These massive multi-function machines are simply too overburdened with features and interface to continue to serve what consumers will require in the broader, more distributed evolving relationship technology environment.
More simply put: the idea that one expensive device can be all things to all people, is done. PCs are simply too big (and, yes, I consider netbooks too big), too heavy, too difficult to learn and master, too slow, and remain ignorant of the needs of the user. And by that last remark I mean the PCs still require the user to do the heavy lifting with information.
Plus, PCs are desperately dependent on place: they are generally rooted to one location, or have limited portability. As the booming smartphone business proves, people want their technology to be available ubiquitously. Just consider this: after less than 24 months, the iPhone has grown to represent a larger percentage of Apple’s business than the Mac.
Aspects of the PC will merge with other common forms of technology, based on users’ requirements and habits. New, niche-need devices will evolve.
The new Verizon Hub is a great example of this. By combining a VOIP phone with an internet-connected touchscreen LCD , the device supplants the most common functionality of the PC, combined with a phone line. (Interestingly, the device is targeted at people who currently own just a mobile phone and want to augment it with home-based communication and information services.)
The Verizon Hub is a fascinating, well, hub, that connects and filters a wide variety of information related to the time, place, and interests of a group of people such as a family. So it can be used as a collaborative calendar, it offers a group messaging environment, and it serves as a source of new and information prescient to a the immediate needs of its users.
The Verizon Hub isn’t a perfect device – it still lacks the intelligence required of a true relationship technology device – but it indicates a direction. The ancient box-screen-keyboard-mouse paradigm is crumbling as new function-specific forms evolve. Many people who want a little more than their smartphone can offer will forgo the massive PC purchase when the Verizon Hub, for example, can satisfy their narrower needs.
New devices will evolve as contextual windows into aspects of a user’s distributed relationship-based information space. PCs, by contrast, are stationery lock-boxes of stored data that users spend tremendous amounts of time managing and filtering through. And, these days, nobody likes to be weighed down by such an anchor.