sorry, Steve.

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