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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.

Apple,-Android,-and-Windows-logos

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.

Large-touch-screen

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.

Cell-phone-in-developing-country[3]

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

  1. Juan
    October 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    PC's had a tremendously good run! Now is a new world order lol so to speak. What I mean is that people are more mobile than ever and need compatible gadgetry to accommodate their computing needs. PC's were great when that's all there was. To put it simply, there is more out there now. I love PC's but technology is always going to move forward and some day sooner than we think we'll be commenting on the post tablet and smartphone era as well.

    • Chris Hoffman
      October 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Yup, augmented reality glasses are on their way and hopefully neural implants aren't too far behind!

  2. Edmar Diego
    September 14, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    even though i mostly use my phone to browse and post on the internet. but none of my other devices can even compare to my laptop because functionality is always better than portability

  3. Ben
    June 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I am actually glad the "PC alone" era is behind us. Being a software developer, the market for my products has grown exponentially!

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Yup, that makes sense! More people using computers (smartphones are basically computers) more of the time means more potential users.

  4. Shehan Nirmal
    June 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    iApps are very expensive for those like us living in developing countries... It is the main problem, why people in these countries do not like to use Apple products...

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:11 am

      Still, iOS apps are a lot cheaper than traditional Windows apps. There are advertising-supported apps too. You don't really have to pay for apps, necessarily -- especially not on Android, where advertising-supported apps seem to be a bigger thing.

  5. Kuldeep
    June 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Reach of technology is expanding, we all can sense that. The biggest problem that comes infront of us is to cope with the evil that is born out of it. Like, last night I saw about this four million systems loosing their internet connection permanently after 9th July. Is about the FBI's decision. Have a look at it http://digitalsaliva.com/internet-shutdown-9july-dns-changer/ . We really need some good force to stop these and then only will we be able to develop.

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:11 am

      That's true. We really need to improve the security situation under control. The Internet is full of viruses and phishing and spam -- it's still a wild west in a lot of ways.

  6. Sachin Kanchan
    June 5, 2012 at 3:54 am

    it is true that we have more options than ever before and even a wider variety of
    softwares ans OSs to choose from, but traditional PCs and laptops will always be the first love for those who want extreme raw gaming power, such cannot be accumulated in a small space as in a tablet, plus this fun is no fun as compared to the big screen and the physical keyboard and mouse

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:10 am

      Yup, I agree. I much prefer PC (Windows, sadly) games to mobile games. But we're a niche audience.

  7. Kyem Ghosh
    June 5, 2012 at 3:11 am

    pc can never go down cz you can turn it to the most powerful machine... Although for normal uses, people will go mobile for no doubt... We are in a half way to the post pc era... Don't know whats gonna be there in the future...

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:09 am

      Yeah, but most people don't need power -- that's why tablets are doing so well.

  8. Matt
    June 5, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Still, pc gaming remains pretty much locked into windows OS's (until they start making games Linux compatable)

    • Prakash Senapati
      June 5, 2012 at 7:50 am

      hmm i agree with you atleast in pc gaming segment widows is last resort

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:08 am

      I agree, this is very sad -- Steam for Linux will help. And maybe HTML5 games or some sort of OnLive-esque streaming route will take off.

  9. Jon Smith
    June 5, 2012 at 12:27 am

    well glad africa can be connected too
    one step closer to being empowered with unlimited possibilities

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:09 am

      It's very interesting. For a huge portion of humanity, their smartphone will be the first real computer they own.

  10. Ben
    June 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    "iPads don’t come packed with preinstalled bloatware and trial offers."

    Thats a joke.
    Apple is nothing but forced crap.
    It forces everything in your face and doesn't give you another option.
    Try getting an middle aged person to set up an itunes account without a credit card.
    Good Luck.

    Half of the crap on the ipad its never used because its so basic and untalentedly programmed that its just a waste of memory.

    These new apple trend wanna be nerds spend more time petting the furry background of the application and deceivingly fancy UI than actually accomplishing something unique and useful.

    If you have an ego and want to pretend something is great, go with apple. If you want to get something done, then just get a device that works.

    • John Walters
      June 5, 2012 at 12:59 am

      Your comment about getting a "device that works" applies to Apple iPad. iPad may be crap to you, but there is a very good reason why it is a raging success. That's because IT WORKS!

      You should read
      http://estrategypro.com/how-does-a-half-baked-computer-apple-ipad-become-a-roaring-success/

      • Ben
        June 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm

        My dad bought a brand new iPad 2 for my grandmother so we could stay in contact with her.
        We brought it home and gave it to her as a gift.
        We opened it up, and were excited to try it out.
        But it wouldn't do anything, because you need a computer to set it up.
        Well my 80 year old grandmother doesnt have a computer, we purposely bought it for that purpose.
        She has wifi, but the Ipad 2 refused to do anything unless you installed some bloatware, and previously own a computer.

        So we went and took it back to the apple store, they hastled us for like 10 minutes because they didn't want other people seeing us take it back, we FINALLY got a refund, and then bought an android tablet.
        The android tablet booted, and got setup in less than 5 minutes and was ready to go.

        The android tablet was higher resolution than the iPad 2, faster and didn't require a credit card. The app store was easy to set up too!

        If your the royal media slave of peasant ville, and you want to hook a credit card up to itunes, and activate your tablet from your computer, then good for you. But not everyone wants to throw their money in a funnel and get the minimum satisfying results due to low expectations.

        apple is fadware , and is soon to be out the door with its outrages prices, lack of ethics, and illogical design principles.

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 8, 2012 at 1:06 am

          The post PC era includes Android tablets too. Actually, I'm still waiting for a Nexus tablet before I join the tablet fray. I won't touch Apple products with a ten-foot pole, but I can appreciate why they're so successful.

    • Sachin Kanchan
      June 5, 2012 at 3:56 am

      and i agree with you...but yes apple has gr8 hardwares....some who love windows....go for a mac book pro and hack it to install windows....a deadly combination...but yes there are more powerful laptops available now...and the ultrabooks are awesome

    • Laga Mahesa
      June 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Wow, this has got to be the most vicious fanboi tantrum I've seen on this site.

      • Ben
        June 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

        I am frustrated with people misleading others to apple. They end up spending their money on devices that don't do anything.
        I have to constantly tell people, no they don't have this game for mac.
        That is why you get a PC if you want to play games.

        Apple purposely misleads people into buying their products , and their fans do nothing but assist them.

        I don't want another person to read your reviews and go OK IM GOING TO BUY A MAC, when really they will be stuck with a long term decision that will haunt them for half a year (until the next model comes out).

        • Chris Hoffman
          June 8, 2012 at 1:07 am

          I could've said that no one needs to install sound card drivers for their Android tablet or Chromebook, too -- same thing, but iPads are huge and have higher market share, so it makes sense to mention them. Hopefully they'll have more competition soon.

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 8, 2012 at 1:05 am

      I'm not an Apple fan. I've written quite a few anti-Apple/pro-Android articles here. That said, I do really appreciate what Apple has done in some areas, although i don't buy their products. Compare an iPad to a Windows 7 tablet and you'll see why they're so successful. Compare the default install of a MacBook to the default install of a cluttered Windows 7 PC and you'll see why they're successful, too.

      Instead of dismissing Apple entirely, we could learn from them.

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