If the PC is dying, should we celebrate - or mourn?

Steve Ranger's Notebook: When the PC is gone we may miss it more than we think...

The PC is rapidly being overtaken by tablets, smartphones, netbooks and all manner of connected consumer devices. But that's not necessarily a good thing, says silicon.com editor Steve Ranger.

The PC is thirty years old this week, but already it looks like it is heading for an early grave: even one of the people who created it is now saying the PC is going the way of the typewriter and vinyl.

"When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline," said Mark Dean, one of the engineers behind the first desktop this week. See our photo story here for pictures of the IBM 5150, the machine that started it all.

PC era is over

The long reign of the PC may be coming to an end, but we should mourn its passing.Photo: Shutterstock

And it's not just the engineers who think we're entering the post-PC era: buying data is saying it too. Shipments of internet-enabled consumer electronics devices will soon exceed shipments of PCs for the first time, according to market research company IHS iSuppli.

Shipments of internet-enabled consumer electronics devices - ranging from TVs to game consoles, Blu-ray players and tablets - will reach 504 million in 2013, up from 161 million last year, and that number doesn't even include smartphones. In contrast, PC shipments will reach 434 million up from 345 million.

IHS iSuppli predicts that by 2015, shipments of internet-enabled consumer devices will reach 781 million, dwarfing the 479 million PCs shipped.

"These new figures are the latest evidence that the internet is not just for PCs anymore," Jordan Selburn, principal analyst for consumer platforms at IHS, said in a statement, adding that in future consumers will be more likely to access the internet through their televisions than via their PCs.

The market researchers said the huge rise in shipments of internet-enabled consumer electronics devices will be led by the tablet, spurred by the massive success of Apple's iPad, with 62 million tablets of various types sold this year.

So where does this leave the PC? In robust health, say some, such as Microsoft which points optimistically to a 'PC-plus' era rather than a 'post-PC' one.

However, it's hard to see how this is anything other than a terminal decline: business is likely to be the last hold out for the PC, but even there the role of the PC is declining.

Admittedly, the desktop PC was never a thing of beauty: squat, boxy and unrelentingly beige, it stood no chance against...