Tech Sanity Check
Takeaway: One of the engineers who designed the original IBM PC — which turns 30 on August 12 — says the PC era is over. Jason Hiner argues that the post-PC era is actually still “coming soon.”
Mark Dean helped build the original IBM PC, which officially celebrates its 30th birthday on August 12. Dean was part of the 12-person IBM engineering team that designed that first machine in 1981 and helped ignite the PC revolution that has reshaped industries and forever changed the way humans work.
Today, Dean is IBM’s CTO for the Middle East and Africa (where you’ll find some of the fastest growing economies on the planet). On the eve of the IBM PC’s 30th anniversary, he unequivocally stated that the PC era is over and that what’s next is even more innovative.
In a blog post on August 10, Dean stated,
“PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device — though there’s plenty of excitement about smartphones and tablets — but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress. These days, it’s becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.”
My interpretation of what Dean is saying is that computing is no longer about a box but is being absorbed into everything and is now about creating experiences that connect people and enable them to do work wherever there — instead of just when they’re sitting at a desk in front of a PC screen.
Dean also admitted that he rarely uses a PC anymore. He wrote:
“I, personally, have moved beyond the PC as well. My primary computer now is a tablet. When I helped design the PC, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing. They’re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.”
Last week I wrote that people who are proficient with PCs can feel handcuffed and disappointed by the tablet experience. But, as I’ve said before, executives like Dean who spend their whole day in meetings and direct other people more than creating their own documents are perfect candidates for tablets.
Still, I think the future of the PC is that it will become embedded in smartphones and tablets and available for mobile use when you’re on the go but also available for use with mouse, keyboard, and large screen when you need to sit down at a desk and do creative work. When that reality arrives on a large scale, then I’ll be ready to say that the post-PC era has arrived in all its glory. Until, it’s still “coming soon.”
IBM PC: The beginning
1981 marketing video for IBM PC
- Mark Dean: ‘IBM leads the way in the Post-PC Era’
- CNET: IBM executive says PC era is in its twilight
- CNET: How IBM’s 5150 PC shaped the computer industry
- Tablets are for people who hate computers
- Microsoft’s one big opportunity in mobile