In 2010, Steve Jobs boldly claimed that we had reached the ‘post-pc’ era. He wins no awards for captioning the obvious decline of desktop computer sales, and the remark also happily doubled as a promotion of new iRevolution devices. Apple fans all over the world now chant the mantra of ‘post-PC’ and ‘PC-free’- but how true is it?
For me, mobile has been less about replacing desktop, and more about making use of the time I’m away from the desktop. Sure, we can do loads from our quad core, 12 megapixel Galaxy slab, including the occasional telephone call, but I challenge anyone reading this to live for a week without touching a PC (there is no financial reward upon completion, sorry).
The other challenge is to our definition of personal computers. The average smartphone is more powerful that the computing power used to land man on the moon, so should we follow the advice of Bill Gates and start calling our smart phones and tablets ‘personal computers’?
Let’s take the example of online banking. In order to see how little money I actually own, I have to clear my diary for the day, and then hunt for the PIN machine, the napkin that I wrote my secret word on, and the far corner of my brain that contains a string of digits that make up a passcode- probably a combination of my birthday and house number. I think. I then have to input them into a poorly designed website, whilst constantly checking for a pixelated padlock that’s meant to reassure me that the FBI aren’t watching my every move. Completing this task on a desktop is still harder than breaking into a physical bank, attempting this on a mobile device is a mind-numbingly laborious process that I’ve only succeeded in twice.
‘Use the app!’ I hear you cry. If I drew a Venn diagram of apps available for my smartphone OS and apps made by my bank, the overlapping section would contain absolutely nothing. Apps across the major smartphone OS’s are horribly fragmented, and never contain all the features accessible from the world wide web. Even mobile versions of websites are often limited in their functionality. The problem, folks, is that mobile is still playing catch up, and doesn’t seem to be overtaking anytime soon. It merely tides us over until we’re next near a ‘proper’ computer.
But don’t fret! The next few years will be a time of innovation on the software and hardware front. The world’s ‘most powerful mobile operating system’ is about to be upgraded (that’s iOS by the way), while Windows 8 continues to smash together the best of mobile and desktop. On the hardware front, Microsoft’s OEMs are madly constructing weird and wonderful hybrid devices that fold, bend, flip and switch between desktop powerhouse and pocket sized portables.
We’ll always have phones, we’ll always have desk-bound, virus-ridden relics, but that space in between is the stuff to watch.