Moving beyond the PC, iPad in hand

Is the tablet the device of choice for the post-PC paradigm? That's what an IBM executive who helped developed the first IBM PC claims. My take is different, but not that different.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

In the wake of comments from an IBM executive who said that his "primary computer now is a tablet," I wondered how closely my own experience mirrored that statement.

Mark Dean,who was chief engineer for the development of the IBM PC/AT, prefaced the above remark by saying he has "moved beyond the PC.."

iPad 2
iPad 2 Apple

That second statement is probably the most significant, as it implies that, for him, the traditional PC paradigm is dead.

Indeed, I've witnessed this change in friends and family. People who already spend a disproportionate amount of screen time on a smartphone have found it easy to pick up the iPad and claim it as their main device. They revert to the laptop when absolutely necessary for the occasional word-processing intensive task, for example, but otherwise, the laptop can remain dormant on a desk or inside of a carrying bag for days.

And I've seen this happen at the other extreme. Someone who has always been PC-averse (the pejorative "Luddite" usually applies here) suddenly starts using the iPad because it is so accessible. The insurmountable PC learning curve is razed with the iPad. At least, this is how some people see it.

I fall somewhere in between. I've been using the iPad on a daily basis pretty much since the beginning (since April 2010). But I don't fully subscribe to the post-PC argument. My laptop--a MacBook Air--is simply too versatile to ignore. And it's considerably faster at completing many tasks, i.e., it's more efficient than the iPad. (And, yes, the fact that a physical keyboard is bolted on helps in my profession.)

But that doesn't mean I don't see where things are going. And companies as PC-centric as Intel now recognize (likely with prodding from customers like Apple) a future beyond the traditional PC too. "Eventually you'll think of an Ultrabook as a tablet when you want it, a PC when you need it," Intel said recently in a blog post.

I'm not sure what that means. But I can easily see the iPad (or MacBook Air or future HP TouchPad or HP laptop, for that matter) morphing into a powerful hybrid of some kind. The common denominator will be sub-3-pound (or maybe sub-2-pound) portability.

Look no further than the next crop of tablets due later this year and next year. More than a few (including Android tablets and the iPad 3) will sport quad-core processors and high-resolution screens. And smartphones will get bigger screens with dual- and quad-core processing. And in that same time frame, we should see the first big wave of Ultrabooks.

Call it post-PC or not, whatever device we're talking about, it's a far cry from the first IBM PC 5150. Now that was a PC.