The Post-PC Era: Don’t Hold Your Breath

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A post-PC world may be an interesting concept and subject of discussion, but that does not mean that most small businesses should worry about having to replace their workstations and networking infrastructure anytime soon. Yet, the possibility that the PC world as we know it is ending has been much discussed as of late.

Steve Jobs' iPad 2 keynote created somewhat of a stir earlier this month when he repeated the term "post-PC" several times. That followed his comparison last year of PCs to "trucks," which he said were useful when the United States was an agrarian society, but became largely obsolete as more people moved to urban areas. Likewise, computing needs are evolving and are shifting away from the PC, Jobs said.

But, without wanting to sound too cynical, Jobs and Apple would also love for PCs to become outmoded as iPhones, iPads, and even Macs (which are really PCs, of course) replace them. But, are mobile devices really cannibalizing the PC market that much?

Jobs' iPad 2 demo followed Gartner's announcement earlier in March that it had lowered its forecast for PC sales for 2010 and next year. While Gartner attributed the revised forecast to lower demand for mobile PCs in China, it said demand for PC alternatives in the consumer and professional markets prompted it to revise its forecast. The firm reported that consumers are increasingly using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet. In the professional market, more businesses are considering adopting media tablets instead of PCs, which is "at least delaying some PC replacements," Gartner said.

But let's look at these Gartner stats in another way. Yes, Gartner has lowered its forecasts for PC sales. Yet, PC sales are hardly dying, considering that the analyst firm also says PC shipments will increase in the double digits by 13.6 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, totaling 440.6 million units (Gartner previously forecasted 14.8 percent growth in 2012). Double-digit PC sales growth hardly portends the great new post-PC age.

Instead of wondering when we might really enter the post-PC era, another way to look at the rise of mobile apps--whether for Android, the Blackberry, or the iPhone--is how they can best meet your data and computing needs as peripherals of your existing PC-based infrastructure. And if networking improves so you can better integrate smartphones, tablets, and PCs in a LAN-like environment, so much the better.

I will certainly not stop seeking the best desktop and mobile PC mix for my small network anytime in the near future when it's time to replace my computing infrastructure. I also don't expect Apple or any other mobile device maker to offer an alternative to network attached storage or storage area networks in the near future, if ever, which are examples of core computing applications built around PCs. The coming post-PC era? Hardly.

Bruce covers tech trends in the United States and Europe.

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