Smartphones

We are not in the Post-PC era yet and we may never be

Windows 8 might just be the platform to deliver the balance between what we want from a tablet and what drives us back to notebook PCs.

I've written several articles lately that have been increasingly critical about some of the shortcomings of Android and Android devices. I've talked about how device flaws and ongoing platform issues like battery life and application management hurt the ability of Android to compete in the mobile device market when compared to the alternatives.

I've also written about how Windows Phone 7 (WP7) already delivers a much more robust, stable, efficient, and polished platform out of the gate than Android does after several major revisions. I've discussed how many applications for Android are stuck in a rut of just adding features and not finding innovative ways to deliver traditional apps in a "post-PC" world.

All this got me thinking about Windows 8 and about tech bloggers writing articles about that post-PC world, and I wondered if we're really in it or not. After considering it for a while, I think that we're not in a post-PC world, and these are the reasons why I feel this way.

No post-PC world to be found

I've been attempting to do some basic things on my ASUS Transformer lately. These are things that are easy to accomplish and so common they're taken for granted on legacy PC platforms. My experience with the WP7 platform led me to realize my full dissatisfaction with the stock Android e-mail client. This led me to a search for alternatives.

In my search, I realized that all the alternatives simply added missing features to the basic layout of an Android e-mail client. None of them actually improved on the design for a mobile device. As I mentioned, neither does Apple's iOS. There is a form-follows-function principle in action here.

But Microsoft, with WP7, illustrates that there is also a lack of innovation leveraging the form factor and new interfacing features of mobile devices. Smaller touch screens that are frequently accessed in portrait layout are a different ballgame than e-mail clients on a desktop or laptop, which generally has a larger, non-touch screen, landscape display. Microsoft thought outside the box in developing their e-mail client. Apple and Google (and Android developers) did not.

Following this encounter, I decided to play around with a classic 8-bit PC emulation on my ASUS tablet. Conceptually, with a clam-shell design, an integrated keyboard, and two USB ports, the Transformer should be an ideal Android platform for retro emulators. However, in execution, for a number of reasons, it is not. Android developers face some real challenges.

There are so many different devices with so many different configurations, that hardware fracturing actually does make it a difficult platform to develop a single app that translates well to all available devices. In this case I tried multiple different emulators and had difficulty with all of them. Some recognized USB joysticks and d-pads but didn't map the keyboard right. Others mapped the keyboard right but did not recognize joysticks and d-pads. Others were simply unusable.

In addition to that, emulators are a class of application that creates a certain set of potential legal concerns. In an app environment where the operating system developer can effectively act as a gatekeeper on what apps make it to the market, emulators can be blocked. We've already seen Google take some action against emulator developers that discourage further development on Android.

After several purchases and a lot of time and effort, I still wasn't getting satisfactory results from my attempts to turn my Transformer into a portable retro-computer. It was at this point that I thought of my Lenovo S10 Netbook, which has been sitting abandoned for weeks since the repair of my Transformer keyboard dock.

I dusted the Lenovo off and powered it up. After weeks sitting neglected, the system fired up with 98% of the 8-hour extended battery life still available. To be fair, it was off and not in standby mode, but still, I don't think even the iPad could match that kind of battery longevity.

I quickly booted into Windows 7 and copied my retro-disk images from my Android to an SD card and onto the PC. After that, a quick web-search found a highly rated, free, Windows 8-bit emulator. I downloaded and installed the app and loaded everything up. Setting up the paths and configuration was a breeze, because everything used the familiar graphical Windows Explorer shell.

On the Android emulator, I had to use an aftermarket File Browser to copy files and to figure out paths, and I had to manually enter paths using Linux directory architecture. Windows was far easier and consumer friendly, despite the fact that Android is seen as a far more mainstream-consumer-oriented platform. In general, this is true, but when trying to do difficult things, that Linux foundation of Android becomes a liability.

In no time at all I had the emulator up, with a disk image loaded, killing orcs and casting spells in a classic-era 8-bit FRP game, which was operating nearly flawlessly. At 1.6GHz, the single-core Atom processor was powerful enough to handle the input, graphics, sound, and calculations of the original device's 1.023 MHz processor without breaking a sweat. Because PCs are so standardized, the default keyboard mapping worked flawlessly and USB devices were instantly recognized.

The dawn of a new age

Which is when it dawned on me: with a touch-screen-oriented interface but still retaining the "legacy" core of IA86 code compatibility, Windows 8 might just be the platform to deliver the careful balance between what I want from my Android tablet and what drives me back to legacy notebook PCs. Windows 8 may end up well positioned to deliver detachable tablet devices that dock into clam-shell keyboards to become full-fledged traditional laptop/netbook designs.

I think that this is the logical future for almost all notebook format systems. The ASUS Transformer illustrates that a touch-screen device makes a lot of sense when your display sits directly attached to your keyboard. It also exemplifies how some tasks are simply better for a tablet display.

Where the Transformer disappoints me is that it is generally a byproduct of Android. As an example, the Transformer still suffers from very laggy input of text in all web browsers even after several updates from ASUS. The web-browsers (native, Dolphin-HD, and Firefox) have trouble dealing with some sites with embedded video, like CNN. There are a lot of little issues with Android (and with iOS) that drive me back to a legacy PC. As long as that remains the case, it is hard to argue that we're in a "post-PC" world where "Windows is irrelevant."

Overcoming limits

Some might argue that most consumers don't care. However, I think that we'll increasingly see users becoming disenchanted with the limits of the lightweight, post-PC device operating system platforms and their limitations.

I think a lot of users are putting up with going without certain features that these platforms and devices can't seem to deliver like a traditional PC-era operating system. They are hoping that eventually these platforms will mature and become better at delivering in areas where they are lagging. If Windows 8 can step in and deliver all the advantages of the "post-PC" era while still offering the full-fledged experience of a traditional PC, with tight integration with other Microsoft platforms and products, there may be a lot of pent up demand for just such a solution.

What do you think? Could Windows 8 bridge the gap between lightweight, consumer-oriented mobile devices and full-fledged, powerful, and mature desktop OS platforms, or is the PC platform at the end of its life span? Let us hear your opinions in the forum.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

43 comments
davew9897
davew9897

The general argument is valid but the choice of evidence is trivial. 8-bit games? Give me a break. That is most certainly the least likely basis for evaluating the continued relevance of desktop PCs as opposed to Android devices. Let's talk (and compare) productive applications rather than retro games. Surely CNET can do better than this trivial comparison.

Tumbleweed_Biff
Tumbleweed_Biff

The points you make and that many others are discussing, to me seem way off track. The issue of pc-era/post-pc-era is not a function of OS, but rather, of the underlying hardware upon which it runs. The PC-Era is a situation where people are using personal computers: local hardware, local processing, local storage, etc. The Pre-PC era was when computing was handled by large scale computing where the user interface is essentially a terminal session or batch processing with the large scale system, whether big-iron, mini-computers (as/400 etc.). Please, don't try to quibble or get hung up on details, I am not trying to cover every aspect of computing, just hitting the high points. In the post PC era, without regard to the OS, to my understanding, we are talking about stepping away from the PC - local storage, and to some extent local hardware and processing. The post-PC era, in my mind anyway, refers to not being tethered to a desktop PC, or even a laptop, in order to do your computing activities. The interface can take any number of forms: keyboard ? Mouse? Touchscreen? Voice Command? "Hal, would you please have dinner ready at 7:30 PM? Oh, and Beef Wellington instead of the pork chops." "Yes Dave." An AI intuitive/predictive response/action (won't it be cool when your house can tell if you are going to enter that door and open it for you when you need it open rather than because you simply walked near? Or when it "sees" you lighting candles and preparing a romantic setting and automagically dims the lights and starts playing Ravel's Bolero? And then when your dad walks in unannounced and again automagically raises the lights, switches to fifes and drums, and serves a beer at the bar?) The computing interface could be through a watch, a cell phone, electronic paper, a microphone pick-up in the wall. Who knows what else we'll come up with. But by and large, we won't be going to (gawd help us) Best Buy, NewEgg, MicroCenter, or Fry's to pickup a desktop or laptop PC to deal with our home computing needs. The OS(s) that will carry the day,. whether produced by a bunch of Microsmurf robots, *Nix'ers or webOS freaks,will be those best able to function and integrate with a variety of mcro-processors, increasingly systems on a chip, which can work with a wide variety of local and "network" resources with power storage and consumption which will allow at least 16 hour day long up time with complete functionality during that time - as in, constant use. We aren't there yet, to my understanding, but the gap is closing, it seems to me at a rate which appears to be almost an extension of Moore's law, evolving from transistors or calculating power into ... something more than raw computing power, but still "doubling" every 18 months, whether that be function of battery power, decrease in size, increase in functionality, etc. ... So I disagree with the author, we are rapidly approaching the post PC era and probably more than half way there. People will still be buying PC's but I believe that the top end systems of today, will likely be the low-end consumer model and discards of the truly Post PC era.. Mike

guille
guille

I have an Ipad and I am quite happy with it.I read books, have instant access to google if doubts are surging among the family, can watch a second tv channel and have access to all of my music and videos. However: I'm writing this from my laptop (xp), edit my videofiles, download my music, edit my webpages write my letters, retrieve my email with 'real' computers and I would not like to miss them. There's place for both at specific times, so let's not start another type of mac vs pc war (In this case tablet vs pc)

mike
mike

I was lucky enough to have two pc's available to install W8 on: An old non-touch Dual core laptop and an Acer W501. I have no difficulty on either but have noticed at least one major omission: Creating a shortcut to a folder on the Start page, I haven't found an easy way to do this and as many users launch their applications by double clicking the file in explorer or on the desktop I think that this is an essential, espicially as the start screen has is the default start-up. I also keep trying to use my screens with touch even if they aren't - I'm addicted to touch screen already.

davidibaldwin
davidibaldwin

Why would I want smudges on my screen? Dirty keyboard is bad enough. And if I move the monitor closer I won't be able to read it. I realize Microsoft and the gang need something to sell. But the legions that are still holding on to XP are not being sold by Windows 8 or even Windows 7.

Gerbilferrit
Gerbilferrit

Can you take over the Tech Sanity blog because this is the most sane thing along with your review of Windows Phone 7, I have read on tech Republic in quite some time: Telling it like it is without any fanboy-ism bias!!! Excellent article!!!

Tom Sherlock
Tom Sherlock

The PC only holds on to us by its I/O scheme. The display can go mobile in many ways, but we won???t be able to let go of the keyboard until we follow the Gypsies??? approach to mobility by trading the piano position for the concertina/accordion position. ???Post PC??? or rather ???Post sitting down at a keyboard??? can only happen when we are comfortable typing on keyboards without looking at the keys (even though the big display on an HMD could give plenty of prompts and alternate layouts up in the corners of a virtually huge display). Augmented Reality apps are going to require various HMD and near-eye displays anyway. According to Marc Andreessen, wearable computing will be the next big thing and it???s the reason his VC firm invested in Jawbone. While we can use mobile devices to download anything into our devices and brains, we can???t download our brains into the mobile devices until the I/O is mobile and efficient too. The ability to put our own thoughts into the computer is what most companies pay for, and why we need to use a real keyboard for that.

Loadmaster
Loadmaster

I agree with the article. People intuitively resist change. This CONSTANT change in the IT world has just gone nuclear with the advent of iPad...iPhone....Android, etc. And man...those things are very cool. But people naturally drift troward the tried and true after they have tinkered with the "new". Unless the above mentioned devices & OS's offer the full featured robustness of a PC....the PC will always be around. Personally, I think it will always be around anyhow. PC's rock and they are extremely versitile. Hell....believe it or not Pabst Blue Ribbon is still alive and well!! It was introduced in 1865!! The PC is not dead and never will be. There will always be PC's in some form for sure.

rustys
rustys

Don't want or need that crappy metro desktop. Don't want or need touch screen for my desktop. I want a decent, reliable OS that is affordable and not being dicked about with constantly. What the heck is it about people in this industry that makes them act like a 5 yr old with ADHD?

John Larimer
John Larimer

Windows 8 will be yet another Microsoft failure much like Millennium and Vista. The whole concept of blending a tablet and a PC OS is ludicrous and unless your desk is your monitor (not a very practical idea) it will never work for a PC. We have the beta of Windows 8 up and running here and personally I hope it never sees the light of day.

Zudjiian
Zudjiian

I see the whole situation a little more simply. The iphone/tablet era we have come into is alot like the introduction of the swiss army knife or the leatherman tool(more of swiss army knife upgrade). It doesnt do anything really well but it can do alot of different things and it is portable. Pc's are like a specilized tool not portable but definatly stronger faster and better. W8 is starting to look like Vista, lots of great ideas that they are throwing against the wall just to see if they stick, except this time you might be able to turn all the junk you dont want off. Imho, If W8 is a success then Smart phone/tablet and maybe even game console users may go back to a PC just because it has the features of there phones/tablets. Its bold, but this is microsoft and we all know they are not scared to try it out. As for "Post PC era", what a dumb term. Everyone uses a computer or server terminal with a keyboard and mouse unless there just doing some real quick social networking or simple text programs.

howard.farthing
howard.farthing

Tablets don't provide the flexibility of a netbook - a "proper" keyboard, USB connections with from and to file transfers etc. That said, the current netbooks need more ram installed, full size HDMI port(s), a full (non-crippled) operating system as standard - we are not talking major cost here - and still WAY cheaper than a tablet.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... that it takes so long for people to see things that I argued about more than a year ago? For all that techies were claiming Android was the be-all/end-all of tablet functionality, one of it's former strongest proponents now recognizes how far short it falls of your desires? Why? Because it's too much OS for real tablet use yet not enough OS for real laptop use; it's nothing but a netbook in disguise. Microsoft's WP7/WP8 are practically guaranteed to be better than Android, but to be bluntly honest, it's nothing but another attempt to put a full desktop OS onto a mobile form factor and while it should greatly outperform Android for mobility, I really don't see it driving the mobile sector the way iOS currently does. I've stated many times that a tablet should be a supplemental device, not a desktop OS tool, but yet capable of working with typical desktop files in a mobile environment. It's more than a smart phone due to its larger screen size, offering a retail/contractor capability easy to see and use; however, it's less than a laptop in all-out power for functions that should be handled on a desktop anyway. I wouldn't use a tablet to create a 3D object, but I might use it to modify or present that object for approval at a meeting where a laptop is simply too bulky for convenient use. I would use a tablet to preview snapshots taken at a sporting/other event prior to transmitting them to a publisher, reducing both my overall workload and my bandwidth usage and thus my own costs. Windows 8? Based on other blogs I'm already seeing people looking for ways to disable Metro, turning into yet another point & click OS while Microsoft is trying to drive developers into creating touch-centric applications to take advantage of Win8's touch capabilities. As long as people, especially developers, insist on living in the past, Apple can't help but lead the way into the future. Microsoft was first and should have surged ahead, but with no off-the-shelf touch software, Microsoft's tablet drive stalled.

jamey123
jamey123

I like the interface on my android device just that, on my android device. I really don't think that it is a fit for me to dumb down the computer do to navigation limitations that smaller devices face. I don't want to lift my fingers from the keyboard to touch a button on the screen. I like to use only the keyboard and get annoyed when software developers hide the alt key menu options. On the other hand, please don't put the windows style start button/orb on my DroidX, that would be a step backwards. Windows mobile on the treo 700w perhaps? yuk.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Ergonomic reasons. Like a shovel, bycicle and such.

carlsf
carlsf

I am NOT wowed with what I have seen of WIN8 reasons.... We have yet to find a use for tablets, and are currently happy with our mix of Workstations/Power PC's, Notebooks and Netbooks, using a mix of (XP, Vista, WIN7 all 64bit, Google Cloud, Office 2003 and 7) for our current computing needs. We have a mix of sales, technical, and trainers, and we all agree. As I said we have NOT found any use for Tablets and what we have seen and experience with WIN8 this will be a NON starter for us. Yes it is early yet but there would have to be a major shift, in the next 12/24 months.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

they quit selling add-on docks, keyboards, mouse/pointing devices and other peripherals for tablets! When the owner/user of some tablet device has to resort to using one of these extra add-ons, then the classic PC design is still needed.

dcolbert
dcolbert

My concern is that my technical bias clouds my judgment in a case like this. The thing is that before mobile devices, I *did more* with PCs than almost everyone else I knew, including a lot of IT professionals I worked with. Frequently those professionals were more skilled professionally than I was - but supporting technology as a profession was just a job to them. When they went home they had little to nothing to do with a PC. What they did use a PC for never approached the kind of crazy extremes I would go to with home PC technology. Soft-modded Xboxes with XBMC streaming video from NAS servers on my home network, time-shifting DVR boxes built on MythTV and BeyondTV years before Windows Media Center or cable-boxes with built in DVR functions - and a lot more. There was a lot of envy and awe from people on just what kind of things I could make a PC do, but they were as practical for the average user as setting up a typical home user with a Linux distribution. I am the text-book example of a power-user - and the "Post-PC" era is all about taking away the ability to even attempt tasks that a power-user might attempt (most of which, corporations don't want users able to do in the first place), while delivering a much more simplified "base-user" experience that works with far less head-aches. I think that is the question, though. Are average consumers happy enough with the limitations that they'll continue to make the sacrifices in power-user abilities that Post-PC devices demand? Are they willing to wait until they go into the office and do more powerful tasks on real PCs there and do all of their home tasks on personal digital devices like the iPhone and iPad? That seems to be the missing niche that Microsoft may be able to fill - a device that can literally bridge that divide and deliver the best of both worlds. The question becomes, will it become a compromise for BOTH (less power than a traditional desktop OS PC and less bullet-proof than a limited consumer digital device), or will it deliver all the benefits of the traditional model with the flexibility to also function with the reliability and ease of a modern Post-PC device. If Microsoft can pull it off, I think they can be a major contender. But Microsoft needs to acknowledge a major corporate-culture shift that is necessary in a world that *is* post-Microsoft Platform dominated. They need support for Google's app suites across their entire ecosystem, including WP7 and whatever comes after. They need app support for Gmail, and Google Docs, and Google Voice. These things have me locked into Google devices. That is how Google won me from Microsoft. They made it painless to transition from Microsoft platforms to competitive Google platforms. Now it is Microsoft's turn to be the under-dog that has to accommodate users who can't see giving up dominant Google platforms. At this point, especially with WP7, this is one place where Microsoft is coming up short, and it is important. If they acknowledge and address this, with Windows 8 and WP7, things could turn around for Redmond.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I don't think we are in or will be in for some time the "post-PC era," whether one uses Windows, Linux, or Mac, one will always go back to the desktop/laptop computer. My brother and sister-in-law claim to not need a PC at their house because they haven their i-phones, yet they tell me time and again, that they go to their offices to use their desktop computers for task x. :) I guess their i-phones can't do everything like they claim so often. To answer your question though, it seems that Windows 8 will be the bridge "between light-weight, consumer oriented mobile devices and full-fledged, powerful and mature desktop OS platforms" after the videos I've watched and reviews I've read so far. As long as I (and those who are like me) can go to the traditional desktop view in Windows 8 and not use the metro view, I'll be fine.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Could Windows 8 bridge the gap between light-weight, consumer oriented mobile devices and full-fledged, powerful and mature desktop OS platforms, or is the PC platform at the end of its lifespan?

dcolbert
dcolbert

The post-pc era sounds kind of awesome. But, defined by your terms, I don't think we're even close, as an extension of Moore's law or not. I think you're a wildly optimistic futurist. Until our devices un-tether themselves from EVERYTHING and a standard of interoperability for universal connectivity is established, what you describe is smoking a righteous pipe-dream, brah. Additionally, there will ALWAYS be a desire for users to have local systems and storage. You're really talking about a universal cloud. I'm not ready to trust any remote storage capability with digital images of my 9 month old daughter in the tub, or intimate pictures of my wife and I on a cruise to St. Thomas. There are a lot of financial records and transactions I have in digital format, but they're not going to be on any cloud based storage any time soon. I think we're a long way from identifying solutions to these challenges that will meet my fairly particular requirements. But I suppose there are already idiots jumping on the cloud storage bandwagon in putting their entire private digital history in the trust of others. Drunken Frat-Party pictures on Facebook don't count. (My apologies to anyone who feels that this last comment so closely resembles them that it offends. If you want to be the trail-blazing canary in the coal-mine - putting your most private data on remotely accessible storage, be my guest. I simply question the sanity of such a course of action). Maybe I'm pulling a Bill Gates and claiming 640k is all you will ever need in a world that is quickly approaching 4Gb as a baseline (I know, Bill didn't really make the 640k comment as reported). But I think if my definition is too narrow, yours is too ambitious for where we are at. If we use your vision, (because visionary is what it is) - then we're still FIRMLY in the PC Era - arguably at the peak of it. PC Growth is slowing and Mobile Device growth is rapid - but PC growth is *still* taking place, so it isn't in *decline*. By that measure alone, how can we possibly be in the POST-PC era? Once the PC-era loses momentum and begins to *shrink* as other platforms continue to grow, then we might want to revisit the argument as you've framed it. So, by either definition, yours or mine, I think the answer remains the same. We may see the change coming, but we're not there yet.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I agree - the tablet/iPad format is great for exactly the examples you outline. Those are probably some of the most frequent ways in which end users utilize tablet format systems. But do you really need a LAPTOP to do the other things? Or is it the format, the clamshell notebook with integrated keyboard, that is what delivers the value add on those uses that require a little more than a tablet can deliver? Editing video files is one of the few examples where I can see that the power of a dedicated, legacy IA86/64 processor really makes a difference. For the rest, I don't think it is so much the power of the device or even the OS platform, but instead, the form of the device in delivering the right user I/O experience to maximize productivity and minimize frustration. That is, a keyboard, a pointing device, input and output ports other than sending a file right to the cloud.

gathagan
gathagan

MS doesn't *want* you to put folder shortcuts on the start page. Metro moves away from a file-centric mechanism to an app-centric one. Prior to Metro, users have always been encouraged to operate from a file management perspective, e.g. you create shortcuts to the files and folders where your data is kept. One of MS's shortcomings compared to Apple was their inability to place some sort of metadata in a file that allowed FATS or NTFS to link a file to the associated application, hence the need for file extensions and associations. I've always assumed this was due to Apple having somehow patented that process. After many years of both the Windows and the Mac UI's focusing on a file manager approach, it appears that now MS wants you to launch the application first, and then open the file from within the app. Obviously, this makes sense on a phone or a tablet, or any device with limited screen space. On a PC, however, it's not as efficient. I've known several people that persisted in using that approach in the past and it has always seems very cumbersome to me.

dcolbert
dcolbert

First off, WP7 is much more like iOS (which is frankly, the worst of the lot) than it is like a full fledged desktop. The thing is, WP7 is a *better* iOS than iOS itself. WP7 innovates and brings interesting new concepts to the table for a very light-weight mobile OS (which is what Windows PHONE 7 is). WP has a data-centric model that is far more logical than the App-drive model of both iOS and Android. Tied in with the features of Windows 8, that may make for a killer ecosystem of platforms and apps that could send Apple and Google running. I'd like to assume you MEANT Windows 7 and Windows 8 and just fat-fingered WP7 and WP8 out of habit, but the rest of your response makes it clear that you said what you meant. Trust me, despite the limitations, I wouldn't trade my Android tablet for an iOS device, even if the iPad cost LESS than a Transformer. They're crippled, locked down, under powered, and over-priced redundant devices. While the Android platform reveals clear disappointments in achieving the goals I'd like to see it deliver, it is still far and beyond the capabilities of what an iPad can even dream of delivering. I'm certainly not saying or seeing what you've been saying since over a year ago. I'm just not so caught up in my own choice that I can't see the obvious limitations of the devices that it runs on. I'd still recommend anyone who wants something more than an elaborate, expensive toy and status symbol to look beyond the iOS platforms to the more powerful, less expensive and far more capable Android devices. As a matter of fact, I'd say that even as an iPod, the iOS devices aren't the best. You would be better off with an iPod Classic for music than a Touch, iPhone or iPad. I can't understand why iOS still continues to dominate the market. There are far better choices now. Apple is riding on its laurels on being first to market with a real innovative approach to the tablet - but is is mostly cachet and uninformed consumer decision that drives Apple purchases.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Windows 8? Based on other blogs I'm already seeing people looking for ways to disable Metro, turning into yet another point & click OS while Microsoft is trying to drive developers into creating touch-centric applications to take advantage of Win8's touch capabilities." My brief experience with Metro is that 'point and click' is still the way to go on a non-touch-centric device. If MS is going to license vendors to sell W8 on hardware without that capability, or sell it retail as an upgrade on non-touch systems, then a P&C interface is mandatory. Developing for such systems isn't 'living in the past' when they are still the majority of systems in use. Me, I don't want to disable Metro (yet). I haven't been able to figure out how to manipulate it, and until I do I can't say whether I prefer it. I can tell you I won't be testing it on a touch-capable system; I don't have any available. As long as the economy continues to be down, few people are going to buy supplemental machines. Indeed, few are going to upgrade existing primary machines if they don't need to. Develop all you want for W8 on a touch device, but be aware it may be years before those interfaces equal P&Cs.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Do you have a device currently that supports touch screen? Do you have a laptop, notebook or netbook format device? Does it have an integrated mouse, touchpad or eraser-nub, or do you use an external mouse? How do you keep your fingers on the keyboard when you're using the pointing device? My point is, you may just not realize that it is actually easier and more intuitive to reach up and flick from the left edge to the right of your browser to go back a page than to mouse up to the back button and click the back-arrow - because you don't have a device that supports this. On my TF101, I've disabled my touch-pad, because touch-pads are prone to false-input from a wrist or stray thumb. It is much easier and generally far more intuitive to touch the screen, when on a device with this form-factor *and* a touch screen. Think about it. How frequently do people POINT at a screen, even on a desktop. It used to be one of my pet peeves that people would make finger-prints on my screen pointing to a section, word or point of interest they wanted my attention on. It is *natural*. A mouse or other pointing device is not natural. The mouse and other pointing devices are actually surrogates FOR pointing with your finger - relics of a time when a simple pointing device was more economical than the expense of a touch-screen. You're just *used* to it because it is the way you've always done it. It *isn't* the best way, in many cases. I don't think the touch-screen will replace mouses and other pointing devices in the near future. But they certainly compliment them.

carol.fuhr
carol.fuhr

does not make it a PC. Dumb terminals have those.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

I think you have it exactly, but.... "Are average consumers happy enough with the limitations that they'll continue to make the sacrifices in power-user abilities that Post-PC devices demand?" Yes, this is the lesson of the iPad. Most people do not need the power of a PC. They need to check email, surf the web, and watch a video. I'm like you. I work on a computer all day, and then I go home and play on one. I want my PC, but 75% of what I do I could do on a tablet. Most people don't do the other 25%, so they don't need the PC. I don't see most people replacing their PC with a tablet. Some will buy a tablet and then never replace their PC, because they don't use it. They don't need one. Some people will buy a tablet and never buy a PC. They don't need one, obviously. Most people don't have "more powerful tasks" that they need a PC for. For those who do, it may make more sense to do it at work, rather than pumping $500 into a new PC. But...for a lot of people, a PC will still make more sense than tablet, and a Windows 8 tablet with a dock at home may make more sense than anything else...so yes, Windows 8 could be the bridge you describe. The success of Windows 8 will be guaranteed if it can deliver a user experience equal to the iPad on a tablet for those who don't need or want anything more, and still provide the legacy and power desired by power users like you and I. Personally, I am really looking forward to it.

nonimportantname
nonimportantname

But I do think the dawn of a post PC era is upon us, mostly because of the advent of SOA..not solely because of our increasingly mobile nature and the evolution of our phones. This article fails to mention the importance of SOA and how everything is being moved to the cloud (I already hate that word). Nice sprite, by the way. You're a Tactics fan.

tusharnene
tusharnene

(from the point of view of an IT guy and gamer) i do think that win8, after looking at the developer preview, walks a line and will be good for exactly what's mentioned in this article - detachable and dockable devices or a switchable streamlined UI for touch-capable devices. personally i hate the phrase "post-pc era." while it's no longer a PURE pc era given the level of mobile tech our lives revolve around now, the pc platform is most definitely not at the end of it's lifespan. two main points supporting that are enterprise IT and gaming. while mobile devices are increasingly used in the enterprise and companies are coming up with formal BYOD policies to support that, give me the most powerful tablet currently available and it's still not going to do everything i use my work pc for. fine, virtualize servers and run thin clients for your workers if you want to, but they'll still mostly be sitting at a desk with a keyboard and mouse getting their work done, outside of sales and road warrior employees. nor do i think that device would run something like world of warcraft or other games that are even more resource intensive, so it's not going to 100% replace what i use my home pc's for. maybe the relevance of a pc is less to a civilian, because their computer use tends to be more casual, and focused around social networks and casual app-delivered content. but with due respect to mr. jobs, it's not a post-pc world, apple's just primarily in non-pc markets. my phone is a droid x, and while it allows me to do a lot of things, it definitely still has its shortcomings, and i will always default to my laptop and pc. it's the balance between mobile, pc (and even game console) that cover 100% of my digital needs, and i'm pretty happy with that, both for work and play.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I just bought a touch screen HP 21.5" monitor for my desktop rig. With Win 7, it has limitations. But this is bleeding edge. You'll see that more and more devices are going to come touch-enabled, without adding significant costs, and more and more an OS that supports touch in an intuitive way are going to be in demand, on mobile devices and on desktop/notebook devices. It won't replace the mouse - it'll compliment it. I plan on setting up the touch screen with Win 8 with Metro. My feeling is - it is going to make a LOT of sense. As I said above, it already makes more sense than the mouse when moving back or forth in any kind of document. Flipping a page is natural and intuitive. Moving a mouse to an arrow or a drag bar is just how we've dealt with the limits of technology for the last 25 years. The tech is coming to catch up with the natural way to do things. People just hate change.

jamey123
jamey123

I support several table note/netbooks and never use the touch screen except to check for functionality. In fact, I use the mouse about twice a day. If you would learn to use a keyboard and the surplus of shortcuts available, you would probably be much more efficient.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Stereos and Television sets are modular devices that have peripheral devices that plug into them, depending on your needs and desires. The ability to expand a system by adding feature enhancing peripheral devices is not a good bench-mark for if something is or is not a "PC era" device, I agree.

dcolbert
dcolbert

we aren't in the midst of a critical inflection point for the PC Era, nor that SOA may be a key component in delivering a looming "Post-PC" era. This is primarily because I'm just getting my head wrapped around public-clouds, private-clouds, and SOA design. The lights are still turning on for me on how industry experts foresee these architectures and designs being implemented. I think there are a lot of different ideas that are not necessarily completely compatible about how SOA and cloud architecture will be realized and where the benefits will be, as well. Finally, I think that the people who are focused on service & cloud based architecture with a focus on applications, not infrastructure tend to either forget, ignore or otherwise overlook the fact that the infrastructure still must exist beneath the virtualization, services and cloud. I'm also getting older, and maybe I'm just getting grumpy and set in my ways - but while I leverage a lot of cloud based services in my daily life and in many ways I'm an early adopter - I still have huge misgivings and reservations about the rush into the cloud. I think your observation points out one very important highlight. It isn't JUST the move to mobile tech and lightweight personal digital devices that threatens to end the PC era. It also isn't just the cloud or SOA design. There are multiple directions by which the traditional PC methodology of computing is being attacked. My article did overlook that - focusing instead on the hardware and OS shortcomings of the current breed to PC alternatives. I guess the better question is, "Will the Post-PC era arrive, and how long will it take to get here"...

jfuller05
jfuller05

Yeah, I'm a tactics fan! The knight was one of my best troops.

jamey123
jamey123

touch screen HP 21.5" monitor is NOT bleeding edge, sir.

dcolbert
dcolbert

To complaints about carpal tunnel with the explosion of ergonomic awareness and workplace redesign. Widely adopted touch-screen technology is nascent. We're still approaching it in a familiar paradigm of how we interface with the technology - but that may not be the safest, most effective or most productive way to do so. That is part of the evolution of design. Look at any emerging industry and the earliest designs always have these flaws. The bicycle, the automobile, and countless other early technologies approached interface design from the perspective of familiarity. In all of these cases, it didn't take long for designers to realize the ergonomic interfacing flaws of early designs and improve on those limitations and liabilities. We've already seen this cycle happen multiple times in modern technology including the PC, Cell Phone and other devices that have existed for a relatively short time. This is usually rapidly addressed. Now, some innovative designs don't catch on, either at all, or at least right away. We're still waiting for the personal mobility revolution that the Segway promised us. Predicting the future is rough business. I thought the iPad was going to be a huge flop. But my experience with touch screen designs for interfacing with PCs makes me think it is certainly more liable to revolutionize our IO with our devices than say, 3D TV.

DNSB
DNSB

I've installed touch screens for use in education by special needs students. Even with software that was designed for use with the touch screen, the two major complaints were having to sit too close to the screen and that after a short while, your arm is not happy about being held in the air reaching for the screen. I have a vision of "touch shoulder" joining carpal tunnel and Crackberry thumb as recognized workplace injuries.

dcolbert
dcolbert

And I think it illustrates how well thought out Microsoft's approach is that they're easing users into the idea of touch-screen interfaces, along with the ability to use a more traditional desktop approach if that is what you still prefer. I mean, we're in a transitionary period now between the classic approach to a GUI and the drive to more touch-oriented interfaces. Lots of people scoffed at both the GUI and at the mouse - and it took both awhile to reach critical mass and become standard and expected features. I think it is only prudent for Microsoft to prepare for a future that is most likely goint to include more touch-centric user interfaces.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

just expressing the opinion that I don't see how Metro will work for me. I already hate touchpads; I'm apparently too ham-fingered. It's not just the touch; I just can't figure the dumb thing out. I've never used a smart phone beyond setting up BlackBerrys for our corporate users. Maybe the interface makes sense if you're coming from a WP background, but it doesn't to a user of 'traditional' Windows OSs. I know there will be a 'Classic' option, but surely there are ways to accomplish in Metro what I already know how to do in Aero.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Or otherwise change your workspace to accommodate a new way of interfacing with your business machines. In Minority Report we saw an example of how that kind of workstation might work, with screens that hover very near you, and a keyboard tray beneath them. You're NOT going to work with your hands up in the air all day, either, any more than you have your hand on your mouse the entire time you're computing. You're going to end up incorporating multi-touch gestures where they make the most sense, using a keyboard where that makes more sense, and probably you'll still use a mouse or other fine pointing device in other situations. Most graphic artists don't use a mouse to create digital artwork - they use a tablet and stylus. This is an enhancement. In certain situations, even working at a desktop, touch is going to add value to the personal computing experience. It is more evident with a touch-enabled notebook/tablet hybrid at the moment, but there are a lot of places where it makes more sense and is more efficient even in a desktop. I mean, the Apple Magic Touchpad is an attempt to bring multi-touch intuitive gestures to desktops without touch-screens. Microsoft's Kinect is arguably an even more complex attempt to achieve the same basic goal. All of these companies get it. People scoffed at the GUI back at the start, too and said that a CLI would always be superior. Some still do... but when is the last time you saw an OS selling itself to on the basis of how superior its CLI was? I could be wrong. The touch-frenzy could blow over. But I think instead, the genuine issues, like the one you state above, will be what change, not the presence of touch devices and gesture driven computing.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

With dual 21" monitors, I'm at least 30 inches from either at the shoulder. There's a good 10 inches between the monitor and my outstretched finger. Besides, who wants to work with their arm (arms?) up in the air all day? I'm willing to overlook my innate disgust with fingerprints on my monitor, but I don't see how this could be comfortable.