The end of the age of the personal computer?

Are we seeing the approaching end of the dominance of the PC and its derivatives? After 30 years will this decade see the transition to small portable, and more personal devices  and the ultimate demise of the ubiquitous PC?

With the arrival of the iPhone and Android phones, the devices we carry in our pocket are literally smarter than what we have on our desks. In the past two years, we have gone past a critical tipping point as they now have more functionality and utility than any desktop PC or notepad. This is a vital point. Putting HSDPA, GPS, wifi, accelerometer, camera, media player and GBs of storage in one device makes for a completely new paradigm of functionality. One that the humble PC can never aspire to.

For that matter, when are we going  to stop calling them “phones”? The fact they can make calls over GSM is sort of quaint now given all the other more advanced modes of communication now on offer via these devices.

Why will I need a dedicated PC when all my data (and apps) are stored in the cloud? What we will need is a medium to get to my data and a convenient way to interact. Phones today fail miserably on interaction due to their size but thats easily solvable as anyone with a netbook knows, by plugging in an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Bluetooth keyboards and mice exist today. What we really need is a wireless way to connect a 20+ inch LCD screen to a phone. Do that, and the age of the PC will be well and truly over.

I can see a day where everyone carries these small devices we used to call phones and go to any bluetooth enabled workspace where the device pairs with the keyboard, mouse and screen and we begin to work, using the same apps and data and communication channels we use every day on our devices – just on a bigger, more convenient workspace. You don’t even have to get the device out of your pocket!

So maybe Apple, Dell and Google should be working on wireless screens rather than going the other way and making these devices bigger and less portable – e.g. iPad, Dell Mini 5. Whats the point of a big phone? Unless you are going to make it the same size as a 20 inch LCD – its just a big heavy phone thats inconvenient to carry.  People will never sit at a 5 or 8 inch screen and work. Play maybe – sure – but there would be serious money up for grabs for a device that we can use for both work and play.

The first one to perfect this will kill the PC overnight and along with it companies like Microsoft, Intel, Dell and HP that depend on it. My tip is Google and HTC. Lets see.

1 comment to The end of the age of the personal computer?

  • Hi Ben,

    Actually at CeBit 2009 in Sydney I saw a CSIRO (I think) product demo of a short range wireless multi Gigabit interface. They were asking people who visited the stand if they believed they had any applications that would benefit from such a technology. They also mentioned that the most common answer was wireless docking for laptops.

    This is the device that the Phone/PDA companies need to use to enable their devices in the way that you’ve suggested.Thus allowing them to replace the desktop PC.

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