A Brief History of Personal Computing – IV

The PC Bible, T 3:1 – 3:5
This know also, that in the last days of personal computing, perilous times shall come.
For people shall be lovers of their own selves, disobedient to the makers of operating systems & computing devices alike; unthankful, without natural affection for brands or corporations.

Calling the era of Personal Computing at an end may seem premature. Sure, desktop computer sales are in decline, but notebooks and tablets are selling like hotcakes. After all, a notebook or tablet is nothing more than a desktop computer and monitor rolled into a transportable or even handheld package.

But the writing is on the wall! In big, bold letters spelling words like smartphone, cloud computing and augmented reality1. What does it all mean and where will it all end? Who knows, but the major players are quaking in their boots! They all remember getting stoned to Bob Dylan songs, one in particular:

♫And the first one now 
Will later be last 
For the times they are a-changin’.

Old marketing strategies are losing traction. Brand loyalty, while still a factor, is giving way to feature and price driven purchasing behavior. Apple, still the darling of the fashionista set, may hold 40% of the smartphone market in the USA, but worldwide it is slipping badly. In China, the single biggest market by units shipped, Apple is only a minor player! So much so, that the latest Apple product launch saw the introduction of a “cheap” iPhone version. What is the world coming to? You can almost smell the fear in Silicon Valley.

Desktop applications like Microsoft Office, easily the most used productivity software suite in the market and a cash cow for its maker, is being replaced by cloud based services. At present these new services make up only 8% of that market segment, but are predicted to rise to 60% by 2017. The list goes on and the pace of change is accelerating, fast.

All this transformation is, of course, driven by the ubiquitous Internet. The number of nodes connecting to it has grown so much faster than anticipated, that the current transport protocol (TCP/IP v4) is running out of addresses. In other words, the Internet is coming close to being accessed by over 4 billion devices!

While our current crop of Luddite politicians are trying to hold back the tide with their shortsighted National Broad Band rollback, the rest of the world is moving on.  It is only a matter of time before countries that have embraced the digital economy wholeheartedly, will leave old fashioned resource driven economies behind. 

Virtually all new TV sets are Internet enabled and while fridges and microwaves have not yet seen the same integration, it is only a matter of time. Wireless access points are found in most households and the smartphone is used less for phone calls than all sorts of other things. More important still, phone calls are increasingly being made via Voip2 services like Skype and Viber or replaced altogether by social media site messaging, texting or voice mail. What’s more, smart phone usage is being augmented by wearable eye glasses1 or (oversized) wristwatch1 like devices. Research into bionic contact lenses1, capable of displaying information from your smartphone into your field of vision, is going on right now!

As we are becoming more comfortable with the concept of using software as a service and having our data stored in the Cloud, the advantages will become more obvious and compelling.  (see IT Talk, I Look At Clouds From Both Sides Now, SSN, Nov 2011).
Soon, we will be used to having ALL of our information at hand ALL of the time, ANYWHERE. We will be accessing our work related data, news, social media or instant visual communication without having to turn on a Personal Computer or even fiddling with our smartphone. We will REALLY be connected and realise, as Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems predicted in the late 1980’s, that THE NETWORK IS THE COMPUTER!
I, for one, am not convinced that helping to expedite the end of The Brief History of Personal Computing will actually improve our lives. But that is another story…

1 Augmented Reality Devices

Google Glasses (working Model)

2 Voip – Voice over Internet (Protocol)