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Don’t give up on the PC just yet

Yesterday’s launch of the new iPad heralded another round of claims that the PC is dying or already dead, undermined by a wave of mobile devices and their super smart operating systems.

“It's a world of phones and pads and devices of all kinds, and our interests in general purpose computing – or desktop computing – starts to wane and people start doing the same things and more in other scenarios,” said former Microsoft exec Ray Ozzie at a Geekwire event. “People argue about ‘are we in a post-PC world?’ Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world.”

But the unveiling of the new iPad and Ozzie’s comments came on the same day that research firm Gartner released a report suggesting that PC shipments could increase by 4.4% in 2012 and by as much as 8% next year. That’s not too shabby for an industry that’s been buffeted by a weak economy and shifting consumer demands in most of its major markets.

The truth is that while smartphones and tablets are great devices for e-mail, social networking, video gaming and web surfing, they still have serious limitations when it comes to getting some real work done. They rarely have any of the productivity tools that make PCs such efficient workhorses, like easy-to-use docs and spreadsheets, efficient keyboards, printer access, external file transfer, and local area networking.

It’s no coincidence that the most recent updates to both the iPhone and the iPad have centered on screen resolution and the built-in cameras. They are wonderful media devices but they are no substitute for a laptop or PC with a full suite of business tools.

Two other developments suggest that it might be too early to write an obituary for the PC. The star of this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was undoubtedly the Ultrabook, a super-lightweight, high-performance notebook that is modeled after Apple’s hugely successful Macbook Air. There could be as many as 75 different Ultrabooks coming to market in 2012, many of them with 14 or 15-inch screens, lending an exciting new dimension to the existing range of PC offerings.

The second positive development for PCs is the impending arrival of Windows 8, Microsoft’s new operating system. Released for consumer preview just last week, Windows 8 boasts an entirely new user interface, including a tile-based Start screen similar to the one employed by the Windows Phone operating system. Windows 8 is also optimized for touchscreen, pen input, and many of the other features that have made mobile devices so popular.

Just because we can watch our favorite shows on our smartphones or tablets doesn’t mean we are going to throw out the TV. Expect the same to hold true for the good old PC, particularly when it’s time to do some work!

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