HP Spectre

The tablet never killed the laptop, but the smartphone has become the computer of the masses

HP Spectre

When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, some commentators heralded it as the death knell for the laptop and the beginning of the post-PC era – but they were wrong.

It is not tablets that are eating PC sales, it is smartphones. The price of Android phones have plummeted in recent years and now everyone and their dog now has a smartphone – a device that works very well as a device to check the news, check your email, and communicate with friends using any one of a plethora of messaging and social networking apps.

Tablets are good devices for all of these functions too, but don’t fit in your pocket so tend to be reserved for use in the home, on the train, or possibly at the office – they are no-one’s go-to device 24/7. Tablets have thus been relegated to being a pure consumption device – a place to watch Netflix and browse digital magazines, websites, and Reddit – and sales have stalled. You just don’t need to upgrade your tablet every 24 months if your current tablet is light enough, has a decent screen, and can play all the videos you throw at it. If anything, tablets are pulling people away from the TV and printed media rather than the PC.

To his credit, Steve Jobs was not one of the people who thought the tablet would kill the PC, but instead thought they they would become the workhorse of the minority rather than the default “computer” of the majority. In a speech at the D8 Conference in 2010, shortly after the release of the iPad, he said:

“We were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers and America started to move into those urban and suburban centers, cars got more popular. PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around. They’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

In this prediction, Jobs was prescient as ever, albeit with on major caveat – that it was the smartphone and not the tablet that has become the go-to computer of the masses.

We are not in a post-PC era – the majority of work and creation is still done on PCs and laptops, and in terms of productivity you just can’t beat a decent keyboard and a good-sized screen. PCs remain the workhorse of the modern world, and that situation does not look likely to change anytime soon. Digital communication may have moved to the smartphone, and media consumption to the tablet, but the PC remains the go-to device for getting things done.

Image courtesy of HP

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