We should be in the post-pc era. At least, this is what I read everywhere. Since mobile devices get such a huge following, that is what the computer will become. It is not only that I read it everywhere, a lot of so-called ‘prophets of IT’ are announcing that too, somehow looking in this crystal ball of theirs.
Well, I have news for you… we are NOT in a post PC era, nor are we going to be. And I will tell you exactly why;
Let’s assume we are going to say that a PC is a computer that works with additional interfaces like a keyboard, drawing tablets, joysticks, printers. Something you use while taking some time, sit down behind the desk, and get your full attention.
And if we mention that a mobile device is something that is lightweight, has its own operating system and can run applications, sites, email and the whole bunch, but requires no external interfaces to run.
Well, let me then mention one thing; games. I am not even going to the whole working and business side of this assumption; I am just mentioning games. Sure, there are games on tablets. Good ones too. And a lot of them. Now… let’s compare them to, let’s say, Gears of War, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, World of Warcraft… games that require complete customized interfaces that happen off-screen, because on-screen so much more is already happening. Visually we will get there at one time that mobile devices get to the same quality as desktop computers or consoles (and no, the fact that the New iPad has a higher resolution does not make it automatically that the quality is better), and processing power at one time will be universal with desktops and devices. But just as a gaming platform for real thorough games, a mobile device is not providing the same kind of experience as a large-screen visual with interfaces that work differently.
Compare, for example, Mass Effect and on the iPad the Mass Effect Infiltrator. Infiltrator is a good game, gorgeous graphics… but it is not anything compared to the ‘real’ game. And that has nothing to do with the story, it has to do with interfaces, and the pacing that has to be different because on a tablet, with touch-interfaces, you cannot behave as quickly as with a mouse, tablet and keyboard.
And if you just wanted to mention having a big-screen TV hooked up wirelessly to your tablet or phone for the big-screen experience… well, that makes you hooked up to an external device again, taking the ‘mobility’ out of the mobile device.
Then, applications. Even a normal word processor. If you have to do a lot of work with a word processor, or any office kind of tool, a tablet is not an option. Oh, you have wonderful applications for it; I use myself the Apple set of Office tools, which I really like. But personally I hate it when my onscreen keyboard just covers more than half of my screen. Which is useless. Sure, I can hook up my wireless keyboard (or my keyboard on the iPad stand) but that makes it again not a mobile device. Because, adding a keyboard to a tablet makes it an awful lot like a laptop, no?
And then, it is too small. It has to be small enough to carry around, but not too small to really work on it. I cannot do any development and design work without at least two monitors. One to edit on, one to preview on. And it will not take long before we have an app that two aligned iPads or Android tabs can behave as each others second screen, but again, that destroys the mobility factor.
What I think mobile devices will become is the computing power. And you will dock them like a laptop, and then they turn into a full computer. I do think that tablets are going to replace laptops altogether in a semi-near future. But in this scenario, tablets become more like PC’s, instead of replacing them.
Tablets are generating a whole new idea of mobile computing, and are taking over. Which is good, it really defines ‘computing on the go’ more than laptops did. But we are not even heading towards a post-pc era. Actually, I think that tablets are becoming one other strand in the PC-powergrid and make PC’s portable, but still be PC’s.