While Bill Gates' view of the future of computing technology obviously favors a world in which Windows continues to dominate, Gartner agrees with his basic premise: Reports of the personal computer's death are greatly exaggerated.
Lately, the PC seems to always be under attack from some new platform or technology that is going to revolutionize computing. While the role of the PC may change over the next several years, Gartner does not believe traditional client-side technology will disappear.
What will happen is a splitting of client-side computing into two areas: content creation and integration in one area and content consumption in another.
Content creation and integration, such as creating office documents creation, will continue to be dominated by the PC, simply because the PC offers the best balance of performance, functionality and cost.
This is not to say the PC will continue to be the same clunky beige box that sits on a desktop. Devices will keep getting smaller, lighter and more portable, but they will continue to possess the same fundamental architecture that has existed in PCs for years.
For most users, PCs will continue to be the primary devices through which content is created, distributed, integrated and managed. But other computing devices will play a much bigger role in content consumption. The primary function of those devices will be gaining access to information, with the Internet as the backbone and primary data source.
The difference will be that handheld computers, cell phones, game consoles and dedicated terminals will be relatively inexpensive and have a single primary or dedicated function, whereas the PC will be the "Swiss Army knife" of client computing.
For most users, content-consumption devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs) or cell phones do not replace the PC but supplement it. It is not uncommon today for a businessman to carry three devices: a notebook, a PDA and a cell phone.
Gartner believes the role of the PC will change, and the emergence of smaller, simpler and cheaper content-consumption devices will accelerate. But there is no clear-cut architecture of the future; the real challenge for most designers will be how to allow different architectures to peacefully coexist.
(For related commentary on the outlook for major trends in client devices such as PCs, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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