The post-PC era never looked brighter

How the iPad is leading the way to a new touch-first computing paradigm for the future

By John Sherrod , written on July 7, 2020

From The Education Desk

In 2010, just a few months after the announcement of the original iPad, Steve Jobs sat down with Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal to talk about the future of computing in light of the arrival of the iPad. At the time Jobs talked about the iPad ushering in the post-PC era.

Here’s what he said at the time:

I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? … We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.

When Jobs used the phrase “PC” in this context, he didn’t mean “Windows laptops” the way most people use the term. He meant the personal computer as a whole including both the traditional Mac and Windows laptops and desktops.

Ten years on it’s pretty clear the transition to the post-PC era has taken longer than Jobs expected. I think that’s likely due in part to Steve’s untimely passing. It’s probably also to the transcendent success of the smartphone, led by the iPhone. And I think the “truck” form factor has remained remarkably popular.

But over the last few years in particular, Apple has put a lot of focus on the iPad. They’ve been adding additional functionality like multiple windows, split view, slide-over, the Files app, USB flash drive support, and more. Earlier this year they brought full trackpad support to the iPad and introduced the revolutionary new Magic Keyboard accessory, purpose-built for those of us who are increasingly using our iPads as laptop replacements.

My prediction is that over time, more and more consumers will choose an iPad and a Magic Keyboard instead of a traditional Mac or PC laptop. My bet is it starts with college students first.

In the early 2000s, young people choosing a Mac when they went off to college helped usher in the massive success the Mac has enjoyed since. I was one of those college students! After they graduated, those college students then went on to start work at companies all around the world and began asking to use a Mac.

I think something similar will happen with the iPad. Kids are increasingly using iPads in their K-12 years. My nine-year-old son is learning to code on his iPad using the Swift Playgrounds app as I write this. Many of those students will continue using an iPad through college and will then want to use them in the workplace.

The Mac and the Windows PC aren’t going away, at least not any time soon. As jobs said, “trucks” will become less and less popular and more and more specialized. But the iPad is leading the way to a new touch-first computing paradigm for the future. And I’m extremely excited to be along for this ride!