Not surprisingly, recent comments by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – reveal two sharply different views on the evolution of personal computing.
Steve Job’s Crystal Ball
Responding to a question at the Wall Street Journal’s D8 Conference earlier this month — about iPads eventually replacing PCs, Jobs suggested that PCs will become like ‘trucks’ where some people will continue to use them but most will transition away.
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. As people started moving away from the farm, the car started taking over,” adding features such as windshield wipers and automatic transmission.
“PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”
It is worth noting that Jobs, was speaking explicitly about both Windows-based machines and Macintoshes.
“The transformation will make us uneasy because the PC has taken us a long way … We like to talk about post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people.”
Steve Jobs: “The PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it’s changes, vested interests are going to change. And I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years…”
Walt Mossberg/Wall Street Journal: “Well you don’t think it will be next year?”
Steve Jobs: “Well… who knows?”
Defending his companies’ bread and butter, Ballmer insists that PC use will continue to grow – while also evolving into into different form factors.
“I think people are going to be using PCs in greater and greater number for many years to come. PCs will look different next year, year after, year after that.”
Thurott Weighs In
In the wake of the comments made by Jobs, Windows IT Pro columnist Paul Thurott has offered up this number packed defense of the PC, refuting the idea that the death of the PC is emminent.
“Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs are carefully promoting the iPad as the product that is ushering in the so-called post-PC era. But the facts refute this notion: PC makers are on track to sell more than 350 million PCs this year, and they collectively sell one million PCs every single day. Microsoft sells one million copies of Windows 7 each day and a half. But it takes Apple five weeks or so to sell just one million iPads. Sure, it’s a successful business, but it’s not replacing the PC. Not that most people in the press would ever pause to consider dulling down an Apple promotional story with such inconvenient details.”
“Even the lowly netbook will outsell the iPad dramatically in 2010. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Frank Shaw points to an estimate of 7.1 million iPad sales for this year, though the figure could end being as high as 8.5 million units. But PC makers are projected to sell 58 million netbooks in 2010. These figures refute other recent claims—baseless, but highly promoted—that the iPad was somehow eating into netbook sales and would one day replace the netbook. As it turns out, netbook sales—like PC sales overall—are actually growing pretty dramatically this year, iPad or not. And another bubble bursts.”
A View from the Pit
Even though many of us here at PC Pitstop find ourselves opening spreadsheets, monitoring email, IM’ing, streaming radio stations and browsing the internet from our Blackberrys, iPhones and Droids – it is hard to imagine a future without a PC at least somewhat similar to those that we currently use.
Just how important will that PC be? Will the PC be a machine that you continue to use on a daily basis or will it become an ‘appliance’ that takes the place alongside the tablet PC, iPod, netbook, blender and the waffle maker as something you own – but only use when the need arises. Plenty of questions remain to be answered.
No doubt, PCs and other devices will continue to evolve at warp speed and deliver Jetson-esque features.
However, given the challenges associated with managing a 2,000 row spreadsheet with a 3 inch smart phone screen and others — it is safe to assume that a traditional, ‘sit at the desk’ PC will always find a spot in the future world of personal computing – and the transition to any practical alternative is further away than we might be lead to believe.
What do you think?