Take 2 Tablets & Call Me…
A hundred years after their invention, cars are pretty much the same. Faster, better looking, more comfortable — but still with four wheels, a steering column, engine, brakes. A fridge is a fridge is a fridge, whether it was made in 1953, 1983, or 2003. Some inventions perform a function and, aside from improvements in the technology, their heart never really changes.
Computers are different. For starters, there’s the form factor. Chances are you’re reading this on a laptop, an iPad, or even your Smartphone. A decade ago, you probably owned a bulky desktop tower and separate monitor. These days, if you have a desktop machine it’s probably a super-slim iMac. Only video editors and others requiring heavy processing power opt for the chunky Mac Pro.
Even if you are reading this on a notebook, you don’t need to be. Your iPhone has more than enough processing power. You use your shiny new Macbook Air for light browsing, some photoshop, email. Your five year old Macbook could do exactly the same thing, albeit three seconds slower. Your machine is already a hundred times more powerful than it needs to be.
The fact is, if you’re a light user, the next PC you buy might very well be your last.
Yes Final Cut, Photoshop, and Logic users need the processing power. But the 45 year old housewife who Facebooks, emails, and surfs the web simply doesn’t.
For most people, the PC era is effectively over. It’s Apple who are heralding the “end of the PC era” — enabling you to perform most light tasks on a tablet or a smartphone, and delivering cloud computing services so you don’t even need physical storage, but in many ways it was Microsoft who launched the first fatal blow that could eventually see the PC consigned to history.
For a seamless user experience, look at the evolution of gaming.
In the 90s, hardcore gamers were dedicated to the PC. Consoles were for kids.
The launch of the Xbox in 2001 changed all that. The six year old Xbox 360 is still going strong — and plays most new games at a higher framerate and resolution than your spanking new Macbook Air. It is, in many ways, Microsoft’s greatest success. Gaming on a console such as the 360 is a much better experience than gaming on a PC. It’s practically seamless and offers instant entertainment. Consoles are optimised to play games and they deliver a simple, efficient, switch-on-and-play gaming experience that brought “video games” out of your fifteen year old’s bedroom and into the living rooms of grown men and women in their twenties and thirties (and even older) who wanted something more exciting and social than TV. In many ways, the iPad and the iPhone are doing exactly the same thing to the PC — making it look clunky and obsolete. If Apple spent the best part of the last decade taking the “beige box” and making it cool, they look set to spend the next decade showing you exactly why you don’t need it.
Computer makers expect to increase sales by just 4% this year. Compared to a whopping doubling of the global tablet market since last year. Tablet sales will overtake netbook sales next year. Already, Apple sell almost three times as many iPads as they sell Macs.
Most interestingly, penetration of tablet devices is reaching beyond the typical young, male demographic. 54% of tablet users are thirty five or older, and 19% are over the age of 55. (Source: Lukew.com)
The tablet (as well as the smartphone) era is making home computing easier and more accessible to a wider number of people, the way fifth and sixth generation consoles have made gaming much more mainstream. And, having let Microsoft steal a march on them here this time, it’s Apple who are leading the way.
Consoles simply work. So does the iPad. Even the latest rage of fully-fledged Macs are being designed to offer the kind of seamless experience provided by iOS, with ‘instant on’ hardware functionality and software improvements in OS X Lion such as auto resume and mission control.
Get Your Head INTO the Clouds
But Apple aren’t content to rest on their laurels. Yes, tablets and smartphones are changing the way we use computers. But cloud computing has the potential to change the way we do things even more. Apple’s $1 billion purchase of a new data center in North Carolina isn’t simply about storage, it’s about processing power as well. If, in the future, we’re all connected to the cloud, why carry expensive and fully featured processors in our pockets everywhere we go? Apple is banking on breaking the low-to-mid-range smartphone market by offering us a digital future where a data center can perform the heavy lifting, delivering data over the cloud.
Once again, video games are leading the way. We’re already seeing this emerging technology being used in services such as OnLive, who deliver streaming entertainment to televisions and computers at vastly reduced computational power, doing all the hard work themselves.
The computer era began with massive mainframes and simple, “dumb” terminals that performed no other function other than to connect to the mainframe, send and receive data. Slowly the terminals became more powerful, standalone machines as the requirement for processing power vastly outstripped both bandwidth and connectivity. With cloud processing, we may well come full circle.
The PC era may not be over, but its golden days are long gone. Fewer and fewer tasks require fully fledged machines. We’re living in the era of the tablet and the smartphone now. And, with the advent of the cloud — and the remote processing capacity it brings — the way we interact with machines may soon change once again.