Some years ago, Steve Jobs proclaimed the post-pc era. While the PC (including Macs) were not dead, that trend seemed certain. One way to certify this trend in technology is when advances comes first within certain types of technologies, in this case, advances are coming live first on mobile than on PCs.
The same way PCs overtook the mini and mainframes, is happening today with the mobile revolutions which includes tablets. PCs were far less powerful than the computers they were replacing (hence their name *personal*), however because of being personal, they allowed far more flexibility than their counterparts, eventually almost replacing them to its entirely.
Well, the cycle is repeating again with mobile. For sure phones and tablets are far less powerful than their PC counterparts, however their mobility allows new functionality and flexibility that simply wasn’t achievable with a PC (including laptops). So, many innovations are coming first live to mobiles instead of the PC, most possibly even ignoring the PC at all.
Let’s explore two technologies that certify the post-pc era:
Augmented reality: For sure the first steps started on a PC (notice PC, not mainframe), many of the first AR applications were developed in Flash, which in turn required the web camera of the PC as a trigger device (watch this video to understand better). They were cool, however cumbersome as the person need to put the image triggers in front of the web camera which (commonly) was on top of the screen, having a confusing -to say the least- situation: The users needed to point the trigger to the screen -figuratively-, in order to trigger what was going to be displayed on it. When applying the same concept with a mobile phone, it took a new dimension, because now the camera was on the device and the screen isn’t attached to it, as a matter of fact the camera and screen are on opposite directions, allowing the screen to act as a viewfinder. This arrangement allows a more natural flow of movement for the user and a more intuitive AR engagement. Let’s not even go to geolocated AR, on which a PC simply wasn’t built to be moved, the PC it’s static by definition.
Machine translation: For this chore to happen, a lot of CPU power is needed, so it’s natural that PCs covered this task, however it never happened, at least not in a massive way. For example, there is an abundant variety of speech recognition software, but few of them offer language translation. On the contrary, the mobile nature of phones and tablets makes natural to have the need to translate, thus this feature has been introduced first on mobile than on PC, and -maybe- the PC might not seen this feature take off on it ever. The irony is that one of the best translation engines that exist today is available from Microsoft, a company that still -today- makes most of its income from PC software.
When Microsoft itself decided to pursue mobile for new technologies rather than desktop, it certainly signals the post-pc era.
The PCs are not going to disappear as the mainframe didn’t. They’ll continue to serve an specific purpose. However they won’t be where technology innovation happens, that place has been taken by the mobile. Until a new technology comes along and so forth and so on…