Three Reasons the PC Era Is Coming To An End

These days, if you asked most people which company is out to destroy the PC, they’d tell you ‘Apple’. But it isn’t just Steve Jobs out to crush the personal computer. In fact, a much better symbol for the end of the PC came recently when Google launched an on-site video editing app on YouTube.

Why? It was one more step in a trend that moves computing away from the desktop and onto the web. And nowadays, you could even skip editing on the web – the new iPhone will let you edit movies and then upload them directly to YouTube, no computer required. Things that were unimaginable just a few short years ago are now a reality and, as we move more and more into the cloud, the importance of personal computers will continue to decline.

So here are three reasons the end of the PC era can’t come fast enough.

1. There’s More Computing Power in the Cloud

So, you think your six-core i7 980 Extreme processor is the bee’s knees right? It can run Crysis at nine-thousand frames a second? Neat. But it’s a tiny fraction of the kind of computing power in use when you do something like a Google search. No, really. It’s only a tiny fraction.

See, right now we think of computing power in terms of how much you can fit inside a box under (or on top of) your desk. But given how fast computer technology changes – and how quickly the need for computing power ramps up – doesn’t it make much more sense to ‘outsource’ computing power to the network and just have a terminal at home?

This was the argument made by Nick Carr in The Big Switch. Much sooner than we think, computing power will be like electric power – we will simply plug a terminal into the wall and have our actual processing down elsewhere. By doing so, we have will have access to far more computing power, and power that is constantly being upgraded and refined without us having to buy a new box every 2 years.

Right now of course, all that computing power is constrained by how much and how fast information can be moved back and forth between your home and these server farms. But we know this will change soon – and once broadband speeds are fast enough, it will be one more nail in the personal computers’ coffin.

So while now you need a computer of a certain power to do something like HD video editing, once computing power is outsourced in won’t matter what terminal you have – as long as your connection is fast enough, you will always be able to take advantage of the latest technology and services.

2. The Cloud Is More Convenient

If you are among the many tech-geeks with more than one computer, how many times has this happened to you: you download a new album or movie onto one computer and then, a few days later, you find yourself annoyed because you forgot to transfer it over to your other computer. Frustrating, right? Sure, services like Dropbox are amazing steps forward, but it isn’t enough.

When all your data exists in the cloud, you will never again have to worry about where things are. And the thing is, you won’t need a PC to access it. All you need is a terminal – whether at a desk or mobile – to access and manipulate it through a web browser using something like Google Docs.

Moreover, we all now use multiple devices. When all data is in the cloud, it will be accessible from anywhere, whether a tablet, smartphone, video game console or whatever else. And it will be one more reason that a bulky PC in your home will be unnecessary.

It’s true that many people have privacy and security concerns. But there was a time that some people thought it was insane to hand over your money to a company – which we now call banks – and let them look after it. Data will be the same way. Specialized companies will emerge who traffic in data alone and they will become as central to our day-to-day existences as banks are today.

3. The Tablet Cometh

Of course, it would be misleading to talk about the end of the PC era without mentioning the tablet, largely because it’s the last piece of the puzzle. If the PC is waning because it makes more sense to move both data and computing power into the cloud, then you still need something to access all that.

The tablet makes the most sense because its touch-screen interface is infinitely adaptable. If you want to watch a movie it’s a TV; if you want to edit film, it’s an editing machine; if you want to easily organize your cloud files, a touch-based system is often vastly superior and more intuitive than a mouse and keyboard.

The tablet – regardless of which platform – makes the most sense since, when broadband is fast enough to realize this vision of the cloud, it will be the best device to become a smart terminal. It’s also often far more easy to use – think about your grandma using an iPad versus a a desktop PC – making it a better solution for opening up the market to more and more users.

It’s true that the “smart terminal” idea still is a few years – if not a couple of decades out – but make no mistake: it’s coming. The era of the PC is coming to a close.

Agree or disagree? Is the PC era ending? And what will be the benefits and drawbacks of moving computing into the cloud?

By navneetalang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang

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