The PC era is not over -- yet

Many issues of privacy, vendor lock-in, and bandwidth constraints must be solved before we say goodbye to the PC and head for the wireless world of the cloud.

No more PCs! We'll do it all with smartphones and tablets! That's what even InfoWorld's pundits seem to be saying lately. Not so fast -- I have my cranky pants on this morning and the rush to declare a "paradigm" (I hate that word) shift to a post-PC world ruled by mobile devices and cloud services has me chewing my moustache.

Here are just three of the many reasons to take the postulations of my colleague Eric Knorr (don't take it personally, boss) and others with many a grain of salt:

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Privacy: Do you really expect Google to tell some snoopy law-enforcement type that it can't see the stash of email and documents you keep in the cloud because you no longer have local storage? Not to mention the myriads of hackers and crackers out there.

Vendor lock-in: How many of us complained bitterly that we were chained to Microsoft (or Oracle or SAP, in the case of business computing)? Now products like Google's Chromebook would throw us all into the arms of Google for every little thing.

Spectrum shortage: For years, there was a shortage of bandwidth in the wired world. We've largely overcome this hurdle, but think back to those days and the problem. Now that we're all moving to wireless devices, we're running out of spectrum.

Uncle Sam wants your data
In the first six months of 2010, law-enforcement types in the United States made 4,287 requests for information about users or to have certain data removed from the Web. How do I know this? Google posted a transparency report that shows what governments around the world have been asking (or maybe telling) it to do.

The New York Times pointed out earlier this week: "As Internet services -- allowing people to store e-mails, photographs, spreadsheets and an untold number of private documents -- have surged in popularity, they have become tempting targets for law enforcement." The more data you have stored in someone else's hands, the more you run the risk of a third party getting to see it -- legitimately or otherwise.

I realize that the much-heralded Google Chromebook is closer to a concept than a finished product at this point, but more than any other, it encapsulates the technological wishful thinking (some of it rooted in dislike for Microsoft) that has become so fashionable. Yeah, I see the cool factor, but it has very limited local storage and no easy way to run local productivity apps. This one device exemplifies all three of the serious problems with the new paradigm.

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