Feature

Issue of the week: Will the iPad kill the PC?

Even if the desktop doesn't disappear, “its glory time is over.”

Your personal computer is headed for the recycling bin, said Dan Farber in CNET​.com. With the unveiling of Apple’s latest iPad last week, it’s clear that tablets will soon replace the “desktops and clunky laptops that were the face of computing for decades.” Apple CEO Tim Cook, who called the iPad the “poster child for the post-PC world,” said that the company sold 15.4 million of the devices in just the last quarter of 2011, more than the number of PCs sold during the same period by any one of the leading manufacturers, such as Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Dell. And as competition among tablet makers heats up, computer sales will stay flat or slide, said Patrick May and John Boudreau in the San Jose Mercury News. Nearly 120 million tablets are expected to be sold worldwide this year, and Apple, which already commands more than half of the market, is expected to remain top dog. “Essentially anything we once thought of as pen-and-paper activities can now be supplemented by a tablet,” says technology analyst Gene Munster.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, said John Naughton in the London Observer. Tablets may be flying off the shelves, but consumers, not businesses, are buying them. Many companies are simply not about to make “radical changes in their IT infrastructures” in the current economic climate. And while I love my iPad, it’s basically useless for a great number of tasks. I suppose you could “write a book, edit a movie, or build a big spreadsheet” on it, but it would be a bit like digging in the garden “with a teaspoon.” I was just finishing my obituary of the PC, said Daniel Nye Griffiths in Forbes.com, when I looked down and noticed…my keyboard—“with a wire coming out of the back.” You can be sure that the “vast majority of the technology journalists” trumpeting the post-PC era are doing so on, ahem, a PC.

You’re missing the point, said Kit Eaton in FastCompany.com. The PC isn’t going to disappear—millions of pocket calculators are still sold each year—but “its glory time is over.” There’s “nowhere really novel” for the laptop or desktop to go. It doesn’t matter that an iPad’s uses don’t neatly sync with those of a traditional computer, because over time, “new ways of using tablets will replace the old ways of using PCs.” These are exciting days. “We’re right at the beginning of the tablet computing era, with bigger and better things yet to come.”

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