6 Reasons your PC is not going anywhere

Memeburn recently featured a story explaining why your PC is dead. It made some interesting points. It made some valid points. Cloud. Virtualisation. Abstraction of application and data from device. But it missed the point.

Sure, smartphones and tablets will take over from PCs for many. The PC will return to its place as a powerful tool for those that know how to use it. Those that used it at the start: the geeks, the nerds, the hobbyists, the musicians, the architects, the gamers, the engineers, the designers, the layout artists. The people who need to get real work done.

Here are six reasons why these folks will keep buying personal computers, whether desktop of notebook, for many, many more years. Perhaps always.

1. Raw horsepower
Unless someone does some amazing breaking of the laws of physics, engineering and fabrication capability, there is no way a tiny little device will outperform a full-size one. It’s not just clock-speed on the CPU. It’s the whole caboodle — including memory and network IO. A smartphone will grind to a flailing halt if it tries to do even half what I demand out of my notebook on a quiet day.

No problem, you say. Do the heavy lifting in the cloud on the back-end. One day, maybe there will be some magical ultra-high performance wireless data that will give you similar response times. But by then, the apps will have developed to be even more demanding — network speed will be endlessly chasing the applications’ demands.

2. Form factor. Big, full stroke keyboard and large display
There’s a Twitter joke: “It’s funny how all the articles about the smartphone becoming the computer of the future in Africa are written on a desktop”.

Seriously, people. Smartphones are not personal computers. They are, at best, personal computing and connectivity devices. The distinction is subtle — one describes a class of device, one describes a level of utility.

You’re going to write a long document or a complex spreadsheet on a smartphone? No. Maybe one day, when a tiny device has the processing power (and lets not forget, this includes CPU and GPU and IO) to drive a large external display and other peripherals.

Notebooks are steadily eclipsing desktops, but we still want a keyboard, we still want a big display. This is a physical limitation set by our big sausagey fingers and un-eagle like eyes. So if you’re going to have to lug around a keyboard and display you’re… lugging around a notebook computer.

3. Yours when you need it, internet or not
Yeah, the internet. Bombproof. Always there when you need it. Except when it lets you down in that one instant you REALLY REALLY need to get to that file. You know, the one you had stored on your local hard drive, opened by that application you have installed locally, independent of your local loop telco, ISP, data centre operator and cloud provider.

4. Your data, your apps. Complete control, complete privacy
Only a credulous fool trusts their data to the cloud absolutely. The cloud is safe. But not 100% safe. Just ask the many who have suddenly discovered everything they had stored in their Drop Box, or MobileMe, or a host of other services when things just…vanished.

And even if they don’t vanish, do you trust companies with your data? Really? You shouldn’t. And even if you do, what about their governments, demanding access to it (and where the hosting provider is forbidden from even telling you it’s been ransacked).

But I have nothing to hide, you say. Oh yes you do. You just don’t know it yet.

5. Interfacing and hosting devices
The hardware standards that PCs, Macs and Linux boxes are built with are pretty solid. Writing device drivers is not child’s play, and not something you’re going to do across a million devices. So when I want to hook up my digital oscilloscope, my external sound card, my home alarm system control panel, my graphics tablet, my teledildonic marital aid, I can. Reliably and consistently.

6. Applications. Real ones.
Writing powerful applications is what software developers call “very, very hard”. That’s the technical term. Angry Birds. Yeah. Facebook app. Whatever. Lite Office doc browser-editor. Sure. But a full-blown office suite? You’re not writing Office, or Pro Tools, or PhotoShop, or Qlikview for a smartphone — at least not if you want it to be reliable and perform properly.

There’s a reason they’re called ‘apps’ on a smartphone, the word ‘application’ would be giving them too much status.



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