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“PCs are going to be like trucks” (cdixon.org)
32 points by sethbannon 1693 days ago | hide | past | web | 51 comments | favorite

When I am going to write that 35-page analyst report, I am going to want my Bluetooth keyboard. That’s 1 percent of the time.

There is no way I am writing a 35 page analyst report filled with graphs, tables, citations, fancy trademarks, etc.etc. on an 10 inch screen that has serious issues with copy pasting and switching between applications/windows with near-instant responsiveness. Tablets and phones are still primarily consumption devices. If I need to produce something extensive, I still cannot imagine letting go of a pc/mac/linux general purpose computing machine.

And while I read that I was thinking that I'd be happiest about my computer use if that kind of use accounted for all but 1% of the time. As in coding and building and writing in general--creating stuff.

The screen size comes down to a tradeoff between portability and productivity. You can get away with a surprising amount on a 10 inch screen - in fact, it covers just about everything you would want to do "on the go".

The next step here would be when you come to a desk that has your keyboard, mouse, and big screen and the tablet interacts with them simply by being in their vicinity. That hasn't happened yet but I bet it will and the whole debate about Tablets and PC's will be reduced to meaningless semantics.

> your keyboard, mouse, and big screen...the tablet interacts with them simply by being in their vicinity

Bluetooth and Intel's wireless display standard [1] are here already.

Support for these technologies in common devices is another matter...especially considering that wired devices are cheaper, don't suffer from RF congestion, and don't need their own power supply (at least in the case of keyboard and mouse).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Wireless_Display_(WiDi)

Tablets and phones are still primarily consumption devices

And that is what most folks do with computers, nearly exclusively.

Except Jobs's claim is fatuous. The first automobiles were curiosities -- toys for the rich. They didn't even work particularly well compared to the horse-drawn carriage.

The thing that made cars take off was the Model T -- a simple, affordable, customizable model that the masses could buy and adapt to their needs. The iPhone ain't a Model T. More like a Duesenberg -- for all the advantage and disadvantage that implies.

Whatever the correct analogy is in terms of smartphones and PCs, it's worth pointing out that the first mass-produced car (the Model T) actually preceded the first mass-produced tractor (the Fordson Model F tractor), not the other way around.

Why? I don't know for sure, but I would imagine it was because the market for cars was and is an awful lot bigger than the market for tractors, and tractors come with special requirements for durability and versatility (towing, plowing, etc.) that were harder to satisfy at the time.

EDIT: Oops, the link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fordson_tractor

>The thing that made cars take off was the Model T -- a simple, affordable, customizable model that the masses could buy and adapt to their needs. The iPhone ain't a Model T. More like a Duesenberg -- for all the advantage and disadvantage that implies.

Only "adapting [a car] to their needs" in 2013 doesn't mean tinkering with the engine or anything.

The same way it doesn't mean tinkering with the OS or it being "open" in the case of the iPhone.

So your analogy is even more flawed.

You know what's the problem with Tablets and Phones? They are designed to consume, not produce.

Decades ago we learned how to use a PC with a Commodore or an Amstrad or whatever, and you had to write your own programs, and you used the command line: and you produced content.

Nowadays were are growing childs who just consume, they consume from Facebook, from Youtube, from Twitter: Yet they don't produce any content.

What might be more alarming than the devices becoming consumption devices, is that society may be heading to a consumption society. Producing is orders of magnitude more mentally challenging than consuming (I can read many books a week with ease but writing even a couple good blog posts is still a challenge), and whether society is driving the device change or the device change is driving the society change, I worry about the long term effects this environment will have on our future minds.

> society may be heading to a consumption society.

We are replacing one-way devices like TVs, books, and newspapers with devices that are inherently two-way like phones, tablets, and PCs. This is emphatically not heading towards a "consumption society." Kids are writing more than they ever have in the past, and though people bemoan the use of text-speak as though it's inferior, it's only people who don't understand language and that language is continually changing.

Our society is changing greatly, but it's towards more creation, more recording of creation, and more sharing with each other. Younger generations are going to create more of this culture, and us older and less flexible folks may not understand it, but there's no reason to think that kids are going to be all zoning out, particularly any more than they were in the TV generation. People who would never, never, have spent time writing in the past are now writing on their Facebook walls, not particularly well, but they're doing it. I'm incredibly excited for the future.

Where before only the best/selected would be publish and available to the world, now anyone can be "published" on the web and heard/seen... I don't know how i feel about that at the moment but i am none the less excited as well. It is interesting times we live in.

> may be heading to a consumption society. Producing is orders of magnitude more mentally challenging than consuming

What is even more alarming is the quality of consumption has rapidly degraded. Lawrence of Arabia was photographed & designed to be watched in a pitch dark packed theatre with zero disturbance on a huge 72 feet by 52 feet imax screen. There is a whole generation that is consuming that same Lawrence of Arabia as a tiny youtube video on a tiny 9 inch by 8inch ipad, while simultaneously checking their twitter feed & sexting whilst sitting by themselves on a couch in a bright room. This to me is just SAD. Forget production, even the quality of consumption has been so grossly cheapened. These kids will NEVER know the grandeur of Lawrence of Arabia. It just makes you ask - what is the fucking price of progress ?

On the other hand, video games have much better graphics and sound nowadays.

And to go back to Lawrence of Arabia times: Even earlier people staged their own plays at home. And when they wanted to listen to music, they played it from sheets. Instead of just tuning into the radio. That's quality of consumption for you.

I.e. people will always complain about earlier times being better, even and especially so in those earlier times themselves.

>Even earlier people staged their own plays at home.

No, they didn't. Theater plays were staged publicly until at least 5th century B.C.

>And when they wanted to listen to music, they played it from sheets. Instead of just tuning into the radio. That's quality of consumption for you.

Indeed it is. Was this meant ironically?

>I.e. people will always complain about earlier times being better, even and especially so in those earlier times themselves.

And people might always have had a point. Depending on what they were complaining about. That we have used to be living in a time when this doesn't exist anymore, doesn't mean that their initial complain was bogus.

Matter of fact, it takes a lot of search for find people complaining about "earlier times being better" in earlier times. There are quotes complaining of decline, from Hesiodus to Plato to latin writers etc, but fewer and far between. And there was times like the enlightenment era or the modernist period where optimism and looking into the future was the prevalent emotion.

Nowadays, every 12 year old on YouTube laments that he wasn't born 30-40 years ago.

> No, they didn't. Theater plays were staged publicly until at least 5th century B.C.

Yes. There were public stagings, no arguing about that. And private performances at home were popular in e.g. the 19th century as a family entertainment.

Optimism is the prevalent emotion, now. Just do not restrict yourself to judging by youtube comments. Go to any emerging country (where the majority of earth's population live nowadays).

I would guess that non-optimism about the future was the prevalent emotion for most of history. But I would have to dig up some sources for that.

We are already in this consumption society: it is cheaper to throw away and replace than it is to repair from spare parts in most consumer product. Product are also designed with a life-span lower than it could be perceived.

The proof of that? It is all around you: Your fridge will break into pieces within ten years, but the equivalent model from 40 years ago could run for another century. Your pair of denim jeans will be reaped to shred in about the same time frame, however there were originally designed as some very resistant piece of clothing.

The reasoning behind this quality degradation? My bet is on market predictability: You want to know what would be the time frame for a consumer to come back to the market as a buyer and outside fashion trend (which would mean not relying on "Extra Cash" that house hold have at their disposition in order to buy product that are not coming from need). Specially when the asked price is starting to be viewed as a share of your monthly/yearly income.

Consequence? I believe that we are more or less unconsciously moulded into wanting to consume more and more.

But I digress. Yes I do agree to a certain extend that we are viewed more as a consumer mass than a participating group of individuals, but at the same time we are in an information revolution (akin to the printing revolution). I would recommend to read "The Pirate's Dilema" from Matt Mason (published in the UK in 2008) which present some of the opportunities offered to consumer to turn into content creators.

>Nowadays were are growing childs who just consume, they consume from Facebook, from Youtube, from Twitter: Yet they don't produce any content.

Actually more people produce content nowadays that any other period in history.

Heck, there are 600,000+ apps in the iTunes App Store. More than all the commercial titles ever written for Amiga and Atari combined.

You also forget that people with an Amiga, Commodore, Amstrad etc were a minority. And of those, those who wrote their own programs an even smaller minority. And of course, being early adopters, they were more the programmer/geek type that the average person, hence them writing programs etc more as a percentage of the THEN total. But in raw numbers, more people write stuff nowadays than ever before.

Tell all the kids playing Minecraft they're not producing anything.

You are right, but you know what... 99% of the people that are using PCs are using them to consume. Do you really think an average PC user produces anything more then a very rare word document?

It's not the screen size or the memory or storage or touch complexities or the battery life or... some other thing. You know the greatest thing that no mobile device or xPad or other shiny new Apple-thing to market hasn't given me?

My system is my own: What I want on it, I get to put on it and no one, but me, deletes or changes what's there. Until I actually get to own my non-pc... or whatever it is that I paid for, I don't see them going away any time soon.

Until I can comfortably install my preferred flavor of nix/bsd or do my work painlessly, PCs are still going to be my first choice.

Canonical will have to bend to carrier lockdowns to truly become available with a plan or it will just be a curiosity for those willing to fork over full price for an unlocked version.

Well, you did say that you want to own your device!

The locked down version may sometimes be cheaper, but I bought a Galaxy Nexus upfront so I could use the $30/month T-Mobile prepaid data plan. Compared to a $70 plan, I paid off the phone in 10 months and everything after that is savings.

(The Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 phones, incidentally, will be the first able to run Ubuntu.)

The top two best selling automobiles of 2012 were trucks..


There are an incredible number of people who own trucks, and use them like cars. Even an significant number of people who have "work trucks" and "good trucks". The former for trucky things and the later for car things.

As someone mentioned in the article comments, it's worth noting cars outnumber truck sales worldwide, around 3 to 1.


Exactly. My father (construction) complains all the time about how trucks are no longer made for guys like him. Last I heard "work trucks" account for about 10-15% of truck sales in the US.

I wished the author would have mentioned that the term PC will no longer be relevant, because they won't be personal; mobile devices are personal; the tablet may be personal; the smartwatch will be personal. The central computer in your home should be called an HC or home computer, assuming there only needs to be one of them, and maybe it will be involved with home automation. It is unlikely it will be there to do truck-like tasks; that will be handled by services external to the home, like an "EC2 for the masses". Thinking of neighborhoods sharing PCs? Come on. Sometime in the 1980s was the last time I went to a neighbor's house to use a PC.

It seems inevitable, but I have difficulty imagining a world (at least one in the next 10 years) where full scale projects are created on smaller devices. The complexity and sophistication of a computer is a developer's joy. I don't see that kind of openness with the tablet/smartphone market. Undoubtedly both are fantastic tools for content/app consumption and perhaps even content creation, but it's hard to imagine people building full scale applications solely from tablets and smartphones.

Depends on what you mean by "full scale."

See the Penny Arcade post on the Microsoft Surface Pro. Gabe was able to go through the entire process of drawing and uploading a comic strip as or more easily than he would have done on his PC. This isn't the same as implementing an e-commerce site, but it's one professional workflow that you would've normally assumed would require a PC.

More workflows will be added for different fields and professions, and eventually the uses for a full-blown desktop PC will become rare. Sure, we may never develop full-blown webapps on our tablets, but we're probably only a few years away from the majority of our non-dev tasks being practical without a desktop PC.

Edit: Removed a repeated example

The Surface Pro is a PC, for all intents and purposes. The only thing setting it aside from a laptop is the touchscreen and kickstand/cover instead of a hinge/keyboard. Functionally, it can do anything a desktop PC can.

While we're definitely moving in that direction, the workflow he used is still impossible on a normal tablet for the time right now. Sketchbook Pro exists on the iPad, but as far as I can tell there's no tablet version that works with real digitizers. For now, it remains in "Work you need a real OS for" category.

But the Surface Pro is still more of a PC than a tablet. The Surface RT would be more like the iPad.

The Surface Pro has a Core i5 Intel chip, half the battery life, a couple of fans, is heavier, thicker and gets hot. It has a powered USB 3.0 and can drive a 2560x1440p monitor and has a Micro-SD slot, a full Wacom digitizer and a pressure sensitive pen. Not to mention a full user navigable filesystem Even the latest iPad has none of these features (or disadvantages).

It is more like a convertible truck/car hybrid though and Microsoft still calls it a PC.

Absolutely agree that the Pro is more of a full PC. I have not experienced it getting very hot yet and I did not know that it even had a fan inside of it until I read your post because I never heard it. I have not run any games on it yet though. Mostly I've been browsing, listening to music, exploring the OS and drawing with Sketchbook and Fresh Paint.

The major downsides that I have experienced are 1) the terrible trackpad scrolling (no momentum and it's not sensitive enough - like all non-Apple trackpads), 2) Chrome doesn't work very well yet with touch, 3) the pen holder is unusable when charging and 4) there is no Fn lock, so I can't hit F1, F2, etc without pressing Fn.

No big show stoppers and I'm hoping all of these can be fixed with new drivers and software in the future.

While I have several tablets, pods, ereaders, etc., I create content only on my desktop. The reason is pretty simple - a full size keyboard, and the biggest display I could find for a reasonable cost.

I can touch type only on a full sized, standard keyboard.

Having a big display is a big productivity booster. I can have reference material in one window, and two other full sized windows on source code. It's a big deal. A little laptop display - no thanks.

I'd get a display twice as big if one were available. Heck, I'd like one the full size of my desk top, and actually have it be my desk top.

The PC revolution was great because it exposed PCs to a lot of people who really didn't need all that power and versatility; the PC was the only option.

This is a long term market correction, and society is worse off for it, but that's not the issue.

The real unacknowledged variable is the limited power of current Non-PC computing devices. What happens when my tablet can run a full-fledged OS? I think the answer is starting to emerge and it's simple and predictable. It will.

The first "portable" computers were pretty limited, and laptops are full fledged PC's (I think most would agree).

Yet Apple is making OS X worse for getting work done: reversing scrolling (I know you can configure it), dumbing down Spaces, breaking the zoom button, hiding the Library folder, etc.

Ironically I'm typing this on a ThinkPad running Linux that I've configured to use "reverse" scrolling after getting used to it on my MacBook.

Agreed with the general sentiment though.

I think Apple has made some poor choices with OS X since Lion, but all of these things are incredibly trivial to work around or change.

At least Apple gives you an integrated option to disable the un-natural scrolling.

I got a Surface Pro (which I love for the most part), but it took me two days to figure out that I had to install an app from the Windows app store in order to have that option.

Honestly I don't care if 70% of everyone else buys a tablet, as long as I can buy myself a PC.

I don't care about tablets or desktop pc's. I care about general-purpose pc's vs closed systems. Let's hope people choose a path where they get control of their computers rather than the closed app store model.

And yet, the 'agrarians' (developers of anything digital) will only increase in number. Whereas after consolidation of farms, there are barely any farmers left.

Interesting idea.

1. Economies of scale. When manufacturing physical goods, they often happen. Digital goods are produced by individual artisans or relatively small groups, and large teams can actually be counterproductive (As cited in the legendary "The Mythical Man-month".)

2. Demand structure. There's a limit to the amount of food each person can eat. But the demand for digital goods is unlimited, especially given that some digital goods enable the creation of entirely new classes of digital goods, and other digital goods don't require human attention span to consume (think of how much you don't think about all the engineering work that went into your OS.)

... and unfortunately all these new tablet type devices and phones are jailed.

Microsoft tried to do this long ago via "trusted computing" and similar and the entire industry balked. But shift the form factor a little... iOS and (to a somewhat lesser degree) Android are far worse than anything MS ever tried to pull off.

Excuse my ignorance, but what do you mean by 'jailed'?

"Jailed" in mobile device terms means that you're unable to install software that hasn't been approved by the manufacturer.

This applies particularly to Apple devices but also to many Android variants.

From the device manufacturer's standpoint, there are a lot of good reasons to do this:

* Enforce certain standards on applications for marketing reasons

* The official app store gets revenue for every purchase that every user makes

* They can control whether the user is able to upgrade the operating system, in particular they can force the user to eventually buy a new device to get OS upgrades

This sucks for developers. There are ideological reasons against this, particularly among open-source fans, but some of the practical reasons to hate this practice:

* You have to spend a lot of money for SDK's to write apps (particularly an obstacle for young developers, think of how expensive a three-digit cost [1] [2] felt when you were a middle- or high-school student)

* You have to spend even more money to post your app in the store

* You can't write certain kinds of apps

* There's no way to know for sure whether your app will be approved until you've actually developed it (and incurred all the time and monetary costs thereof)

* If you don't like the official store's policies, there's no alternative

* There's no way to change or experiment with the lower layers of the device (such as a custom operating system)

[1] If you use a currency other than the US dollar, please convert this number appropriately.

[2] I still remember how frustrated and angry I was, at the age of eleven, upon finding out that Microsoft MASM, the assembler used by one of my favorite programming textbooks, cost $180.

GP most probably means that in mobile operating systems programs operate in their own environments and each process e.g. sees only its own separate file system and the means of interprocess communication are severely limited.

You cannot easily use data from one program in another, no scripting etc. That severely limits certain types of work.

I don't think either the PC or tablets in their current forms will be the productivity tool of the future. The floor's open to new contenders that can help people deal with data and complexity.

My only query with things like this.

Sure PC sales are diving, but is the number of PC's actually owned going down?

You know, less PC's being sold, doesn't mean people are getting rid of the PC's they have.

"This year, about five times as many smartphones will be shipped versus PCs, and tablets will surpass PCs for the first time."

Woah, holy unreferenced claim, bat man!

The only thing my Googling gives for tablets surpassing PCs is


That's a PROJECTION that tablets will surpass laptops in 2016(!).

--- Maybe Google is just wonky and is missing all those articles reporting that this is happening now or maybe, just this discussion happening entirely "inside the echo chamber" ---

Edit: He could also mean: "tablets will surpass PCs for the first time..." (at some unknown time in the future).

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