Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The End of the Desk Era?

Is the PC era ending? That question is the subject of at least one news story every day. The frequency is increasing now with leaks and speculation about Microsoft Windows 8. It seems Microsoft is not counting on a mass shift to the tablet, but hedging its bets with the release of an operating system that is equally awkward regardless of the hardware form factor.

Microsoft’s hedging points to something meaningful: it doesn’t really matter very much anymore what shape a computer takes. You can create documents, write, issue commands, and see results on any screen. The future of the PC, then, very much depends on the future of the desk. How many people will continue to work at a fixed location, sitting down at the same furniture day in and day out? If that is the usual pattern, the desktop computer has the obvious advantages that come with being designed for that setting. But it is hard to guess at this point how much inertia the office-desk-phone-PC pattern really has.