Requiem for the desktop PC? Not yet!

 

Being a personal computer (PC) user for nearly two decades, I pity those who are chanting the death – mantra for PCs. While this topic has been discussed in various magazines and news portals at length, like many such prophesies, it may not turn out to be true. The reason is quite simple: Personal computers cannot be replaced completely by smartphones or tablets or any such gadget. It is true that PC sales are declining, and last year, the sales nosedived.

I will not hyperlink such articles at length here. I will present you my own arguments on this popular, everlasting technology discussion. I will refer summarily to all new-age gadgets as smartphones only, as they are in large numbers. You can extrapolate my views on to other gadgets.

  • PC sales are dipping because of the advent of smartphones and such hand-held devices. That does not mean that PCs are being replaced by smartphones. The smartphone revolution came a few years before the saturation of the PC market. Even now, a PC is supposedly a luxury in villages of Asia, Africa and South America. While PCs behave like a TV set variant and sit on a table, smartphones have come alive with seamless internet connectivity.  People who are yet to harness the potential of a PC have already opted for smartphones. Many functions that you can do with a PC is not possible in smartphones.
  • PCs are very much essential for those who need high resolution and wide screens. Smartphones, however wide, cannot replace PC monitors. Watching movies, or for that matter graphics, gaming, video, animation experiences cannot be a very satisfying experience on smartphones. Smartphones can, at the most, play the role of references and indicators. They never provide us the real big screen experiences. Many of the PC-only activities can never be done with ease on the smartphones.
  • The advantage of mobility, portability is as bad as it is a good thing. The culture of creating something while moving has resulted in a shift in our thoughts. We have been addicted to become multi-gadget task masters, but end up as big failures in managing our daily, worldly tasks. This social and psychological shift is a matter of concern and should be thoroughly researched by scientists. Do we need to do all such things always, while moving? Is this unending idea of online multitasking essential to our life? I may sound bit philosophical, but I am sure these questions will get louder in the coming days.
  • PCs were an alternative to writing. Now, PCs have become traditional and extended tools of a writer, graphic editor, movie maker and so on. While fountain pens ruled this world for so many centuries, the PCs have been here as word processors for more than five decades (I am talking about PC and not huge computing machines). Let us not write off PCs now. Let us not forget fountain pens are sold on Amazon.com even now!
  • PCs are yet to come out of the shackles of wiring as they consume a ‘lot’ of energy. While a smartphone uses minimal energy to be alive, PCs guzzle a significant amount of power. That apart, there are not much reasons to condemn the PCs. But the data centres, which are the backbones of all online activities, are one and the same for PCs and smartphones! These data centres account for highest energy consumption, though there are efforts to minimise this.
  • PC-literacy or PC-illiteracy was the most talked about issue in the early part of this century. Now? Leave alone PC-illiterates, even illiterates have begun using smartphones with ease. Lakhs of people who have not even touched PCs have already changed their smartphones quite a number of times. This imbalance (yeah, I call this imbalance) has resulted in jumping the process of learning. PC screen is a place where lot of learning takes place. So, I strongly feel that big screen PCs are essential in educational institutions. They make students to feel the knowledge, than touching countless things tangentially over smartphones.
  • I was also of the opinion that PCs are disruptive in nature, and have serious implications on employment and in turn, on society. We can forget this now. Smartphones are really disruptive. I feel at home, when I use my PC / the Desktop to write this column. I can sit on a chair, as I was sitting while using the fountain pen. I can sit all alone, without distractions and deviations, except the chat messages I receive on desktop. I can listen to high decibel, crystal clear music in my 14-year-old 4:1 speaker system. I can take phone calls at ease without closing the screen. I can keep my tea mug, diary, books and all such things on my table.
  • The wide PC keyboard is another reason for me to go for PCs. It gives me the real comfort of writing. Oh yeah, the virtual keyboard may come. Let us see.

I tried to control my home PC through various apps on my smartphone. I failed. PC-Smartphone portability (or can we call it e-convergence?)  is still a distant dream.

In my view, PCs have their own cultural, technological and psychological advantages over smartphones. It may look absurd to you that I am writing this piece at a time smartphone sales have outgrown PC sales for the first time! When you look beyond numbers and analyse the socio-cultural benefits, you will start loving PCs.

I always quote the title `You are not a Gadget’ by Jaron Lanier, a ground-breaking book on our culture and the digital world. Humans are not gadgets; they are not supposed to be!

Welcome smartphones, but Long  Live PCs and Desktops!

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