When the iPad was launched a few years ago, Apple’s Steve Jobs called it the post-PC era. That implies that PCs, including the Mac, are on the way out, and mobile computing will dominate in the future.
I can’t disagree with that implication, but I’m not ready to let go of my Mac just yet. Why not? Because what the Mac does, it does very well, and tablets, including the much loved iPad and iPhone, don’t do those same tasks well at all.
The Fragmented Future of Computing
It was just over a couple of decades ago when Apple disrupted the nascent laptop industry with the PowerBook line of Macs. Small, light, fast, and mostly full on Macs, they dominated for a few years.
The secret to success was simple. A lightweight and mobile package that could easily replace most (but not all) desktop tasks.
In a few years Apple (and most other manufacturers) were selling more notebooks than desktops. Why? Because they did most of what a desktop could do in a smaller, more mobile package.
If jobs is correct about the post-PC era, does that mean the Mac is on the way out? Perhaps, but this transition to mobility is likely to take many years, if not decades, or, at least until tablets, phablets, and smartphones can do all a Mac can do today.
What I see in the future is fragmented computing. Apple does well to give us iCloud to sync files between devices because of what Apple has done to the industry.
Through tasteful and effective marketing, Starbucks managed to take a 25-cent cup of coffee and turn it into a $5.00 daily necessity. Apple has managed to position their must have products so that many of us need a Mac. And an iPad. And, of course, an iPhone.
I take issue with David Pogue’s slight against mobile computing in The New York Times.
Everybody knows what a tablet is, right? It’s a black touch-screen slab, like an iPad or an Android tablet. It doesn’t run real Windows or Mac software — it runs much simpler apps. It’s not a real computer.
Hello? Since when is a bona fide computing device not a real computer? Are desktop Macs and PCs not real computers because they can’t do what IBM’s Watson can do? Of course not. That’s ridiculous.
Likewise, it’s ridiculous to say an iPad or an iPhone is not a real computer. It’s a computer. Some computers– high powered Macs or PCs loaded to the gills with RAM and huge storage– are more powerful, yes, but not more real.
What’s interesting about this post-PC era is how Apple has managed to get many of us to buy three products instead of one. There was a time when we had a Mac and it lived on the desktop. Then it became a notebook and many of us had both.
Then along came the iPhone and iPad, and now some of us have all four products because each one does something the others do not do as well.
When I’m working in the office I use the desktop iMac. If I have to work at home I use the MacBook. When I’m on the road, things change. The iPhone goes everywhere, of course, because it acts a phone. The iPad is the tool of choice when ingesting media, browsing the web, and not doing as much serious work. The MacBook gets left at home more frequently these days.
What would it take to get rid of the Mac entirely and use just an iPad? For many Mac users, not much. That may be why Mac sales have stalled and iPad sales have skyrocketed. For many of us, iPad tasks such as browsing, social networking, email, photos, music, and videos– and keeping track of personal data in Calendar, Contacts and todo lists, are all that we need.
For that, the iPad works well. Certain functions do not work as well on the iPad. Heavy duty typing requires a keyboard. A physical keyboard. Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and any number of professional applications do not have similar counterparts on the iPad. If you need those apps for any reason, the iPad just won’t do.
I say we still need the Mac, but just not as much. How can we call it a post-PC era when we still need to do what both Macs and PCs do that cannot be done on tablets, phablets, or smartphones?