'Extra-PC Era' Describes It Better


It’s time to start ignoring those who are calling this the “Post-PC era.” They couldn’t be further from reality. We’ve been hearing it since the days when then-Sun Microsystems’ CEO Scott McNealy demonstrated his thin-client products seemingly every time he was out in public. We heard about it when the first Web browsers began taking hold, and when Java launched with the premise of writing-once-and-running-everywhere.

But the facts state otherwise. If the auto industry sold hundreds of millions of cars this year, would we be referring to it as the “Post-Automobile era?” Of course not.

Many have suspected that tablets will simply replace PCs. They are thin, light, have hundreds of thousands of apps to download at the tap of a button, and do everything we need from a PC. Except for a few things:

Even with 64 GB of on-board storage and SD card slots, tablets still can’t hold even a fraction of the data of a PC;

With public Wi-Fi speeds ranging from a fraction of Mbits per second (Mbps) to, if you’re lucky, 3 Mbps, accessing data from the cloud is too often a frustrating experience;

Processing power is still a fraction of what you get on a PC, often for the same price or more.

A brand-new PC, with stellar performance and 1 TB of on-board storage, can range from $499 to $699 -- or about the same as a tablet with between 16 GB and 64 GB of storage.

Intel provided a glimpse of the power of a PC, for example. The CRN Test Center reviewed an unbranded demonstration model All-in-One PC from Intel, built with a DH61AG and a Core i5 240OT at 2.70 GHz. It was built with an Intel SSD 310 Series boot drive with 40 GB of capacity and a Western Digital 1-TB drive. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit was preloaded on the system. It came built in an AiO form factor with a 21.5-inch LCD, which supported finger-based touch.

Using Primate Labs’ Geekbench benchmarking software, the system ran up a score of 9,036, which put it in the upper echelon of PCs that we’ve reviewed.

What does the motherboard support?

On this unit, it was enough to support 4 USB 2.0 slots, two USB 3.0 slots, an SD card port, VGA, HDMI, DVI-I, Sata and eSata. It was built with 802.11n connectivity, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port. So there are no compromises.

Michael Dell gets this. His company has regained lots of PC market share over the past five years, and Dell’s storage business is enjoying some success. Eventually, his company will come out with Android devices that will have enterprise stickiness to them (the streak so far just hasn’t caught on, but Dell doesn’t appear ready to give up).

Even HP seems to understand this, because its most recently launched notebooks have been quality, cost-effective notebooks with nice performance. The PC itself is still the most powerful, cost-effective bridge from the palm of the hand to the enterprise in the data-management stack. It’s where the eyes and hands go to do work. And work is still accomplished by people, not just some SAP back end.

Tablets will be a critical part of the market going forward, and a critical way to make sure a corporate workforce is competitive or, for example, a government agency is working as effectively as possible. But they won’t replace the PC.

So let’s just start calling it the “Extra-PC era,” because any Post-PC era is too far off into the future to ponder.

BACKTALK: Contact Ed Moltzen, managing editor of CRN Test Center, at edward.moltzen@ubm.com.