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Serious question: if Microsoft is convinced of the "Post-PC" meme, so Metro is the future — and the Start Menu is in the trash — then office work should be done on an iPad.

So what's the disconnect?

I'll give my opinion at the bottom. You've pointed at the leaky tablet paradigm, but let's just assume Office takes a year to catch up to Windows. That's historically been the case.

"Normal" windows apps should be phased out rapidly and Metro everywhere should become the new Windows UI.

Since when has real office productivity needed a Tablet UI? It seems obvious to me that the iPad (and iPhone) are for casual use or travel. It may be productive to review sales figures, or tweak the wording in the presentation, while on the plane. Anything more requires a keyboard in my opinion.

The physical difference between the iPad and a keyboard is the primary reason I think office workers will hate Metro. Second to that I see them hating Metro because they just want to "get stuff done." Metro lacks the streamlining that the old apps have taken years to achieve. Instead of being able to add a formula with one click, you have to learn a whole new set of interface tricks.

Microsoft wants a quick success. So Metro will probably get ditched for something new by 2016, regardless of its core merits. (Obligatory: I'm biased: I think there is a niche for PC's and a separate niche for iPads. I see no Post-PC world, only an admission that Dell's profit margins will never return to 1990's levels.)

I see no Post-PC world, only an admission that Dell's profit margins will never return to 1990's levels.)

The "Post PC" world doesn't remotely mean PCs will disappear. We've been in the "Post Mainframe" world for 30+ years, yet Big Blue still makes a lot of money on super computers.

When people talk about "Post PC", they are referring to where the majority of dollars will be spent and how the average person will interact with computers. We are still learning how to make that interaction really effective for producing content, so we haven't completely left the PC world, but within a couple years, we will be there.

One other thing that will be a hallmark of this transition will be ubiquity of computing. In the PC world, there were one or two general-purpose computers in a home. In the Post PC, there will be dozens. And even more special-purpose devices.

Up to today, Post PC products have been mostly used for consumption. This is a side effect of two things: most computers are used for consumption and, as I mentioned earlier, the interactions for creation are still a work in progress. But progress is happening. I've used my iPad to author business presentations from scratch, to do mockups for my web product and to author blog posts.

There are a lot of advantage to having a device that works more naturally with my creative energies. If I'm relaxing on the couch, I can continue to do so. The laptop forces me into a different mindset.

But, yes, PCs will certainly continue to be around and useful for a good number of people.


As I recall, average have jobs. Jobs are becoming PC oriented all the time. That is because the PC architecture (screen, local storage, keyboard) is pretty much needed for full-time production on a PC (and when has been computerized that means that less, not more, physical activity will be needed).

Post-PC products may indeed continue making inroad in consumption and those jobs where people need to walk-around. But outside that, the form factor that is the tablet's advantage become its disadvantage and only obsessive cool-aid swallows will take it beyond these areas.

The only thing that changed the crazy sales of PCs to something a bit more normal is that a four year old PC is now still fast enough to do most of the stuff that you could do with one you bought today.

And it will remain that way until applications will be able to make more effective use of multiple cores.

When I'm in the office (75-80% of my year), i'm a heavy user of Windows. I cycle between five core apps (Word, Excel, Visio, PowerPoint, Outlook+Lookout, VMware/VirtualBox) working on RFPs, Technical Architectures, Transition Documents, Reference Designs, etc...

My "travel system" has changed three times in the last 9 years (Macbook Pro, Macbook Pro, MacBook Air) - but my productivity desktop has remained the same - a Dell Precision 650 running windows XP. I'm _already_ looking forward to my fourth laptop (picking up a 2012 thunderbolt MacBookAir - local backups over a thunderbolt connection to a high-speed NAS will make local backups both more likely to happen as well as more painless) On the flip side- my circa Q1 2004 productivity desktop _still_ does pretty much everything I need of it - I don't have any real incentive to request a new machine, or upgrade off of Windows XP.

I'm picking up a new iPad on Friday, but I don't really see how Windows 8/Metro is going to be a useful replacement for my fairly optimized Windows XP experience. Eventually the Precision 650 is going to break - and I'll probably upgrade to Windows 7 + whatever dell desktop will last me another 10 years, but I agree 100% with the parent - Mobile/Tablets/Laptops still have 2.5-3.5 year lifespan, desktops have moved into the 4-6 year rotation in the enterprise (And, in my case, even longer)

As the world becomes more mobile, and desktops continue to extend their life, we'll see even more transition of leadership (and profit) to those vendors who focus on the "Mobile Experience" - that's what's driving Microsoft to Metro - not because they believe it will enhance our desktop experience (it really, really won't) - but because it's where the market is moving.

The "Post PC" world doesn't remotely mean PCs will disappear.

Agreed. But given what they're doing with their "operating system for the post-PC world", one can't help wondering if that is exactly what Microsoft thinks it means.

They spoke to this quite a bit during the BUILD conference. In short, Microsoft is expecting that the days of computers - all computers - having a screen you can't touch are going to come to an end.

We're going to look at non touch-sensitive screens like relics of an old era.

If you buy that future, you may also come to the conclusion that your flagship OS and cash machine had better be ready for it. And, clearly the last few shots at making a windowed UI touch-enabled didn't go so well.

Personally, the only way I would spend any extra on a touch screen for a desktop is if it was built into a drafting table-like surface, so that it could be used ergonomically. An upright touchscreen causes gorilla arm syndrome, and is worse than useless to me; these touchscreen desktops on the market today from HP and others are just way off the mark as far as usability.

I'm willing to believe, for the sake of argument, that touchscreens will take over. Regardless, those days haven't ended yet, and will be here for years to come.

With that in mind, I submit that it's prudent to wait for the baby to stop moving before you throw it out with the bathwater.

For anyone who has to stare at a computer screen all day, touch screens won't replace non-touch screens until the screens become fingerprint-proof.

Yes, the same discussion as before leads me to the same question: if this is a world of entertainment embedded devices that support 3rd party apps, why is the term "Post PC"?

Mainframes never achieved the dominance of PC's precisely because they weren't as useful; so it is logical to say that PC's will continue to dominate embedded devices because the iPad isn't as useful.

Embedded devices never even had to compete with PC's on units sold. That didn't make the PC an afterthought then, so what's different now?

Using your definitions, we are just in the computer age, and have been for 70 years (maybe there was the vacuum tube age and the transistor age). That is an engineering definition and doesn't apply.

These padigm shifts aren't about what is inside the device. They are about how the devices are used and how that usage impacts people and society.

The glaring, obvious sign that the world is changing is a grocery store checkout line. Five years ago, a couple people in the store might be looking at BlackBerries. Now, everybody and their kids have a device, and often, those devices are talking to each other, via wifi, 3G or Bluetooth.

That is the people impact in the Post PC world. And that impact will be as large as the impact PCs had on the world (IMO). I just hope it's a positive impact.

Reminds me of what happened the other night.

I was on my way out of town and stopped at the new supermarket to pick up a sub for dinner. As I was checking out, a young guy and his girlfriend were in line in front of me.

He says to the cashier, "you know your cell phone coverage sucks."

The cashier says, "yea, only Verizon works."

The reply was, "I bet they're sorry the didn't think of that when they were building it."

I don't see where you got that. I didn't define anything.

> everybody and their kids have a device, and often, those devices are talking to each other

The inter-device communications are just part of the app, another way of describing the cloud.

The ubiquitous embedded device is as unimportant to the PC as the wristwatch. I still don't think a wrist computer (or an iPad) will be so dominant people say, "remember when we used to use keyboards?"

Everyone may have a "device," but they will still use their laptop every day.

We're moving into an age of five different types of inputs:

    1. Keyboard
    2. Mouse
    3. Touchscreen (finger, stylist)
    4. Audio (e.g. Siri)
    5. Video (e.g. Kinect, eye tracking)
In video games, going all the way back to the Atari 2600, we've seen plenty of new types of input controls tried and failed. Joysticks, rotary controls, gamepads, keyboards, mice, trackballs, touchpads, light guns, robots, power gloves, giant floor-mats with buttons, analog sticks, analog buttons, vibrating controllers, skateboards, drum kits, guitars, microphones, steering wheels, arcade sticks, etc...

Some were great, some were terrible. The "great" tended to be so because they were tailored to the software they were programmed for. Playing Guitar Hero with a guitar controller is good, but playing Call of Duty with it is bad. There are plenty of different types of inputs that exist and will be invented, but some work best for some things and terrible for others.

As you mention, Microsoft Office is designed around a keyboard and mouse. A touchscreen is a hybrid of the two, more portable, but clunkier. An accountant who lives by arrow keys, hot keys, and their numberpad in Excel is going to hate a touchscreen. For MS Office to work on a tablet, it'll have to be re-designed from the ground up, and even then it may not be superior to its desktop counterpart in an office setting.

I don't know what MS wants to do with Win 8. To think all desktops are going to die and become tablets is wrong, just like thinking that T.V. was going to kill radio. Both have their places, but a tablet != desktop.

Maybe you're right that they just want a "quick success", but that strategy hasn't paid off for them recently (Zune vs. iPod, Bing vs. Google, their fragmented mobile efforts vs. iPhone). MS has been in reaction mode for a while, and now they're reacting to the iPad with Metro.

One thing Microsoft does have going for them is the corporate market; Apple hasn't directly targeted that yet, though to think that Apple is not going to go after it shortly is foolish. MS is entrenched in here with Active Directory and Exchange. But cloud efforts are going to shortly give that a run for its money.

Thanks, I agree. To reiterate something that I think you're saying (correct me if I'm wrong), "An accountant ... in Excel is going to hate a touchscreen. For MS Office to work on a tablet, it'll have to be re-designed from the ground up." Ok then, why would Accounting firms switch to Metro?

With multiple competing options (some in the cloud), surely one of them will cater to the old UI that uses the arrow keys.

I think you're correct that with multiple computing options, some cloud-based, you'll see tailoring to specific jobs. Accountants, lawyers, salespeople, programmers, all do slightly different things, and will need different UIs. Also, as contexts switch, so will devices. Lawyer in litigation making a presentation will need a different device than when sitting alone in an office.

Specific to accounting, my anecdotical experience has been that many accountants don't like change unless it makes them more productive. If it's confusing or has a large learning curve, expect lots of complaints and resistance. I upgraded a few with new computers, from Win98 to Vista, and from Office 2000 to Office 2007. The "ribbon" UI was so terrifying to them that they literally unplugged the new computers, plugged the old ones back in, and used them for 9 more months before they finally crapped out.

Any type of manual data entry needs to be done really fast and accurate. Keyboards are better at this than touchscreens in most cases. Touchscreens will have to become more keyboard-like to compete (this is going to begin happening soon, but we're a few years away before it becomes good enough: http://cnettv.cnet.com/senseg-demos-prototype-touch-feedback...).

"It seems obvious to me that the iPad (and iPhone) are for casual use or travel. It may be productive to review sales figures, or tweak the wording in the presentation, while on the plane. Anything more requires a keyboard in my opinion."

You can easily pair a wireless keyboard to an iPad. This is how I got my parents to replace their computer with an iPad, and further lower my family tech support costs.

That's what inspired this post:


and the subsequent discussion here (can't find it right now)

Your point on lower tech support costs stands, though :)

Yeah I remember that post and it definitely doesn't apply for my family at large. The majority of them are happy as luddites. They are happy to be in their locked down and limited Apple post computer device that "just works".

Hey! Don't be down on your family...

My dad is utterly overwhelmed by a computer with a mouse and keyboard. We could never email pics of his grand kids and family events because even something like the gmail login page (that users like you and me take totally for granted) was too much for him.

He'd fish out his login details from the desk drawer, hunt and peck them in and finally gain access (sometimes) only to learn that there is no new email waiting for him. At which point he'd throw the desk upside down and start kicking the computer to shit.

Contrast that with simply tapping the envelope to retrieve email and I say retrieve not check because the badge notifications mean that he never even has to tap the envelope unless there really are emails waiting.

You simply cannot underestimate the value of this for people on that side of the digital divide.

He now has a Facebook account, he messages us from that and uses regular email, he has access to family pictures, groups he shares interests with and generally does have an authentic slice of the digital age of his very own that he greatly enjoys.

Even hunt and peck typing is a more fluent thing on a touch screen... Who'd a thunk it?

My whole point is this: horses for courses.

You and I have no frame with which to reference the massive value of a 'Luddite' device just as my dad has no way of understanding the type of functionality guys and girls like us require.

It sounds like we both agree on post-PC devices for non-techies.

As for my family, a number of them, like my sister, proudly exclaim that they are luddites, and they like wearing it stubbornly like some strange badge of honor.

I don't think the dichotomy is as extreme as you make it out to be. What will likely happen, and what is already happening in Apple world, is a merging of elements between the pointer model and the touch model. A touch-oriented UI can work just fine with a touch pad, as OS X Lion hints at. Meanwhile, you can buy a key board for your tablet, and for typing up documents while out and about, that works just fine.

What is really likely to go the way of the dodo, at least in the office productivity area, are mice. There is pretty much no good reason for mouse-oriented UI's these days.

>no good reason for mouse UIs

As someone who frequently uses applications like Illustrator, Autocad, Sketchup, etc. I'd be very interested to hear how you'd qualify that statement.

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