The death of dead

Posted: 05.03.11

We're only a third of the way into 2011 and already it's been marked with tremendous and sometimes horrendous events; earthquakes, tornados, civilian uprisings, killings by terrorists and the killing of a terrorist, and changes in consumer attitudes and buying patterns. And yet in the midst of all this turmoil AMD, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and others have managed to report record quarters and helped lift the DJIA past 12,800 while slowly adding jobs. Still with all the good news, and there's plenty even in face of national disasters and man's cruelty to man, there are those who see their role in life to find the failure, to be the first to predict the doom, the end of the death of, etc. Q1, 2011 was indeed a mixed bag in the computer industry with PCs sales low and graphics sales unseasonably higher than the previous quarter.

This, combined with the robust sales of Apple's iPad, and the predictions of fantastic sales of tablets by the other suppliers rushing to copy Apple and cash in on the attractiveness of the form factor Apple didn't invent but certainly stylized. Tablets, the doom predictors will tell us, spell the death of the PC. How many times has the PC been declared dead? (I think it started in 1999.) In TV land right now almost all new TVs are being equipped with either a RJ45 connector or an 802.11 a/b/c/n alphabet soup wireless capability that will bring the internet to the screens in homes. This, the doom predictors forecast, will result in the cutting of the cord and kill the cable and satellite suppliers and their STB suppliers. So IPTV cuts the cable cord and tablets cut our attachment (the cord) to the PC. Right, that's going to happen.

Yep, we've got a big cleanup program here at JPR to throw out all the PCs we have (and we have a lot of them) with all their fantastic graphics and all the screens they are driving, toss them out replace them with a tablet.

Yes, this is the last editorial I write on a full-size backlit keyboard whilst sitting in front of three screens delivering 5.5 megapixels across a 47-inch surface. I can't wait to replace that with a little battery powered Bluetooth keyboard and a 0.9 megapixel screen on a 9.7-inch surface – imagine the work I'll be able to do and think of the wattage, desk-space, and performance I'll be able to save.

Except the tablet isn't an unPC, a nonPC, or a not-PC, it's just a PC-like device that in the current popular instantiation isn't powered by an x86 processor—but don't worry, they're coming, in fact they've been around for about ten years. So when we have dozens of x86 powered tablets, all copying the form factor of the iPad, will the PC still be dead? Or will it miraculously be resurrected? Can we look forward to bunch of new editorials and forecasts about the revival of the PC (due of course to the tablet version)?

As of now the iPad, as delightful and sexy and status-bearing as it is, is an accessory to the more conventional PC. It's tethered to the gray/black laptop or black desktop machine that most of us have. Apple couldn't care less; they're selling them as fast as Foxcomm can build them, and prosecute its employees. And the herd have predicted there will be somewhere between 50 and 100 million PCs in the tablet form factor sold this year. Apple will probably enjoy 30 to 50-percent market share of that gold rush, and most likely 10 to 20-percent of the non-Apple models will be returned to the store just like the under-powered and over hyped first-wave of netbooks were.

And somewhere along this bumpy path the pundits will begin calling the tablet form factor PCs, "PCs." Or maybe PC tablets, or tablet PCs. What will they predict the death of then? Oh dear—we may be deathless—there goes circulation levels and CPM, how will we sell adds in our magazines and on our web pages if we can't predict a death or two? Oh wait, did I say magazines? Weren't we told they are going to die? I did see a couple of dead ones on the floor the other day. And those things we put in the recycle bin, the, whatya call em, oh yeah, newspapers—the thing the iPad killed. What are we going to swat flies with—a tablet?