Is the PC Dead? Published 2006-07-27

In a recent stroy on the Economist titled "The PC's 25th Birthday", the future of the personal computer is

...many technologies incubated on the PC are moving off it. Functions such as e-mail and voice-over-internet calling that were first rendered in software, just as Mr Gates predicted, are now mature enough to be rendered in hardware. As a result, the PC is no longer centre of the technological universe; today it is more likely to be just one of many devices orbiting the user. You can now do e-mail on a BlackBerry, plug your digital camera directly into your printer, and download music directly to your phone—all things that used to require a PC.

At the same time, the PC is under threat as the primary platform for which software is written, as software starts instead to be delivered over the internet. You can call up Google or eBay on any device with a web browser—not just a PC. People have been saying it for years, but this could finally allow much cheaper web terminals, or “network computers”, to displace PCs, at least in some situations.

These shifts are affecting the big firms that grew up around the PC. Microsoft has moved into games consoles and set-top boxes, chiefly in case these other devices emerge as challengers to the PC as “hubs” for digital content.

As educators, we also need to recognize this shift toward content delivered to alternate devices. Much educational content (e.g. blogs and digital stories) can be delivered to handhelds and other devices with little additional configuration. But use of other educational tools such CD or online based tutorials will need to be re-designed.

The portability and ubiquity of the handheld devices will offer educators new opportunities. We need to be thinking about how to identify and take advantage of these features.

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