The PC’s Dead – So What’s Next?

The media’s calling it the death of the PC. Windows 8 was a ginormous flop. Wall Street’s screaming “Sell! Sell! Sell!” All hell has broken loose since the recent report that worldwide PC shipments plummeted 14% last quarter and posted the worst annual drop in recorded history. I’ve just got one thing to say: This is news? I mean, hasn’t anyone been paying attention this past decade or so? Have YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter fried our brains so we can no longer connect the dots from one moment to the next? Wake up, folks. It’s a brand new world. A mobile world. There are better devices for much of what we like to do online. Sure, most of us still use PCs at work, but even that’s showing signs of fragmenting. This didn’t just happen overnight. It started long ago. And no matter what the Google fanboys say, the demise of the PC is and has always been the result of one innovative company: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). It started with the return of Steve Jobs and a new philosophy: Think Different. The new iMac launched with a groundbreaking iconic design and a simplified user experience. Then Apple launched iPod and iTunes, bringing a world of music and video to a single, easy to use, handheld device. Then came iPhone, the first smartphone with an innovative multifunction touchscreen for browsing the Web, emailing, and texting without a keyboard. And it gave developers a non-PC platform for third-party apps.   Finally, with all that innovation behind a larger screen, iPad became the PC killer. PC sales began leveling off and then declining practically the day the iPad launched three years ago. Which begs the obvious question: what’s next? Here’s my take on what you can expect over the next couple of years: A lot more of the same. Whenever people talk about the lack of innovation at Apple it makes me laugh. How spoiled we’ve become. The iPad launched just three years ago. The iPhone just three years before that. Those two devices changed everything and they’re going to be around for a long, long time. Expect lots of permutations on the theme from the hoards of Droid device makers – and from Apple, too. One more thing. You can forget BlackBerry and Nokia (Microsoft). This is a two horse race.   As for the PC, as I said when the iPad launched, “The iPad is going to be a game-changer. And I do believe that, in time, it will kill the PC.” Indeed, it’s actually happening faster than I thought it would. Hands free. Handheld devices are huge because you can use them anytime, anywhere. Hands free will add another critical dimension: doing anything. Whether you’re playing with your kids, driving your car, or walking down the street, someday in the not-too-distant future you’ll be able to do a lot of cool stuff hands free. Microsoft Kinect, Apple Siri, and Google Glass are all steps in the right direction. Those three technologies: motion sensing, voice recognition, and heads-up display, will likely all play a role in future hands-free devices. Who will the big winner be? In the past, it wasn’t the first incarnation, but the first to innovate a product that people can easily use to do stuff they really want to do. In the past, that’s been Apple. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results.   The living room. For most of us, the living room is a fragmented kluge of video recording, streaming, on-demand, and extremely limited and primitive Internet integration. It’s a real mess. We’ve all heard plenty about Apple’s efforts to come up with a fully integrated TV product. The technology hurdles appear to be minor compared with the myriad of issues Apple has faced negotiating with media and cable content providers. They simply don’t want to give too much control to Apple. I don’t blame them.   Personally, I would kill for a simple living room TV solution. And I do think it will come from Apple within the next year or two, albeit one cable partner at a time. As for whether it will be an integrated TV or an independent set top box, your guess is as good as mine. One thing’s for sure. Glasses-free 3D TV is coming. One of the advantages of being a Silicon Valley-based consultant is that you get to see lots of cool technology way before it happens. I actually saw a demonstration of glasses-free 3D up close and personal five years ago. That may finally open the floodgates for 3D video content. We’ll see.