Tablets Vs PCs


There is a lot of debate these days about the future of PCs vis-a-vis Tablets. There is a school of thought that believes that Tablets are an inevitable replacements for PCs. A second school of thought believes that we are heading into a “PC plus” era where Tablets will only augment PCs, as Tablets will be used more for “content consumption” and PCs will remain the mainstay for “content creation” in the years to come. They believe that only PCs and desktops will have the necessary features such as bigger displays, more memory and higher processing power needed for programming, graphics design etc. The tablet supporters, rubbish this notion by showing how smartphones and tablets have evolved into powerhouses which can handle complex content creation tasks (as displayed by iMovie for the iPhone/iPad) and will only expand in their abilities to handle additional complexities.

Both these arguments are slightly flawed however. The future is simply, the Cloud. In another 5 – 6 years, the processing power or memory capacity of the system (PC or Tablet) will not matter. The strength and speed of a broadband connection will. All complex processing tasks will be performed on the Cloud and content delivered to a user’s system. A netbook will then be able to handle as complex processes as a PC. All data will be stored online and so will applications which will manipulate data real-time on the cloud. Hence, the user’s devices will be nothing more than a smart display (with hardware, software or gesture based I/O systems including voice recognition) which will receive the content from the cloud and send data back to it.

The cloud is already here. Atleast for data storage. Think about it. All your photos are mostly on Facebook (atleast the non-embarrasing ones). Movies are increasingly being streamed online. We probably listen to and share music more over Youtube and other such cloud based services. Why then would we store such data on our desktops? Onlive is a startup which is working on delivering games to your PC through the Cloud. All the processing power required by the game will be handled by Onlive’s servers and the content will be delivered to your system. That means one will not need to bother about the kind of video card or RAM installed. All you need to have is a good HD display and a strong broadband connection. True, this technology is still in its nascent stages, but even Microsoft and Sony are working to strengthen their cloud based offerings in their next console. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see such gaming happen post 5 years.

What about applications? Word and Spreadsheet processing is already happening on the cloud (think Google Docs, Office 365). IT majors are all focusing on cloud application development under a SaaS (Software as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) model. There are cloud-based image editing softwares which aim to replace Photoshop. While this is a tall order currently, there is no denying that these can become much more powerful in the coming decade.

Tech Giants such as Apple, Google and Microsoft are recognising this. Hence, they are increasing their focus on cloud solutions with iCloud, SkyDrive etc. They are also busy integrating their OSes to work across all devices. Hence, Apple’s Lion was a move to integrate their iOS with their traditional Mac OS X and maybe with a potential Apple TV in future. Windows 8 aims to be a common platform for Tablets as well as PCs and maybe even Xbox and smartphones in future. Future versions of these OSes are being designed to run on smartphones, tablets and even gaming consoles/TVs. A common OS across devices, because in the future, content will be streamed to the device and hence the nature of the device itself will perhaps become unimportant. What will probably matter is how the content is consumed on these devices and the user experience each of these devices can offer for the content (think: iOS and Google’s “App Tiles” versus the Win7 “live tiles”.) HTML5 based applications then, though not very powerful today can soon become the most major threat Apple, Google and Microsoft might face, and not each other.

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6 responses to “Tablets Vs PCs

  1. I understand your vision. However, my counterpoint is that its a human tendency to hold to ones information (other than usual social content) and the uncertainty of security. Not that the current PC and Tablet platforms are safe but there will be a huge incubation period for cloud computing.

    As I see these cloud computing devices are pushed to the market but personally, I will never give my private content to the cloud. No doubt this big guns will allure techies into such technologies. Even using gmail and dropbox I make sure none of my private pictures or documents are on them.

    For me information in the cloud is like a cat drinking milk with its eyes closed and its belief that world is not observing it.

    I know you would see this a conservative approach 😉

    • Its not conservative, in fact its the main reason cloud applications havent taken off due to enterprise fears for the security of data. But im sure that in future even that barrier will fall just like how people did not trust online payments initially but now its the norm.

  2. Cloud is indeed the future. But when cloud will be a major player in the world of processing,entertainment etc is something that only time can tell.
    Cloud has its own challenges,but the prospect of having a thin client like OS with no worries about software is indeed very exciting and alluring for anyone for that matter.
    But isn’t there a stark difference between a common OS for all the devices and cloud computing.
    Anyways a lot of challenges are there for this apart from security i.e., High broadband speeds which is a huge challenge.
    For starters let IPTV become a proper alternative across the world for cable TV , that would be a great start in this regard.

    Cheers!!!

    • The point about common OSes is that these organizations realise that there is no point in having distinct OSes for different devices. If most content would come from the cloud will there be a great difference in a preference for tablets or PCs? Hence, probably the need to have a streamlined OS which is more cloud-reliant that before. Traditional OSes will not disappear, but rather it will be a very cloud-interactive OS which can run across devices.

  3. Hey Ulag,

    A very nice post. I completely agree with you that the future of computing lies on the cloud. Cloud is penetrating into all spheres of computing, both personal and enterprises. As, noted by you all major players in the computing space (IBM, Oracle, Cisco’s) have chartered their future road maps with major emphasis on the Cloud. SAAS and PAAS models are catching up as they are a cost effective and efficient alternatives for enterprises. CIO’s are definitely looking at them for the future.

    The fact that “Salesforce” has grown big and become the choice of CRM for almost all major fortune 100 and 500 companies only confirms this. These organizations are too powerful and would surely pave the role cloud will play in the coming years.

    Cheers!!

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