Thursday, September 6, 2018

The “Post-PC Era” Never Really Happened

Mark Lowenstein:

Tablets have had a good run, but sales have tailed off of late. I’d say they’ve had greater influence on the evolution of the smartphone and the PC, rather than leading to a significantly different nomenclature for what most of us carry around today. My Techpinions colleague Ben Bajarin says that Creative Strategies surveys indicate that only about 10% of tablet users have ‘replaced their PC’ — a number that has held steady for several years. And that 10% is concentrated in a handful of industries, such as real estate and construction. PC sales aren’t exactly surging, but they’re steady. Your average white collar professional today still carries around a smartphone and a laptop, with the tablet being an ancillary device, used primarily for media/content consumption.


And if anything, the tablet segment might fall off somewhat, squeezed by bigger and more functional phones on one end, and by more versatile laptops on the other end.

Previously: Post PC Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles.

Update (2018-09-07): Zac Cichy:

Alternatively: post-pc happened, but the phone was underestimated.

James O’Leary:

this is why I rant about Apple’s laptop story - it’s not that they’re fundamentally broken, it’s that devotion to the iPad as laptop story has them easily 2-3 years behind Windows + ChromeOSJames O’Leary added,

Damien Petrilli:

This is why doubling down on iOS could be a problem for Apple: macos and Mac hardware lagging behind with all resources invested in a dead end.

Ben Szymanski:

Imagine if Apple had invested all of the effort they put in to make try and make the iPad line replace desktop computing, into the Mac line and keeping that up to date.

Colin Cornaby:

Seems like Apple’s post-PC era is about not trusting users. Don’t let users have the option of buying a modular Mac. Don’t let users have the option of running touch unfriendly software on a tablet.

The existence of these things would not hurt Apple. But they think we’re dumb.

I keep thinking about the declining tablet sales numbers, but what I want to know is if those numbers count convertibles.

Convertibles trust the user to make choices. You can run any software. You can run it as a laptop or a tablet. You’re trusted to make choices.

Every modern Apple device seems to be an exercise in single function purity. It’s simply absurd to me I have to buy a laptop AND a tablet. But Apple is so concerned about me not understanding touch vs. mouse that they sell them as different devices.

Zac Cichy:

No one did. The larger point is that everything iPad was meant to take over actually turned out to be iPhone. Beyond the wildest dreams of the PC.

This is a post-PC world.

Matt Birchler:

It would disingenuous of me to say I’m not a little disappointed with the glacial progress tablets have seen in the last few years. After years of explosive growth, things have cooled down quite a bit. The iPad is staying mostly level, with some growth over the past year, but Android tablets are turning to dust in the wind. In the Windows world, tablets are far more rare than laptops with touch screens.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2018-09-10): See also: Hacker News.

Update (2018-09-11): Eugene Belinski:

8 years ago, people would buy $1000 computers and $100 flip phones. Now they’d buy $800 smartphones and $200 chromebooks.

It’s amazing how much the utility of phones and computers have realigned.

Previously: Chrome OS Is Set to Expand Beyond the Education Market.

14 Comments RSS · Twitter

Tablets are primarily media consumption devices.

Describes me to a T. At this point, I only use my iPad for reading comics/manga and occasionally watching a video. Haven't even bothered with video games recently, because the Switch is so much better suited. Given how little processing power is required for reading/viewing, I can't imagine what Apple could possibly do that would make me want to upgrade, short of my current device dying a horrible death and forcing the issue.

"about 10% of tablet users have ‘replaced their PC’"

What a stupid criterion. Of course most people haven't replaced their laptops.

If instead, we look at the amount of time people spend on their laptop vs on their tablet or their phone, if we look at the tasks that have been shifted away from the laptop to smaller, more convenient devices, then it becomes clear that the post PC era is alive and well and growing all the time. For a big chunk of the population, mobile devices have become the default, and laptops have become the ancillary device that gets used *only* for tasks that are inconvenient or impossible to accomplish on tablets or phones.

"For a big chunk of the population, mobile devices have become the default, and laptops have become the ancillary device that gets used *only* for tasks that are inconvenient or impossible to accomplish on tablets or phones."

I'm not convinced that tablets users were laptops users when it comes to the home market. I would tend to believe these users are mostly users who are scared of computers (in the sense that they are afraid of "breaking" the computer if they try to click here or there). So they don't even use a laptop for these inconvenient or impossible tasks. They just suffer trying to perform them on a tablet.

@someone Meaning they used a computer at work and didn’t have one at home? Or they were never computer users at all?


I know that in my own case, I have ceased to use my Mac for a number of activities that are just plain more convenient, more comfortable, or more easy to accomplish on a tablet. Long form typing, watching movies, and video transcoding are really the only things that I exclusively do on the Mac any more.

it seems that main factor that holds tablets back is lack of true multitasking (that include proper file management and windows)

PC's wont die, they will be made irrelevant.

By now it's clear that phones and phablets will make it irrelevant.
Tablets will be there as a niche device.

All those will be made irrelevant by some wearable, which is not clear at all. My bet is glasses or lenses.

I mostly use my iPad in bed, or to show something online to someone. Or as bathroom reading at home. Most everything else I use my desktop mac. My Macbook Pro doesn't get much use lately.

@André Villar

It's a mistake to think of one computing device displacing another. The history of computing is additive. In the 1960's, you needed a computer the size of a room to do your company's payroll. Now payroll gets done on a device that can fit on a desk. But we still have computers the size of rooms (we call them supercomputers now), and more are being built all the time to undertake computing tasks that would take years or decades to perform on a desktop machine. In the late 90's if you wanted to send a text message you fired up your desktop computer. Now we read texts with the computer on our wrist and write them with the computer in our pocket. But we still have computers that sit on a desk, which get fired up to perform tasks that would have been impossible on a 90's desktop and are still pretty ridiculous to try to do on a pocket size computer.

The range of tasks that we want computers to do for us keeps expanding, seemingly without limit. Those tasks naturally filter down to the smallest, least expensive, most convenient device that is capable of doing them. But for every job that the smaller devices take over doing, we invent new tasks to keep the bigger devices busy.

And that's just talking about raw computing power. There's also form factor. Some tasks are flat out stupid to attempt on a tiny screen or on a device with a software keyboard or on a device that doesn't support a precision pointing device. Other tasks are stupid to attempt on a device that you can't hold in the palm of your hand. You aren't going to want to read a novel on your watch. You aren't going to want to try to write a report on a touch screen keyboard. You aren't going to want to use a laptop to keep in touch with colleagues while you're riding the subway.

Every size of computing device will continue to be relevant and continue to be used, just not necessarily for the tasks that they used to be needed for.

@Michael In the cases I'm thinking about, it's mostly retired people. The kind of people who would use a Mac for its simplicity but are now using tablets because:

- they are supposedly simple to use
- they are always on (but the WiFi is not …)
- they have never considered using a laptop.
- they are less likely to "break" in their mind (*)

I would not be surprised if the vast majority of tablets users are children (< 12) and senior citizens.

* and then you have to provide help to deal with such things as the keyboard being split in two, the suggested words not showing up in the keyboard, how to search e-mails that have supposedly vanished, how to bookmark a page instead of taking snapshots of the screen that fill up the limited storage, etc.

@someone Those are the age ranges that I see using tablets as well.

> It's a mistake to think of one computing device displacing another

That was true for PCs, laptops, phones, and tablets, but I think it's unlikely that these devices will survive AR in their current form. Why do you need these screens when everything is already a screen?

I concur, tablets are often given to younger kids and senior citizens in my experience. Those demographics definitely jives with my meager client list. Don't get me wrong, I also use a tablet and so does my girlfriend, but they are for specific things.

I like basic web browsing and reading PDFs on mine. She likes to play some games, use it as a music source for teaching her classes, and as a mobile payment center too. Leaves the phone on hand for other uses during these times, so it's a nice adjunct.

I really thought I was going to go all tablet in 2011, but that attempt failed miserably (top of the line, WiFi only iPad 3). It's definitely a luxury for me at this point, which is why I get sub $100 tablets (sometimes only hit this price point because of deals, but still) and replace them periodically instead of trying to get a really nice model that lasts four or five years.

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