Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The PDA is Dead no wait, its the PC. Yeah, that's it. Or Not.

My Old Desktop

         Every three months or so, some pundit is writing an article pronouncing how the "fill in the blank technology" is dead.  The PC is dead.   No, its the Netbook.  No, the laptop.  They cite sales figures and analyst projections trying to be ahead of the trends.  This ridiculousness is hype for the sake of hype.  Technology exists to perform a task for people.  It is very rare that any single task would fall out of use.  It is common however for tasks to be preformed on other devices or multiple devices rather than just one. The death of a device is more rare, slow and complex than the hype suggests.  Technology doesn't really die.  It just converges.

     Our first example is the PDA  the most famous being "Palm".  It was a digital assistant that fit in the "palm" of your hand. It allowed you to keep all the contact info you already had on your PC and take it with you wherever you went as well as take notes, and keep your calendar appointments.  It converged when RIM came out with the Blackberry which did all of that plus added instant alphanumeric pager style messaging. .   We now call this "Texting".  Followed by mobile email corporations soon adopted this tech in droves.  Microsoft came out with Windows CE for the same overall purpose.    The first smartphones were either Windows CE, Blackberry or Palm based.    They were largely looked at as luxuries rather than tools and adoption was limited due to high prices and complex designs.  Apple raised the bar with the iPhone and the rest is history.

The PDA did not die then.   It converged with communications technology. It became an App. You probably use those features every day on your smart phone.

     Remember the Walkman?   Indeed most people now use their smartphone as their portable music player.   The desire for a portable way to listen to audio will always be there.  Its function, however,  may be built into another device that fills the same portability role as the Tape/CD/MP3 player did.  The MP3 player did not die then, it  just converged. 

(Insert Picture of IPad here, but you have to imagine a picture, because the lawyers have not yet invented a way to sue what you think about.)

Now about the Tablet vs PC hoopla

     I assert to you that the Desktop PC is no more dead than the Desk it sits upon. Saying one technology type will replace another is akin to saying that you will replace all of the furniture in your house with one universal piece.  Not likely.  Not because its not possible, but because its not comfortable.    Comfort drives the technology.  I read in a chair. I eat at a table, I sleep in a bed. I work at a desk or bench.    I do this because these devices are best built for this task.   I can read in my bed and sleep at my desk.   I do not regularly because it is not comfortable.  There is no universal gadget that will replace everything.  That's just silly.    

 This Blog is written on my desktop  PC, not because I cannot do it another way, but because I would like to keep my neck straight and not have to hold the device while I use it.   Also I like my humongous screen, which makes it easy to edit photos without having to zoom in/out all the time.  I can blog from my phone and my tablet as well, but it is not as comfortable. Just because I can work anywhere does not make anywhere the BEST place to work. Conversely it would not be practical to have a tablet with at 27 inch screen.  That too is silly.   Although, Samsung may try it. 

Tablets have been around for business use for the past 15 years. The IPad is the most famous of  course, mostly because it refined the interface and the hardware specifically for tablets, then exploited the possibilities.  In short it just performed better.   The way one uses a computer will define how useful a tablet such as the IPad is.  For a high school or college student, the tablet would a be huge help. Mostly because taking notes on a laptop has always been cumbersome, and battery life is always an issue.    For seniors and those that only do light computing, Tablets are a great solution.  Tablets are more likely to make paper obsolete rather than the Desktop PC.  Having used a Tablet as a Desktop PC, I can say I prefer the regular Desktop PC for serious work.   Simply because it makes my body hurt less.  Because I am seated....at a desk...with a larger screen that is easier to read.  Yes it is that obvious.

The best use of a PC then is when you need to work for long periods of time and you want to be comfortable.  Remember the PC was originally sold as a business/office tool.  It still does that better than a phone or tablet.

Do paper note pads replace loose paper?  No, that's silly.  They are very similar but have different uses. 

But PC sales are down you say.  I say of course they are I already have one. And so does everyone else.  I have at least 5 PCs not including tablets.  It will be awhile before I max out my hardware.  Welcome to PC saturation.    This is called convergence.  We all spoke so hopefully about what that would mean in 1998.  Now, as we watch it happen, people are surprised?  The point was to ingrate computing into our collective experience.

Here is the point: A technology device never rises above its basic use.   Put another way: As long as a device is useful, it will still exist.  regardless of what analysts say.