The PC as you know it is obsolete. So sayeth Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who took the stage at the Wall Street Journal's D8 conference in June to talk about what he sees as the coming "post-PC era."
"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks," Jobs explained. "But as people moved more toward urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them." What they will want instead, according to Jobs, are iPads -- and devices like them -- which do away with traditional desktop PC metaphors in favor of more intuitive, touch-based experiences.
[ Will the launch of the iPad ultimately be perceived as one of the top turning points in tech history or as one of tech's all-time flops? | Test your knowledge of the house that Jobs built with InfoWorld's Apple IQ Test. ]
Depending on whom you ask, the iPad will save journalism, rescue the book publishing business, transform the movie industry, change the way we communicate, and make the perfect omelet. But there are plenty of reasons to suspect that at least some of these predictions will prove overly optimistic. Even more dubious is the idea that the iPad signals a true sea change in computing. Here are 10 reasons why we think the rumors of the PC's death may be greatly exaggerated.
1. Tablet computing: Déjà vu all over again
"People laugh at me when I say [the iPad] is magical," Steve Jobs told the audience at the D8 conference. Should he be surprised? While Jobs might see Apple's latest product as revolutionary, to others it's just history repeating itself.
Apple's initial foray into handheld devices came in 1993, when it shipped the first Newton PDAs. But Newton was the brainchild of Apple's then-CEO John Scully, not Jobs. In classic Apple "not invented here" fashion, Jobs canceled Newton shortly after returning to the company in 1998. For nearly a decade, he repeatedly denied any plans to produce a new handheld -- that is, until the iPhone.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and its hardware partners struggled to bridge the gap between PDAs and laptops, but Windows tablets never caught on with consumers. They were too big for a pocket, too heavy for a purse, too powerful and complex for simple applications like note-taking and managing contacts, too limited for serious computing, and too expensive to sell as supplementary devices. The iPad and its forthcoming clones address some of these concerns, but demand for tablets remains unclear.
Building demand will be a challenge, says Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, who thinks the iPad isn't a "post-PC" device at all. "The iPad is a new kind of PC," she writes. "It ushers in a new era of Curated Computing -- a mode of computing in which choice is constrained to deliver more relevant, less complex experiences."
That's a dubious-sounding distinction. And if customers have to give up choice to use a new computing device, it certainly would be nice if it fit in their pockets and let them make phone calls.