Apple amps up 'Post-PC' chatter, actions

One of Apple's favorite themes is the "Post-PC era." Executives are amplifying this message with new cloud-centric software that intends to "demote" the Mac just another "device."

Steve Jobs and other Apple executives had a lot more to say about the "Post-PC" era, as the iCloud replaces the Mac and PC as the "digital hub."

At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference today , Apple executives picked up the gait--you might even call it the start of a sprint--toward the "Post-PC" era. And some of the biggest strides toward this future are happening in iOS 5 and iCloud.

Scott Forstall talks about cutting the PC (and Mac) cord at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. And CEO Steve Jobs had more explicit things to say about the 'Post-PC' era.
Scott Forstall talks about cutting the PC (and Mac) cord at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. And CEO Steve Jobs had more explicit things to say about the 'Post-PC' era. Apple

Over the years, "Post-PC" has meant different things to different people. But here's the way Apple seems to describe it: increasingly, you will be using devices like the iPhone and iPad as your personal computer, giving them at least equal weight with the traditional personal computer. And the gravitation to those high-mobility products will be facilitated by technologies like the iCloud which, in effect, serves as a common hard drive, accessible by--and automatically syncing--all of your devices.

That's the idea, at least, of an iCloud utopia. Google's version of this can be seen in the Android operating environment on smartphones and tablets and the Chrome OS on upcoming Chromebooks. Not to mention apps like Google Docs on the PC.

Below is a quick rundown of Post-PC-related statements made today by Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software at Apple, and CEO Steve Jobs today.

Note that post-PC refers also to post-Mac, though Apple doesn't say that explicitly.

"PC-Free" This bullet point was one of the cornerstones of Forstall's iOS 5 presentation. "We're living in a post-pc world...we're ushering in the post-PC world," said Forstall. "We have a lot of customers coming to us and saying 'I want to buy an iPad as my only device'...And that's exactly what we're going to support in iOS 5," he said.

Forstall continued. "We looked at all of the apps in the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch...We asked ourselves, what are the reasons that users go back to a computer today? [Well] let's add that functionality right to iOS...You used to go back to a computer to create calendars or delete calendars. You can create and delete calendars right from iOS...[and] photo editing functionality right from iOS," he said, after giving other examples, such as mailboxes.

His conclusion: "So, now, if you want to cut the cord, you can," he said. That cord would be the PC or Mac cord.

PC as digital hub is "broken": Jobs was next. Using the word broken to underscore his notion that the twilight of the PC as the principal computing device is upon us. "About 10 years ago, we had one of our most important insights. The PC was going to be the digital hub for your digital life...That's where you were going to put your digital photos, your digital video...your music," Jobs said.

He continued. "But it's broken down in the last few years. Why? Because the devices have changed. They now all have music. They all now have photos." Then Jobs described how frustrating and cumbersome it is to sync up content on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch via a PC or Mac. "Keeping these devices in synch is driving us crazy," he said.

The solution? "We're going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. We're going to move the digital hub into the cloud...For those people who want to be completely PC free, [there is] wireless backup to the cloud," he said.

So, the next big question is, how will Apple move this vision to the next phase? We will we see a MacBook with more of the look, feel, and functionality of an iPad? Or more iPad-like devices that commandeer the functionality of the Mac? It will be interesting to see how this manifests itself in new Apple hardware in the coming months and years.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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