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.

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Because you can't run any productivity apps locally, you'll probably be using Google Docs. In fact, with the exception of a few competitors, like Zoho and Microsoft Office 365, that's about it for choices. You won't have good options that enable you to create rich documents. And once you've created those docs, not to mention a load of your emails if you use Gmail, all of your stuff is sitting on a Google server, just waiting for the feds to come looking.

If you use Web mail today, you have that issue as well, but at least your other documents are securely stored on your company's servers or on your own local drives. And when you use a real PC or netbook, you can access those emails and documents wherever and whenever you need. That's not the case when you can't get online because you're on an airplane or there simply isn't enough bandwidth in the neighborhood to work.

All of us who have struggled with AT&T's network over the last couple of years should know just how frustrating that can be. But at least when AT&T lets me down, I still have access to all of my stuff. That wouldn't be the case if I were chained to a Chromebook or similar paradigm-shifting (yuck) device.

The spectrum shortage is serious
More than a year ago, I warned that a shortage of spectrum was becoming a serious issue that few publications had noticed. Well, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has taken heed, and last week at CES he said: "The coming spectrum crunch threatens American leadership in mobile and the benefits it can deliver to our economy and our lives."

To be fair, Genachowski has been sounding the alarm about this issue for some time. "I believe that that the biggest threat to the future of mobile in America is the looming spectrum crisis," he said at the CTIA conference in October 2009. He predicted that total wireless consumption could grow from 6 petabytes a month in to 400 petabytes by 2013. (A petabyte is 1,024 terabytes.)

"What happens when every mobile user has an iPhone, a Palm Pre, a BlackBerry Tour, or whatever the next device is? What happens when we quadruple the number of subscribers with mobile broadband on their laptops or netbooks?" Genachowski asked.

Great questions -- but we're still waiting for definitive answers. As part of its national broadband plan, the FCC last year proposed allowing broadcast TV stations to voluntarily sell some of their spectrum for mobile broadband purposes. In November, the Commerce Department announced a plan to allocate 115MHz of spectrum to wireless broadband in the next five years.

There's already some of the usual free-market Neanderthal opposition to anything the FCC and other parts of the government do to improve the communications environment, so we'll see what happens. Even in the best case, it will be years before that capacity is in place. But in the meantime, the shortage of spectrum is very real, and if you depend on wireless communications for day-to-day computing needs, you're going to be terribly frustrated.

That said, I certainly know we're moving away from a PC-centric world. Motorola's Atrix unveiled at the just-concluded CES, the iPad, and other Android devices ameliorate some of these issues. But the shift away from the PC is not going to happen overnight, and it'll be much more difficult than the digerati would have us believe.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "The PC era is not over -- yet," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at

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