Cyberculture: Is 2011 the beginning of the end for the PC?

Computers have long been a part of everyday life, fulfilling every need from satisfying boredom to delivering the latest shiny products straight to your letterbox, but following the move by number one PC developer Hewlett Packard (HP) to focus on the corporate sector and with Apple on the rise, is the end in sight for the likes of the desktop computer?

One of the biggest challenges to PC’s dominance is the overwhelming success of Apple’siPad and iPad 2, which reported a profit of $7.6billion in the last quarter, more than double from the same time last year and the same as the entire year’s profit for supermarket giant Tesco, with iPad sales up +183% thanks to the launch of the iPad 2. (source: BBC)

The biggest change is the diversification of technology though, with consumers able to do what they used to only be able to accomplish on a computer on any number of devices, many smaller, more portable and more convenient.

PC tried to hit back at the latter with the ‘netbook’ style laptop, a smaller version of the standard laptop designed for increased convenience, but thanks to the iPad having the ‘cool’ factor it continues to dominate.

Consumers valuing portability has shown over the past few years as desktops have increasingly given way to laptops, particularly since the price of laptops has dropped significantly. When the format was first pushed out, you couldn’t find a laptop for under £1000, whereas now you can get an entry-level laptop for £300, around the same price as the lowest grade iPad.

Smartphones are a whole other arena, with many glued to them 24/7. iPhone leads in this arena of course, with the respectable, business-friendly Blackberry and the open-source Android masses not far behind.

iPhone might be the must-have, but the real ingenuity comes through the user-generated Android Marketplace, clearly out to increase the standard and amount of applications available rather than just making profit.

How these devices interlink is another attractive feature, since the days of linked accounts and automatic remembering of passwords mean that a Facebook account can take you a long way across the internet.

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ cement the day-to-day nature of technology in people’s lives, and this is no longer something you need a PC to access.

There are still areas where only a full PC will do though, such as writing or editing document, where the limited screen space on a phone or tablet make it tricky, or graphic design – although this practice has largely been annexed by Mac. Even for reading websites you often find yourself longing for a computer when reading on a mobile, to avoid the constant need to zoom in and out.

But what next? An announcement of an iPad 3 seems inevitable, but will the familiarity and ease of use be enough to keep PCs in the running as we draw ever-closer to the Back to the Future benchmark set for 2015.

Technological development seems unlikely to move the goalposts at this stage, with computers at a level where almost all standard specifications are more than adequate for the average PC user. Speed will be the thing which will attract people, instant booting up and powering down for example, as well as better connectivity with devices, which might be improved by USB 3.0, 10 times faster than the current USB and allowing for transfers of 5.0Gigabits per second, meaning transferring your music collection to an external hard drive could take seconds rather than hours.

The inclusive, caring-sharing way of taking the technology forward seems the only way to go, with Apple’s stubbornness to cooperate or share with other businesses only allowable because of their market dominance. This Davids and Goliath setup is less than ideal, but it does mean companies will continue to do their best to overcome Apple and encourage competition in areas it can effect. Fingers crossed the giant doesn’t move to crush them, since a marketplace monopoly won’t do any favours for the industry, or its consumers.

James Michael Parry

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14490709

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