Opinion: The PC: a eulogy

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer is a senior anthropology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

It was great to know you, personal computer. You rose to fame in the 1980s and were in everyone’s home by the late 1990s. But now, you’re collecting dust in a rapidly growing percentage of American homes, and it’s time to put you to rest. We are living in a post-PC world.

If we analyze our use of technology throughout a typical day, we will likely find that nearly every computer application we use has an analog on a mobile platform. I’ve got friends (and even my own mother) who, when it came time to buy a new PC, bought an iPad instead. For the average computer user who mostly surfs the Internet, uses Facebook and watches YouTube videos, a tablet computer is a cheaper and more functional alternative to a PC.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone will throw his or her PC in the basement like we did to the Walkman or landline phone. However, I do think the PC market is retooling itself to appeal to creative professionals instead of the casual market.

In a recent report in the MIT Technology Review, Michael Degusta found that smartphones and tablet computers are being adopted faster than any other technology in history. Adoption rates for these technologies have well outpaced adoption rates for the PC, television, electricity and the telephone. In fact, more than 50 percent of American adults have smartphones and have mostly adopted them in the last five years. Degusta also found that smartphones are being adopted around the world at an unrivaled speed.

On top of the rapid growth of mobile technologies, there’s still a lot of opportunity for growth in the mobile market share. The key to broader market saturation for mobile technologies is multi-tiered innovation. Hardware giants like Apple, Samsung and HTC need to make products with good processing power for cheap. Rumor has it that Google is about to announce a $99 tablet with a NVIDIA Tegra-3 processor on board. This high-speed, low-cost tablet would likely put a tablet computer in the hands of pretty much everyone.

Most of all, good consumer electronics and software are made for humans. A company could produce the fastest and best product on the market and still fail if the design is off. Good design is what I think makes the iPhone and iPad dominate the mobile market, even though some Android-powered devices have superior features. Look to see more industrial designers and artists being involved in the development of hardware.

On the other hand, independent software developers need to create apps that can rival applications on the PC platform. If there were a viable alternative to products like Photoshop, high-quality games or Final Cut on the mobile platform, I think a lot of professionals and gamers would abandon the PC in favor of cheaper, stronger mobile computing.

Now, once-beloved PC, as we lay you to rest in the closet downstairs, know that in the future, our smartphones will likely join you. It’s technology’s circle of life.