IBM: PCs are "Going The Way of Typewriters"

Mark Dean, the chief technology officer of IBM Middle East and Africa, claims that PCs are "going the way of typewriters." You remember those things, right? They used to sit on desktops and allowed users to type letters directly onto a piece of paper via an ink ribbon without the need for an LCD screen or power outlet? They're now considered "dinosaurs" and "antiques," and apparently PCs are heading in that direction.

In a blog published on Wednesday, Dean reminisces back on the day when IBM first introduced the IBM 5150 personal computer in New York which celebrates its 30th anniversary tomorrow, August 12. "Little did we expect to create an industry that ultimately peaked at more than 300 million unit sales per year," he said. "I’m proud that I was one of a dozen IBM engineers who designed the first machine and was fortunate to have lead subsequent IBM PC designs through the 1980s.  It may be odd for me to say this, but I’m also proud IBM decided to leave the personal computer business in 2005, selling our PC division to Lenovo."

Dean admitted that, like IBM, he too has moved beyond the PC and is currently using an unspecified tablet as his primary computer. "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."

You forgot 8-track tapes and cassettes, Mr. Dean.

PCs aren't necessarily being replaced by smartphones and tablets, he claims. Instead, they're being replaced by new ideas about the role computing can play in the progress. He said that the height of innovation takes place within the social realm connecting devices – the space where people and ideas come together and interact – and not on the devices themselves. It's within this very "cloud" of innovation that "computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people's lives."

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of corporate communications, doesn't see the PC sitting beside old 8-track tapes and vacuum tubes. In fact, he believes that we're not entering a post-PC era: we're entering a PC-plus era.

"People sometimes ask me about what Microsoft thinks about the post-PC era," he said Wednesday. "It’s fairly straightforward. We continue to build great software, and our software’s value is expressed in the consumer and enterprise devices and services we deliver to our customers."

He used Windows PCs, the Windows Phone platform and the Xbox 360 console as three examples of the continued evolution of the PC. "In some cases we build our own hardware (Xbox, Kinect), while in most other cases we work with hardware partners on PCs, phones and other devices to ensure a great end-to-end experience that optimizes the combination of hardware and software," he added.

"Of course, the past doesn’t always predict the future, but let’s just say it offers some strong clues," he said. "As we look ahead to the next 30 years, we’ll continue to lead the industry forward in bringing technology to the next billion (or 2 billion or 6 billion) people on our planet. We’ll do that as we always have, by working with our partners to deliver amazing experiences to individuals and businesses."

"We have a unique point of view when it comes to this future of devices and services," he said.

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  • Riv4L
    My PC can do anything your tablet can do but better and then some; I don't fully agree with Mark Dean and I don't forsee the decline in PCs in the near future.
  • LePhuronn
    Different tools for different jobs. The desktop will always do things that a tablet cannot, or is better to do on the desktop.

    Yes, as mobile computing power increases the desktop PC will go into decline, but it won't be killed off.
  • bobbyp86
    Tablets are competing more with netbooks than desktop PCs, and personally I'd prefer a netbook because I mainly use mine for word processing.