Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Post-PC Era

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, the leading manufacturer of so called »tablet computers« has recently announced the beginning of the Post-PC Era. What he rerers to is the increasing market share of mobile devices like smart phones and tablets in the general usage of computers. PC sales are relatively declining including laptops. This analysis is apparently confirmed by the new operating system Windows NT 6.2 (better known as Windows 8) from Microsoft, the leading software company for PCs. Microsoft and its founder Bill Gates had created the PC world. Without MS-DOS and Windows, the way we think about computers would not be the same. But the way how the next generation of the Windows operatig system targets primarily mobile devices like tablets instead of conventional PCs leaves a clear message: The PC is dying.

Even Microsoft surrenders to the tablet market.

What are the consequences of this development? 
The rise of the PC had turned every user into a little computer engineer. PCs were flexible and could do almost every job. They were highly customized and configured by their users for their particular purpose. And normal users acquired remarkable skills and understandings how computers work.
The rise of tablet computers changes this situation. The users are turned from little engineers into dull consumers. The users don't create anything anymore, they consume what others have created for them and communicate in a very rudimentary way. The language of SMS and emails has severely crippled human language.
As a consequence we will have two types of computer users in the future: The masses who have no or little understanding of these devices and  use them primarily for online dating purposes instead of real communication as well as consumption of multimedia products and advertisements. And on the other hand there will be a small elite of professional computer specialists who use real computers for very restricted work purposes. But these computers will have little in common with the accessibility and easiness of today's PCs. With Windows saying "good bye"to the PC market, Linux will probably take over as the predominant operating system on these devices.

We have already seen that there are little technological advances regarding processor capacity in recent years. Computers are generally getting more mobile but less powerful. May be some physical limits of conventional semi-conductor based processor technology is responsible for this shift in the direction of computer development. So maybe there is a tangible reason for it and not just a change in marketing strategy. 

It seems that the Golden Era of the PCs is indeed over. It had lasted hardly for 3 decades and had turned us all into engineers and scholars. Now we are becoming consumers again as we were before.
In some way Microsoft has turned us into geniuses, and Apple turned us into dummies again.

But is there any positive effect of this new trend at all?
Maybe yes. It will certainly solidify the job market for computer specialists. During the last decades there was not much special about these specialists. Programmers, network specialists and computer technicians had lost their magical aura, because everybody understood what they were doing and could do more or less the same with a little bit of training. But this situation will soon be over. They will soon get their status as the high-priests of the sacred and mysterious world of computer technology back, while the rest of us will be busy organizing their social life over the Internet, since smart phones and iPads have turned us all into Aspergers that lack the ability to do this in the physical world without digital help.