Arguments are being bandied about as if they are a meaningful consideration of the changes taking place around us. Tech writer John Paczkowski said “Steve Jobs was right. Tablets are cars. PCs are trucks.”
Both are wrong. It’s not the tablet or the iPad that has become the car. Yes, as Jobs predicted, we’re in the post-PC era and how we once used PCs– including the Mac– has changed. And, yes, PCs– including the Mac– are trucks. If they’re not cars, then what is?
Post-PC Era Is Mobile
Over the past few weeks, here on Mac360 but on other websites as well, I’ve read various arguments that the Mac is a car, the Mac is a truck, the iPad is a bicycle by comparison. All those are fallacious arguments. The Mac, and by definition the Windows-based PC or Chromebooks or anything else desktop or notebook, is a truck.
What are the cars of the 21st century? Here’s what Steve Jobs said in 2010, about seven years ago.
When 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, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars… 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.
Where are the cars?
They’re mobile devices; iPad and iPhone, and their copycat cousins from Android-land. Those are the cars of computing in the 21st century. 20 years ago we used the Mac (and by comparison, Windows-based PCs) for everything. The Mac was the hub of our digital devices. The hub. Jobs at the turn of the century, back when the Mac still ruled at Apple:
We are living in a new digital lifestyle with an explosion of digital devices. It’s huge. And we believe the PC, or more importantly the Mac, can become the digital hub of our new emerging digital lifestyle, with the ability to add tremendous value to these other digital devices.
What has changed since 2001?
It is not so much as truck vs. car, or Mac vs. iPad, as much as it is functionality slowly moving away from the truck (Mac) and moving toward the car (iPad, iPhone, Watch, AirPod, et al). We can say this move toward the post-PC era began with the iPod. Instead of listening to music on the Mac, we could listen to music on a far more portable and personal device in our pockets. A few years later the iPhone was launched and more functionality moved from the Mac to our pockets; camera, photos, applications, email, web browsing, and those once Mac-only features became mobile and combined with phone calls, texting, and camera to explode the post-PC era.
Yes, the Mac and PCs of today do more than ever, despite those functions being supplanted by smaller, more mobile devices. Think of a high end Mac or Windows PC as big trucks designed for heavy hauling. Mac notebooks are more like smaller pickup trucks; they can carry heavy loads, but not as much as more powerful desktop machines, and, like the car, they’re not quite as useful for the masses who prefer comfortable and more economic transportation.
If the Mac is a truck, and it is, what is the car? Let’s go with iPhone and iPad. The former is the most mobile and most used device. The latter is a mini-van or SUV which can do more than an iPhone, but isn’t quite as mobile or convenient.
Simply put, the Mac is now a truck and no longer a car. Today, well into the post-PC era, the car is iPhone, iPad, and their counterparts; not as powerful as a Mac can be, but used by more people for more functions than their truck brethren.