Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Critical Thinking: Connecting the dots and the end of the Personal Computer

A big part of critical thinking is just watching the world around you, and then trying to “connect the dots”.   For example:  Why did Hewlett Packard (HP) buy Palm??  Why does a computer/printer company want to expand it's phone business?  Yes, HP was already in the phone business, but hardly anyone new it.

Have you noticed that the price of a PC and the price of a smartphone are at the cross point on a graph?  The low end PCs and the high end smartphones are almost the same price.   

Conclusion:  PCs will soon become as extinct as your land line—for a few reasons.

I stopped using a land line 5 years ago – why pay for an extra phone line when your cell coverage is ubiquitous?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t really totally dump it, I still keep the number on the most basic, cheapest plan, which I think is around $16/month.  The first reason for keeping it, is that my land line number is listed in 411 Directory Assistance. Amazingly, 411 for cell phones (example: www.cellpages.com)  hasn’t really caught on .  Anyone know why??    When you call my land line my answering machine message says: “Call my cell at xxx-xxxx”.  The second anachronistic use for my land line is that it is an integral part of my home alarm system, but that too is becoming web based.  My point is-- we are slowly letting go of the landline, and soon it will go the way of Film, Watches, and CD’s.   What is the next big piece of technology to disappear?   Answer:  your PC, laptop, netbook – they will all be history in a couple of years!

First clue:  Hewlett Packard just bought Palm smartphones.   Apple computer owns the iphone, and Google has the Android.  Second clue:  Cloud computing means you no longer need a hard drive to store your data because your storage is on the web, and storage costs are practically free.   Third clue:  Computers are getting so cheap that they will be giving them away in cereal boxes pretty soon.  The profit margin is going, going, gone.  The PC will die, but the keyboard and monitor will live on!!!

Imagine a world where your only connection to the internet was your cell phone, all of your passwords were stored on your phone, and all of your data was stored for free in the cloud.  It would be a perfect world if the keyboard and the screen on your smartphone were more PC sized--more user friendly.   How about if your smartphone was just your conduit to the internet, but yet it had the ability to wirelessly connect with a dumb keyboard/monitor?  What if you were simply able to place your smartphone next to a dumb keyboard/monitor, the phone and keyboard/monitor connect ( wireless and encrypted ) allowing your internet access on your phone to be conveniently managed with a full size keyboard and monitor?  Once you are done at the keyboard/monitor, you walk away, the connection is terminated, and no data is stored on the keyboard/monitor.  Bye, bye PC!    I think Hewlett Packard got it right.   Keyboard/monitors would be cheap and ubiquitous--they would be free perks, just as wifi is free almost about everywhere.

Where does this leave Microsoft?  Will cloud computing, smartphones, and the death of the PC be the end of Microsoft?    Maybe your smart phone will use your large screen tv as a monitor, with a wireless keyboard.    How about the benefit of just having all of your data in the cloud rather that spread out over multiple computers--work, home, ipad, etc?   How will this paradigm shift affect the way that you do business?

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