The future of computing

The release of the new iPad Pro, coupled with Apple communications trying to sell old PC users to iPad sparked some new debates on whatever this platform will overtake the world given the proper tools (the most realistic one being Xcode for iPad and the ability to side load apps (on which I don’t agree but whatever)). I initially wanted to unleash my (hotter) take on Twitter but instead decided to take some time to put it down in clearer words.

Do I think that PCs in general are going to get hurt by tablets? Yes. They already were by smartphones. Do I think that tablets will replace the roles the PC held despite smartphones? In some extent.

However, I don’t believe that PC are going to die, simply because mainframe and workstation still exist today, despite smaller and cheaper computing platforms destroying the hegemony of their time. Just like in those two cases, the large majority of their users will move to a new, cheaper, simpler solution because they don’t need the unique advantages of the platform.

Moore’s law is amazing, and despite whatever the press may say is not going away anytime soon. However, a 30W chip is still a 30W chip, no matter what you can fit in a 5W component, it’ll not beat a chip with 6× the thermal headroom (and I’m not even talking about the 90W-140W chips you can find on high-end desktop computers). If you need raw power to compute, compile, render…, the cloud isn’t going to cut it either (hi mainframes, long time no see) because of its repeated costs that make it a deal breaker for any young enthusiast for work purposes (tablets are not a great replacement either because of battery/computing power constraints).

The platform constraints also makes it hard to envision a future where a game as long and complex than Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous or even Mass Effect could see the light of day (I have yet to see a commercial success sold 60€ of the AppStore just like on gaming consoles. And don’t even get me started on the size of the market, we know that iPad users don’t like to pay significantly more than iPhone users. The only games making a buck use IAP because nothing else really works on iOS). Pro tools are also a long stretch, only getting longer with time.

In my opinion, the worst case scenario for PC is that tablets get their acts together, and cannibalize the light laptop market (Macbook, Macbook Air, maybe 13” Macbook Pro) and a significant portion of the desktop market (though the external display support and alternative inputting sources will need work) but won’t be able to take down the heavy duty, 1000+€ range of the PC & laptop market.

The question isn’t “can a tablet do what a PC can?” but “can a tablet do it better than a PC”, and so far, more often than not, the answer is “not really”.

Again, I want to state this is only my opinion.