Thoughts (and data) on the future of personal computing.
For the last several years, geeks and visionaries, gurus and industry specialists debate about the possibility of smartphones becoming the future of personal computing.
A futile debate in my opinion as smartphones have already dominated personal computing. A study published in 2013 indicated that 79% of people 18–44 have their smartphones with them 22 hours a day. Today everywhere you go, your smartphone stays in the reach of your hand. Even while sleeping or having a shower. It is the first thing you use every morning to check your emails & Facebook, read the news and connect with the world.
Let’s face it. For most of us, the new amazing iMac or macbook is a 2k$ Google & Facebook machine.
Most of these arguments are partly based or fueled by data. For the sake of an informed opinion I gathered and visualized some public press-release data from Gartner (below), indicating that while the worldwide mobile shipments skyrocket the last few years, the PC market is shrinking gradually.
Note that the red and orange curves just show the trend — the actual data for the final quarters haven’t been released yet - but there is no reason that indicates we should expect otherwise.
Are personal computers destined to become obsolete? Expensive machines for hackers and geeks?
And is this enough to significantly shift the market towards mobile personal computing in such an extent?
The answer is No and No.
Key differences between Smartphones and PCs.
First of all, mobile processors aren’t fast enough — mainly because performance doesn’t really matter compared to computers. Smartphone devices are designed for web browsing or posting your vacation pictures on Facebook. It’s not just my opinion, this is considered as fact by many computing analysts.
Battery life restricts processor potential. Most smartphones need daily charging -if you’re lucky — just for everyday use. Intensive tasks such as GPS/Maps navigation, taking a lot of pictures or multitasking, will inevitably deplete your battery life merely in a few hours.
Smartphones are connectivity machines, or terminals for the singular cloud that has yet to come.
While a smartphone’s life cycle typically is considered to be 18 months, with many of us switching to the newest iPhone each year, this doesn’t happen with PC or MAC computers.
The true problem lays with the definition of personal computing
I think the answer lays in the fact that smartphones address everyone’s need for connectivity — especially in the developing world. This is fundamentally different from the big and powerful computers with large screens and input devices, that target the efficient completion of tasks that require tons of processing power, memory and disk space.
Interpreting the data
People in the developing world need to connect and they need to connect fast and inexpensive -especially in Southeast Asia- driving the smartphone boom, whereas the number of the tech savvies that need to compile code in their Unix machines and other professional power users remains the same (and thus the demand for such computer systems).
With this in mind the booming numbers of smartphone adoption and the soaring numbers of personal computers don’t look that bad, do they?
When it comes to PC shipments, the supply remains almost the same, which means the demand remains more or less in the same levels as well. Furthermore, this happens on the aftermath of a global financial crisis and the eve, of what seems to be a destabilisation of the Chinese economy.
If you are into investing, this is the right moment to put your money in computer companies.
The more widespread the smartphone adoption, the more pressuring the demand for new innovative apps on the App Store and Google play store will be.
Mobile apps that address the needs of people with cultural diversity and more fundamental needs than us, white EU & US citizents. Smartphone connectivity actively drives innovation and increases living condition throughout the world each day.
Which means MACs and PCs
Truth is that your smartphone is not really a computer, cannot compile code in its present form and is by any means inadequate for this kind of work.
Small developer studios will sprout eventually in Southeast Asia and wether they will develop for WeChat’s giant marketplace or the App Store, there will be a need for real computers & computer programmers.
PCs and Smartphones are not competing, their relationship is more or less symbiotic, regulated by the developer ecosystem.
In the end they share the common destiny of technology, making our lives better, one step at a time.