Death of the PC? Really?
Apple-related news doesn’t always impact the broader IT channel, but there’s something to be said about recent developments at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2010. Indeed, the conference apparently included nothing about Macintosh computers and the ubiquitous Mac OS operating system they run. While Apple’s vision may be a future of iPhones and iPads, the future for the SMB/Enterprise community is actually one without a PC as well. Don’t believe me? Read on…
The two biggest upcoming trends we’ve been looking at — heck — everyone has been looking at are virtualization and cloud-computing. Both of these technologies, which in some ways compliment each other, do not rely on traditional ‘PCs.’ Virtualization introduces the idea of a thin or zero-client, and cloud-computing introduces the idea that the computer is non-essential, so long as a browser window is attached to something with enough CPU power.
In a way, it harkens back to the days of terminal emulation; with one super-computer running the show. But what about the laptop, you say? With BlackBerry and a plethora of other mobile devices entering the SMB and Enterprise world, even the idea of a laptop for travel is starting to seem unnecessary. The iPad has shown that with just a keyboard and a screen, a lot of work can get done. Even the netbook strays more and more away from the idea of a traditional PC as operating systems like Chrome OS and MeeGo, Moblin and Ubuntu offshoots enter the arena. These operating systems are designed to eradicate the idea of a traditional desktop environment and give you just what you need either locally, or on the cloud exclusively.
If you think about it, more and more technology is being designed around having your information when you need it, and a lot of it is essentially finding ways to take the information off that ball-and-chain PC box in your house and make it easily available elsewhere. Google Apps, DropBox, Box.net, (insert your favorite cloud service here) are changing the way we edit, review and consume content on a scale that increasingly makes the traditional idea of the PC obsolete.
There will still be super-computers and servers, and high-tech PCs for professional work and gaming, but those devices can eventually be seen like appliances and less like the cozy box with all your family pictures on it.
Likewise, the savings on security software and IT management in the SMB and Enterprise (over the long-term) from virtualization and cloud computing will add up. I would imagine at some point it’ll be a no-brainer to move everything to private clouds and virtualized infrastructures. With the right type of thin- or zero-client, the only upgrades required would be on the main server, be it storage, CPU or RAM. (As a former help-desk technician, I can’t tell you how much time and money was spent on software, RAM and HDD’s, and how much of a hassle it was to re-purpose an old computer instead of getting a new one.)
So is the death of the traditional PC as we know it coming soon? Maybe it’s not around the corner, but in the next 10 years I think it’ll be unlikely that ‘home base’ will exist on a hard drive in a home office and more likely it will exist on a cloud.