The PC of 2019 - Critique of Computerworld Article

In recent Computerworld analytical article Mary K Pratt tries to accurately predict what the PC would look like by the year 2019 by aggregating the predictions of leading hardware and software researchers and developers, as well as a few prominent computer scientists. According to the author, the PC of the future will resemble todays smartphones in portability and will have all the valuable data and applications stored "in the cloud" (distributed internet storage, accessible from anywhere). These future PCs will be people's mobile phones, laptops and PCs at the same time; they will be "the context machines", switching data and application contexts in accordance to person current task. Such a prediction is in line with the recent trends of "computing in the cloud", "SaaS" (software as a service) and the move from specialization to general-purposeness in mobile devices evolution. The combination of "huge computational and storage resouces in the cloud" and "portable devices with constant internet connectivity" is the only combination of factors that can give users both power and portability at the same time, assuming technologies won't change drastically in 10 years. However, Pratt's opinion seems to be biased towards SaaS and mobile devices development trends. It worth nothing that all of the mentioned trends appeared less than 10 years ago, and thus in the next 10 years they may as well disappear, giving a way to something completely new. Also, I wouldn't recommend to underestimate the survivability of traditional PC: there were a lot of predictions of their failure during the past 20 years, but the PC is still there, it remained conceptually unchanged contrary to all predictions. Another thing that Pratt didn't put into equation is ultimate users stupidity: typical users have been mindlessly wasting most of their PCs computational power for the past 10 years on running viruses and antiviruses, and I don't think someone would stop them from doing it for another decade. Yet another factor that can prolong current PC state is the opposition of hardware companies, that are not interested in disappearance of huge PC manufacturing business in merger or even complete replacement by smartpone hardware business. Just like oil corporations suppress the development of alternative energy sources, PC manufacturing corporation may suppress this kind of PC evolution process, and thus slow down the progress in this area.

In my opinion, the typical PC of 2019 will be almost like our today's PCs, just much more powerful and with most of software and storage moved to the web. SaaS and cloud computing growth seems inevitable, as it solves all of the majour problems of packaged software: cost, piracy and complexity of upgrade. However, I believe, there still will be some non-SaaS, packaged software installed on PCs, e.g. games, multimedia players; even word processors, as archaic as they look even now, may survive for another 10 years. As for "the context machines", they will exist and will be used by many, they just won't be so advanced as an article states; and as they won't be the evolution of PC, but rather that of smartphone, this kind of devices surely won't be called PCs in 2019. However, only time will tell the truth.

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