Smart thinking is needed about smart gadgets’ influence
Oct 8th 2011 | from The Economist print edition
"AUGUST 12TH 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of the IBM 5150 personal computer, which established the technical standards and design to which many PCs subsequently adhered. In a blog post to mark the occasion, Mark Dean, IBM’s chief technology officer in the Middle East and Africa, who worked on the original designs, revealed that he had already ditched his PC for a tablet computer. “When I helped design the PC,” he wrote, “I didn’t think I’d live long enough to witness its decline.” He went on to predict that the PC was destined to go the same way as typewriters and vinyl records.
The notion that a post-PC era has begun is not universally accepted. Microsoft, for instance, likes to talk instead about a “PC-plus” world in which millions of PCs will still be sold every year. It is true that the machines that first brought computing into people’s homes are not about to vanish, not least because there are many emerging markets where people still crave them. China, which could outstrip America as the world’s largest market for PCs next year, is one of many countries that still has plenty of potential for growth. Chinese computer-makers such as Lenovo, which acquired IBM’s PC business in 2005, are well placed to profit from this rising demand.
Nevertheless, as this special report has argued, a new age of personal technology is indeed dawning, at least in the rich world, in which people will depend on a far wider range of devices to keep them connected to friends, colleagues and others around the clock. It is hard to predict exactly what shape and form all of these gadgets will take, but there are going to be plenty of them. In places such as Africa, cheap smartphones could well turn out to be people’s primary computing devices. “We are in the process of putting supercomputers in many more people’s hands,” says Mr Huang, NVIDIA’s boss...."