Lately we have seen a spate of pronouncements from industry executives, analysts & pundits about the so-called ‘post-PC’ era. Now, I completely understand the competitive, editorial and PR value of declaring The Next New Thing. But in using the term ‘post-PC’, these nominal thought leaders are making a faulty generalization and committing a category error in order to serve up a simplistic, attention-getting headline.
The faulty generalization is obvious. We’re no more ‘post-PC’ than we are ‘post-radio’, ‘post-book’, or ‘post-friends’. Are new devices and software platforms displacing some usage of desktop and notebook PCs? Of course. Are some companies going to rise and fall as a result? Sure, but are we witnessing the demise of PCs as a product category? Not even close.
Of more concern to me is the category error inherent in ‘post-PC’ thinking. ‘Post-PC’ is a narrative about boxes: PC-shaped boxes being superseded by phone- and tablet-shaped boxes. It’s understandable, since most PC, phone and tablet companies define and structure themselves around the boxes they produce; analysts count boxes and reviewers write articles about the latest boxes. But people who buy and use these devices don’t want boxes per se; they want to listen to music, play games, connect with friends, find someplace to eat, write some code or get their work done, whenever and wherever and on whatever device it makes the most sense to do so. This ‘post-PC’ notion is disconnected from the real value that people are seeking from their investment in technology products.
So if there’s a major transition this industry needs to go through, it’s the shift from a box-centered view of personal computers, to a human-centered view of personal computing. If I was running a PC company, that’s the technical, operational and cultural transformation I’d be driving in my every waking moment.