Are we now entering into the 'post-PC' era?
May 23, 2011
by Mark Ollig

Along with the new Apple iPad 2 announcement March 2, Steve Jobs revealed Apple Computer was receiving most of its revenues from what he called, “post-PC devices,” which included Apple’s iPods, iPhones, and, of course, the Apple iPads.

When thinking of PCs or personal computers, one used to (or still might) have a vision of a desk designated as the home or work “computer station,” with hardware consisting of one tower computer case connecting a mouse, keyboard, display screen, and a printer.

This traditional stationary computer is used by walking over to its designated location, sitting down in the designated computer chair, turning on the PC, and waiting (for what seems forever) for the operating system to boot up, and then, finally, one begins typing on the keyboard and clicking the mouse.

My, how 20th century.

In this post-PC era, we no longer need to do our computing from a stationary location. We have become mobile when it comes to our computing via smartphones or various-sized tablet computing devices we carry with us.

We no longer need to wait for traditional PCs to go through their lengthy “boot up” or “shutdown” procedure as post-PC era mobile computing devices turn on instantly or are simply always-on.

Today, we take our computers wherever we go. We can keep them with us, unlike the traditional home or work computer still sitting back there on the desk.

Instead of using the PC – connected mouse and keyboard for interaction, we manipulate and enter data by way of touchscreens. We communicate over our computing devices using voice and video cameras, and can even use motion sensors, like what is on the Xbox 360, to interact.

Many of our stationary computers require them to be physically plugged into the network, limiting where they can be located.

In a post-PC era, our computing is mobile, using Wi-Fi and wireless mobile broadband networks, providing continuous connectivity to the Internet, or to our office networks or cloud computing service providers.

As we find ourselves living more of our lives online and engaging in online social networking, shopping, banking, entertainment and work, we will require real-time, always-on, high-speed connectivity to the Internet – from any location.

The computing devices we use need to be able to handle our fast-paced on-the-go personal and working lives, which mean using mobile and portable computing devices.

The term post-PC is not a new phrase – it has been around for more than 10 years.

In 1999, MIT computer scientist, David Clark, gave a presentation entitled “The Post PC Internet.”

Clark’s presentation illustrated how the future would see every electronic device, including toasters, eyeglasses, wristwatches, and televisions . . . connected to the Internet.

He described how “a watch face might temporarily become a tiny screen displaying your appointments for the day, information sent wirelessly to the watch from its storage folder on the Internet.”

Seems Clark was predicting wireless interactions to the Internet’s cloud computing capabilities.

He also said in 1999 that we would need to get used to having a computing future which would be comprised of an assortment of many different parts, or, as Clark called it, “heterogeneous.”

In 1999, the dominant technology standard used on personal computers was the Microsoft Windows operating system; however, Clark foresaw this dominance coming into question in the future.

Clark had a vision about the future of software, too.

He quoted MIT experts as saying, “shrink-wrapped software will go the way of the buggy whip.”

Today, we can obtain software by directly downloading it from websites on the Internet (no shrink-wrapped packaging needed).

David Clark described future computing devices in 1999 as “information appliances,” which today include our mobile handheld devices, like iPods, iPads, iPhones, tablet computers, smartphones, and the new devices to come.

While I was reading this 1999 future computing prognostication, a professor at MIT, Hal Abelson, spoke on what we today call cloud computing.

Abelson predicted how corporations, instead of storing all their internal company and customer computing record data onsite, will instead be having this data handled (stored) by “outside service suppliers.”

“You’ll see the market for [storage] disks being replaced by [remote] storage services,” Abelson said in 1999.

Abelson seems to be describing today’s secure “data storage warehouses” located in the Internet cloud.

Clark summed up his futuristic prediction with “What does the future look like? Well, it’s a network full of services.”

So, where does yours truly think this post-PC era is heading?

Today, our personal computing sees us using computing devices no longer physically tethered by a cable or restricted by a geographic location.

We access our information, software programs, and download our mobile device applications over wireless networks connected to storage data servers and computing servers located in the Internet cloud.

The traditional personal computer used at home and at work will still be around for a while; however, we need not be chained to it.

Our personal computer no longer needs to be a stationary piece of hardware sitting on a desk plugged into a wall anymore.

Welcome to the post-PC era.

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