The PC's death has been predicted before; and it is happening again. This year, we're going to see the moment when more smartphones are sold than PCs. And if you count tablets, we've already gotten to the point where 3G-enabled portable devices have outsold the PC. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) alone sold three times as many iPhones as it did Macbooks. And all these sales numbers include laptop sales in the PC category. The creaky old desktop is struggling even more.
So when I say the PC is dead, it isn't a surprise to anyone. Except the thing is that survey after survey shows that IT pros still prefer PCs to tablets, and 90 million PCs are still being sold per quarter. Dave Buchholz came on E2 radio last week and pointed out that people are using their tablets and their phones to supplement their PCs, not replace them. In other words, the PC is dying only to be reborn again. The explanation lies in the fact that we now lump desktops and laptops together as PCs.
The truth is, "form factors" are just marketing fodder. It's all personal computing.
It sounds so simple, but it is something the enterprise forgets. To end users, it doesn't matter if he uses a desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, or phone to access a piece of data and deliver his response to it. It matters to IT because they have to deploy and secure the device, but it doesn't matter to the end user. He just wants to personally compute wherever it is he happens to be.
If the enterprise wants to serve the end user, they need to start seeing all the various devices their users have as PCs. Rather than trying to secure and control data at the device level, they need to do it at the user level. Thinking in terms of the device level makes it difficult for the user to move data from form to form. Not only does this limit productivity, but it also leads to users getting frustrated and not following good data security practices.
But if the enterprise can start creating better Web and device apps that allow users to seamlessly access data from device to device without email, thumbdrives, or cumbersome folder management, the end user can get back to personal computing. She can be more productive and is more likely to follow your lead when it comes to security.
This is going to mean a new look at security practices -- at which points should we scan files, what types of security software do we use, and what major changes do we make to firewalls, VPNs, email encryption, and identity management. These are long overdue changes anyway, and if they improve efficiency as well as security, they will be worth the investment.
So, the PC is dead, but personal computing is alive and well. It seems only a matter of time before we lump tablets (especially hybrid tablets) into PC sales figures; and heck, maybe even smartphones, too.