September 26, 2011, 2:09 PM — The sky is falling! PCs are DEAD! You can hear the hue and cry. I guess it's human nature to declare eras as though they were regimes or dynasties. But they're wrong: The PC isn't dead, in fact it's flourishing in new and interesting manifestations.
The tablet is an entertainment consuming device, which, with various attachments, can be a small PC. The abbreviation "PC" stands for personal computer, remember. Tablets are PCs without a keyboard, using a touch screen for pointing and "typing". Smartphones are similar.
NO! Windows 8 Metro kills the PC! Fie. Windows 8 Metro is a twist on application UIs where blocks of screen real estate are filled with independent, sometimes linked applications. These are "windows" or "tiles" by another term.
But you're killing our meme! Yes, I am. Tablets are fun and they're novel, and everyone wants them to be something different, as though the mind-expanding quality of a new form factor will somehow save the universe. It will not. Yes, clever things are being done with them. But tablets are no sooner the murderer of the PC than smartphones are -- they're another manifestation of the same old stuff that goes all the way back to Xerox PARC and the Smalltalk UI. We've seen this before.
Still, this is a new generation and the old generation's stuff is moldy, gooey. Har. Go ahead and think that way. The progression of personal computers ended something that was felt to be the enemy at the time: mainframes and minicomputers.
The generation that invented PCs was tired of a world where computers didn't talk to each other, as though doing so was anathema. Forbidden. There were groups of early Unix geeks that would hold an event in the San Jose Convention center called "Connectathon". Guys like me would stand around with protocol analyzers, helping various kernel jocks connect machines together. Local area networks were a bit of a dream.
Saying that the PC is dead is just plainly myopic at best, and disingenuous at worst. The PC era isn't gone; each tablet is a personal computer. What's changing is how we use devices. Therein lies excitement: we're putting intelligence into cars, espresso machines, and truly small form factors -- some so small that it's hilarious how people will squint and peck at them to try and make them work as though we were all the size of children's dolls.
The death of the PC is greatly exaggerated. Instead, we're on the cusp of a new era in interesting, and possibly usable computing, entertainment, and media consumption devices. Tell the mortician to go home.