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January 10, 2007updated 19 Aug 2016 10:08am

Does iPhone signal end of PC era? Ha!

Blogger Om Malik headlines one of his recent posts, “iPhone and the End of PC Era” here. He doesn’t go so far as to say that Apple’s new iPhone will bring about the demise of the PC, but he does argue: “While I am not suggesting that this replaces

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Blogger Om Malik headlines one of his recent posts, “iPhone and the End of PC Era” here. He doesn’t go so far as to say that Apple’s new iPhone will bring about the demise of the PC, but he does argue: “While I am not suggesting that this replaces our notebooks or desktops for crucial productivity tasks, the iPhone (if it lives up to its hype) is at least going to decrease our dependence on it.”

I heard this kind of over-exuberance when Apple launched the Mac Mini, its slimmed-down computer (sans monitor, keyboard or mouse) with loads of Apple software onboard. This from The Independent newspaper at the time of the Mac Mini launch: “A technology and price breakthrough to rank with the launch of the first iPod itself in 2001… and other milestones in the computer age – such as the release of the Sinclair Spectrum in 1982… or the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95 in August 1995.”

Conveniently, no one knows how many Mac Minis have been sold as Apple won’t say. Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Gene Munster estimated they sold 138,000 in their first quarter after they were launched in January 2005. Roger Kay of IDC predicted that the Mini would boost Apple’s computer shipments by 50% in 2005.

Either way, while the numbers are excellent news for Apple they pale into insignificance compared to the PC market as a whole. Around 180 million PCs were sold in 2004, only 3.5 million of which were Macs. If Apple sold, say, a million Mac Minis last year, it will still have barely moved its overall market share of around 4% of the total desktop market.

I am not saying the Mac Mini has been unsuccessful from Apple’s point of view – it clearly has — but a technology and price breakthrough to rank with the launch of Windows 95? Please.

Quite why it is Apple more than any other vendor that has the capacity to put ideas of disruptive innovation like this into journalists’ and bloggers heads is beyond me. The iPod was disruptive, it is true. But adding a phone to it?

To be fair, Malik stops short of saying the iPhone will usher in the end of the PC era. But he comes dangerously close.

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And yet, for all of the hype and all of the hypothesising about the effect of the iPhone on the computer industry, all it’s likely to do really is eat a little into the market shares of rival smart phone and portable music player vendors. OK, maybe a lot. But guess what, Apple itself is among those who will see fewer of its previous (non-phone) MP3 players sold.

Besides, the iPhone screen is too small to sit in front of for as long as you need to sit in front of a PC monitor, the battery life of “up to 5 hours” (that could mean an hour or less in real-world situations for all we know) for talk/video/browsing could be a problem for enterprise users, you need to synch it with your PC to copy songs across to it from iTunes (yes, you still need your desktop PC), and it doesn’t have a proper keyboard or the expansion capability of most enterprise PCs.

Oh, you also need a Cingular subscription, and none of your enterprise’s Windows applications will run on it (without emulation?) because it runs MacOS and not Windows. Apart from that, the iPhone does indeed remove the need for a PC altogether!

I’m playing devil’s advocate. I agree that computing today is less PC-centric, while there are also far more form factors available to us now: smart phones, camera phones, more intelligent music players, smaller laptops, set-top boxes, the list goes on.

But as far as enterprise users are concerned, the PC will remain at the centre for a long while yet, not least because us humans have heads, shoulders, knees and toes that the trusty PC, its keyboard and monitor actually suit quite well.

Om writes that, “Apple is making the phone do all things a computer does – surf, email, browse, iChat, music and watch videos.” Actually Om, you’re missing some things off that list. Most importantly, being a good ergonomic match for the human body. Which is why no matter how sophisticated the latest PDAs, they are ultimately PC companions, not a replacement for them.

End of the PC era? Not quite, but I agree there are some moves in that direction. But as a result of the iPhone being launched? Not on your nelly.

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