The Changing Face of Personal Computing

Personal computing, mobility, tablets, cloud, BYOD, smartphones and other technologies are altering the way people work.


In my last column, I wrote about the changing definition of Personal Computing. The PC isn’t going away. It is still a productivity workhorse and the center of most computing tasks. I argued it is becoming the center of a growing ecosystem of complementary devices that synchronize data through the Internet cloud, replicating among smartphones, tablets, and soon, wearable computers.

What’s different today?


    • Mobility. Authors write on tablets with wireless keyboards as they travel. Tablets are well suited for reporters and columnists because they have long battery life, quick on/off, Internet access through a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, and cloud backup and synchronization to PCs. Traveling salespeople and executives can do presentations from a tablet rather than tote a laptop with them. The growth of mobile applications has also driven adoption of smartphones and tablets.


    • Computing everywhere. We want access to the Internet for news, entertainment and social connections all the time. Consider people who are Internet addicted and have difficulty prying themselves away from their smartphones and tablets.


    • Changing hardware. Many of the tasks performed on PCs are migrating to smartphones and tablets. This is particularly true for mobile applications such as photo-taking, e-book reading and music/video playback. Thousands of customers have given up their cable TV plans in favor of watching TV and movies from streaming Internet sources like Netflix. Smartphone and tablet processing power and storage are catching up with the PC. The PC advantage in pure horsepower has dramatically eroded. The latest Windows 8 hybrid tablets have similar specs to PCs with Intel Core I series processors and as much as 8 GB of memory. Disk storage still lags in solid state drives (SSD) with the largest drives typically maxing out at 256 GB, a quarter of the 1 TB drives commonly installed in PCs.


Ironically, hybrids of tablets and laptops will bring about a consolidation of personal computing into fewer devices. They can be used like a PC at a desk, used like a tablet when mobility is required. My favorite examples of these designs are the Lenovo Twist and the Lenovo Helix. The Helix is interesting, because the screen is the computer, a tablet that detaches from a base. When on the base, it functions like a traditional Windows 8 laptop. When off the base, it is a Windows 8 tablet.