It is becoming increasingly obvious that the reign of the PC is over. For the last decade the PC has been considered as the digital hub of our digital life. It was like the sun, in the solar system of our connected devices. Well, if Apple are on the ball (and they usually are) then the PC is being well and truly ousted.
This revelation struck home, not after listening to the recent Apple keynote in which Steve Jobs talked about the demotion of the PC to ‘just another device’, but rather after opening up my copy of PC Pro and finding nearly nothing to do with PC’s. Increasingly PC magazines are jam full of the latest phones, cameras and tablets. The laptops and desktop that are in there are…well, they’re just not cool.
Even the name is wrong. Personal Computer. Really? Who wants a personal computer these days? It’s beginning to sound more like the word calculator. Something that used to be a neat bit of tech but is now commonplace and taken for granted. No one wants a personal computer.
People want a personal web; a network of devices from which they can access all their data. Something that, like the world-wide web, just works.
To my mind Apple have got it spot on. No one cares about using the cloud or having a file system in the sky. They just want all their stuff on all their devices all of the time. How it gets there is irrelevant. It just has to work. When compared with the incoherent strategies of Google and Microsoft it does seem as though Apple have managed to put their finger on the thing that people actually want rather than the infrastructure used to deliver it. The infrastructure is very important of course. But unlike Google and Microsoft who sing about Chrome OS, Google docs or Windows Azure, Apple go out of their way to hide any mention of such things from the consumer. Leave all that up to the techies. Just trust us. It does what you want it to do. Its…magic.
As we have mentioned before on this site, increasingly it will be context that is king. The iTunes like ecosystem that ties your subservient phone to the domination of your PC is going away. All devices will become first class citizens taking their place in the new city that is known as the cloud.
This will impact the web too. The web becomes the layer that makes it all possible, but ceases to be the prime medium through which content is explored. Some will question this and for all I know they might be proved right. But just take a look at the current consumer landscape. We like physical stuff that is beautifully engineered to do what it does in the best possible way. We admire stuff that is excellent, not just merely sufficient. This is the prime reason why I think the web won’t dominate the way in which we consume and interact with content. It will simply play it’s part along with all the other citizens of the cloud.
Apple are betting on native software sitting on a diverse range of kind-of-thin-but-a-little-on-the-fat-side clients to win out. Maybe they are right? Either way it’s an interesting time for the future of the web, with the strategies of Google and Apple clearly divergent.
My advice? Stop thinking about software as a hub; a one shoe fits all solution for a single device. To think of software in this way is to be stuck in the land of the personal computer. We need to start imagining software and our software solutions as multi-faceted; citizens of the cloud, co-operating with one another to live in the personal web of the post-PC future.