When Steve Jobs and Bill Gates introduced the world to personal computers at the end of the 70s, they were like nothing we’d seen before. These new machines were capable of all sorts of things: word processing, spreadsheets, a bit of database management and bringing games to our fingertips (basic, but still better than Pong). About fifteen years ago, presentation software (Powerpoint) followed by the Internet and email programs took desktop computing up a notch. Fast-forward to today, where we still use computers for word processing, spreadsheets, database management, games, Internet access and email – even though the computer hardware (faster processors, HD graphics) has become so advanced.
What has changed the most over the years is our computer usage behaviour; the implications of this have the potential to bring desktop computing to an end all together. It’s no secret that gaming is a lot more exciting on a console than on a computer, just as sending emails and checking Facebook is more fun on an iPad and banking via BlackBerry is more convenient. With smartphones, the latest array of Smart TVs, and all the other increasingly intelligent connected devices, everything is much easier. As a result, the computer is becoming obsolete because it no longer has its own single use.
You use your telephone to call people and you use your TV to watch shows, but what do you use your computer for? Lots of things, including making calls and watching TV, but nothing in particular. The computer as we know it will disappear because it is essentially everywhere, permeating across all products and services. Why use your computer to search for a recipe on the Internet when it shows up on your oven window? Chris Anderson’s theory that the web is dead could very well extend to computers, for the same reasons that information is everywhere, and more conveniently accessed elsewhere.
The only place where the desktop computer – complete with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard – will continue to exist is at the office. Why? Because it’s the only place where its specific functions (as a super calculator and a super word processor) are still needed. When you think about it, it’s a pretty sad homecoming for an object that has changed the lives of two generations and opened the door to the new digital world.
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.