Barney's Rubble

The 'Tablets Will Kill PCs' Myth

Will smartphones and tablets replace PCs and laptops? Or are they more companion technology?

Every time there's the slightest shift in market share, pundits predictably pontificate on the death of whatever lost ground.

The latest drum-banging is all about the death of PCs and laptops. Instead of these eminently useful, flexible and cheap devices, we'll be smartphoning, iPadding and Androiding. Sure, all three of those devices are growing, and traditional PC sales are slowing -- especially netbooks.

But what so many fail to understand is that smartphones, iPads and Android devices are companions to PCs, not replacements.

I've received mail from no less than 20 loyal Redmond readers, nearly all of whom rave about their iPads. And they use them for real IT work.

E-mail seems one of the easiest things to set up, making an iPad a perfect traveling companion. And VPNs also seem to be a piece of cake. This is the main reason I think iPads are replacing netbooks. Both do relatively simple things. Most users don't need a full laptop for a short business trip. And the iPad is certainly cooler than a netbook.

To get a richer selection of applications, many of you run Citrix client virtualization on your iPads. Through Citrix you can not only run productivity apps, but manage your Windows servers and users. You aren't really getting rid of a PC -- you're just running those apps on an iPad when you aren't chained to a desk.

But doing IT work and being an IT workhorse are two different things. Hard-core computing -- you know, the stuff you do at least eight hours a day -- is still better served by a personal computer, be it Windows, Mac or Linux. These machines have gobs of storage and decades' worth of application support. Having a full-size keyboard and screen doesn't hurt, either.

If the iPad ever displaces the PC, it will be because it proves it can run PC apps as well as a PC can. This is already beginning to happen with Citrix thin-client software, and VMware is now making similar moves. But even the biggest iPad fans don't see their PCs going away anytime soon.

Another strong area for tablets is vertical apps, such as those for doctors. Here again, the tablets won't replace the PC, but, like the Palm once did, they could be great for note-taking and prescription writing.

All this being said, an iPad 2 is on my Best Buy wish list. My only problem is my kids will probably commandeer the darn thing.

Will tablets ultimately replace PCs? Yeas and nays equally welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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