The PC is dead, long live the tablet?

IBM's EMEA Chief Technology Officer now uses a tablet primarily, not a desktop
Darren Allan

August 12, 2011

The personal computer is a dying breed which is going the way of vinyl, CRT monitors and typewriters, according to a blog piece written by IBM’s EMEA Chief Technology Officer, Mark Dean.

Dean penned the blog piece (highlighted in a BBC report) to mark the fact that today, August 12th, is the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first IBM PC, the IBM 5150.

Though that wasn’t the first PC ever made, not by any means. The early models came in the seventies from the likes of Commodore PET and Apple, or as it was then, Steve Jobs’s garage.

Dean reckons that we’re in a post-desktop PC era already, and notes that his primary computer is now a tablet (still technically a PC by some definitions, but there’s obviously a distinction).

Ours isn’t – although in fairness, he notes that desktops will continue to be “much used” – they’re just past their prime – and that they aren’t being replaced by any one specific device such as tablets, but a range of devices. And moreover, new ideas in computing.

Specifically, he argues that “innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact.”

“It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.”

Dean notes: “After more than a decade in IBM Research, I am now the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa, based in Dubai. I’m focused, in particular, on bringing new IBM technology solutions to bear in Africa and helping to develop the continent’s IT skills and computer science workforce.”

“While the PC revolution has had a tremendous impact on the world, I believe that the work that IBM and others are doing in Africa could have an even bigger impact over the long haul.”

IBM left the PC business, selling up to Lenovo, in 2005. It has also abandoned the market in printers and disk drives, now investing heavily in research, and buying up tech companies. In the last decade, it has splashed out some $33 billion on over 100 firms.

The new focus seems to be working in many respects, with IBM’s pre-tax income margin in 2004 being 11%, rising to 19% last year.

As to the death of the personal computer, we can’t see ourselves replacing our desktop for some considerable time yet. However, the average consumer may feel differently – and the cloud is clearly on the horizon, looming as the potential wispy future.

But that computing model brings with it a lot of baggage and questions of security and control for the user.


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