Hello iPad, adieu desktop: Post-PC era - spin or fact?

Are reports of the desktop's death greatly exaggerated or are we really entering the tablet age?

We're being told we're now in a post-PC era but is that concept just marketing hype and wishful thinking, asks Rob Bamforth.

There are usually two diverse opinions voiced with the introduction of any new technology. Some will present it as the solution to everything and use it despite adverse consequences, others will deny it has any real value and rigidly stick to what they've become used to.

There have been plenty of instances of the former view. From examples such as The Last One, a 1980s tool aimed to replace the need to ever write software again, to the Apple Newton touchscreen PDA in the 1990s, disappointment can quickly follow impressive overhype.

Apple iPad: The idea of the iPad replacing the PC merits scrutiny

The idea of the iPad replacing the PC merits scrutinyPhoto: Apple

What the vendors think will be major milestones or paradigm shifts turn into inch pebbles and blips on the technology landscape. Those who have adopted unreservedly find they are stuck down a cul-de-sac and have to change plans and start again. So is it safer to be a cynic?

Risk of a missed tech opportunity

Not always. The risk, often stated by those hyping up the technology, is of being completely left behind. While this scenario might overstate the issue, there is the risk of a missed opportunity to re-evaluate what the business and its stakeholders are really about.

For example: the recent surge in interest in tablets, in particular Apple's iPad. Notwithstanding that anyone who has the slightest positive comment is labelled a fanboy, detractors of their business merits focus on two main aspects - lack of a real keyboard and poor support for Microsoft Office. Both are valid comments, especially as they are often made in the context of the tablet as a laptop or even desktop replacement. However, the word replacement needs more scrutiny.

When computers entered the working environment, they replaced previously manual central-processing functions, and most people had little direct interaction with them. Only when PCs became pervasive did a major change occur from an employee's perspective.

To do work, it became necessary for many to go to a computer, typically at a desk. However, few roles truly need to be deskbound for the whole working day. There may have been some whose raison d'