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Back in 2010, Steve Jobs proclaimed that we were entering the “post-PC era”.  Much of the discussion around Windows 8, its new Metro interface, and its focus on tablets  has focused around the new reality of the “post-PC era” too. But what exactly does that mean?

“PC” stands for “personal computer”, but it’s become synonymous with desktop or laptop machines, which usually run Microsoft Windows. Personal computers are alive and well (smartphones and tablets are all basically personal computers – there’s more choice than ever), but the era of the “PC” as your only computing option has come to an end.

Windows Isn’t Mandatory

Windows once felt like the only option. Sure, there were Macs, and a few intrepid users used Linux on the desktop Will Linux Ever Experience The Year Of The Desktop? [Opinion] Will Linux Ever Experience The Year Of The Desktop? [Opinion] For quite a while now, Linux users have constantly been discussing whether the open source operating system will ever experience a "year of the desktop" where Linux's desktop market share suddenly rises in relatively dramatic... Read More , but most people felt compelled to use Windows. Many websites required Internet Explorer If You're Still Using IE6 You Are A Problem [Opinion] If You're Still Using IE6 You Are A Problem [Opinion] IE6 was the best of the best when it came freshly squeezed out of Microsoft's software factory. Because of that it was able to achieve the record 95% browser market share at the height of... Read More (luckily, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the default browser on Macs, too) and many applications were Windows-only desktop applications. The web was a much less developed place, and the interactivity and “web apps” we take for granted today weren’t an option then.

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Other platforms are now flourishing. Windows may not have been defeated on the desktop, but the desktop is becoming less relevant every day. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and even Chrome OS 5 Reasons To Give Chrome OS A Second Chance 5 Reasons To Give Chrome OS A Second Chance Google’s launch of Chrome OS was one of 2011’s most disappointing moments. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Chrome OS was its performance. Since then, Google has been gradually updating Chrome OS. The user experience has... Read More offer compelling experiences for most people. Linux distributions like Ubuntu 4 Things You'll Love About Ubuntu 12.04 4 Things You'll Love About Ubuntu 12.04 The new version of Ubuntu–12.04, codename "Precise Pangolin"– is officially here. 12.04 improves on Unity's strengths, and addresses some of your old complaints. It's fast, includes new features desktop users will love, and, as always,... Read More are even seeing an upsurge of popularity – they’re easier to use than ever, since most of what we do happens in the browser Mac, Linux or Windows: It Really Doesn't Matter Anymore [Opinion] Mac, Linux or Windows: It Really Doesn't Matter Anymore [Opinion] It matters less and less every year what operating system you use, because every year we all spend more time on our computer using nothing but the browser. And browsers are cross-platform. Want to have... Read More .

Windows is certainly still important, and many people still need Windows software. But, for the average user that just wants to browse the web, check their email, and watch some videos – Windows is no longer the only option.

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Diverse Platforms & Form Factors

Desktop computers and laptops with mice and keyboards aren’t the only option anymore, either. “The computer” used to be that heavy device at your desk. Now, nearly everything is a computer. Even the phone in your pocket is a computer. Computers are becoming more and more ubiquitous – they’re everywhere and are becoming increasingly integrated in day-to-day life. “Smart” TVs What is Google TV and why do I want it? What is Google TV and why do I want it? Read More connected to the Internet, with browsers and apps, are becoming more common, too.

Steve Ballmer has ditched his smartphone for an 80-inch tablet mounted on a wall. Sure, this seems like a bit of a marketing gimmick for Windows 8 – but there’s more diversity than ever. From glasses with a built-in display 5 Reasons Why Google's Project Glass Is The Future & Why That's Awesome [Opinion] 5 Reasons Why Google's Project Glass Is The Future & Why That's Awesome [Opinion] Google’s Project Glass has everyone talking. It’s a glimpse of the future of augmented reality, wearable computing, and better integration of the Internet and technology in our day-to-day lives. Imagine replacing your smartphone with a... Read More to 80-inch monster tablets mounted on walls, both likely available within the next few years, there’s more choice than ever.

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The cloud helps enable this. You no longer have to manually transfer your data between your devices – you can seamlessly access your data from any device.

People Don’t Want Traditional PCs

This is hard for some of us (me included) to accept, but the average person doesn’t want a traditional PC and the baggage that comes with it. Hardware drivers, malware, antivirus programs – people don’t want to deal with it.

No one (aside from some enthusiasts and the tech press) cares about the exact specifications of the hardware inside an iPad. No one has to Google iPad registry errors or reinstall their iPad’s sound drivers. iPads don’t come packed with preinstalled bloatware How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System Read More and trial offers.

Windows-blue-screen-on-laptop

People want electronics that work, without any tinkering or fussing required. They want simple devices that function as appliances. Even I, as an enthusiast, want that – although I’d like to retain the freedom to tinker 5 Reasons To Choose Android Over iPhone [Opinion] 5 Reasons To Choose Android Over iPhone [Opinion] If you’re looking at buying a smartphone, you’re probably going to buy an Android device or an iPhone (sorry, Microsoft). What’s the difference, and which should you choose? We recently gave the pro-iPhone side of... Read More .

PCs Aren’t Dead

The post-PC era doesn’t mean that the PC is dead. It means that other devices are now legitimate choices, too – I could rephrase it as the “post-PC only era.” For many of us, this means that we now have more devices than we used to – a smartphone, a tablet, and more.

For people that primarily do browsing and other basic computing tasks – well, they can probably get by with only a tablet and ditch their laptop or desktop. And they’d probably be better off.

Woman-on-sofa-with-tablet

Tablets aren’t great for content production, whether you’re a writer How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps As you may know, MakeUseOf isn't staffed by robots that churn out articles daily through an automatic system. All of us have our own methods of getting down to the writing. Since I'm not a... Read More , a graphics designer 5 Free Awesome Graphic Design Tutorial Sites You Should Check Out 5 Free Awesome Graphic Design Tutorial Sites You Should Check Out Read More , or a programmer Which Programming Language Should You Learn For Software Development? Which Programming Language Should You Learn For Software Development? When starting on the path of programming, it’s important you invest your time wisely in choosing to learn something that will both benefit you in the immediate future with visible results on your platform of... Read More , but most people don’t spend their time on computers producing a lot of content – they consume content others have created. And, for content consumption, tablets are arguably better than computers – you can sit on your couch and use your tablet comfortably.

Expanding Internet Access

In developing countries, many people don’t have PCs. Cell phones are fairly common, though – and, as smartphone prices decrease and basic smartphones become affordable, smartphones will spread. For many people, a smartphone will be the first device they have with access to the Internet. It’ll open up the wonders of the Internet to more of humanity.

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What do you think of the post-PC revolution? Do you think it’s just a marketing gimmick? Are you sad that the days of the “PC” alone are behind us? Leave a comment and speak your mind.

Image Credit: Laptop, smartphone, and tablet via Shutterstock, Sean MacEntree on Flickr (modified), Juhan Sonin on Flickr, Billy Bob Bain on Flickr, Woman on sofa with tablet via Shutterstock, Nathan Eagle on Flickr

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