What Will You Do When You Want to Replace Your Computer?

February 7th, 2012

As you’ve no doubt heard, the PC industry is in the doldrums these days, mostly with the exception of Apple of course. Sales are flat or declining, and more and more people have decided that they don’t need to replace that old computer after all. A smartphone, a tablet, or both, are perfectly suited to their needs.

Certainly Apple knows this, continuing to refer to the iPad as a “Post PC” product, telling one and all that the PC era is yesterday’s news, although it’ll be years before you can say the PC era is over and done with. Even then, there will be many power users and business customers who will insist on a traditional PC, be it Mac or Windows.

Certainly Microsoft is fully aware that they cannot continue to depend on PC OS and office software to fuel the majority of their revenue. But they haven’t done so well with their mobile OS and similar products. Their latest gambit is to make a version of Windows 8 for ARM-based processors, although traditional PC apps probably won’t be compatible. This is the sort of situation that Apple confronted twice, first when going to PowerPC and, second, to Intel. In each case, Apple devised a translation layer to convert software supporting the old processor so those apps would run with decent performance on the new processor. At the same time, developers were given paths to upgrading their apps, most recently with a “Universal” feature in Apple’s Xcode that lets your apps run on both PowerPC and Intel. These days, most software is strictly Intel only, to take advantage of 64-bit and other key OS features.

In any case, if Microsoft hopes to make Windows apps work on regular PCs, and ARM-based tablets, they’d have to devise a similar strategy. Or expect developers to build Web apps for both, which won’t be the most efficient route to take by a long shot.

But the key question here is, when your computer is no longer suiting your needs, do you just buy the latest model, switch from Windows to the Mac, or look for another solution? A similar question is posed in the March 2012 issue of Macworld, where the cover bears this headline: “Is the iPad Ready to Replace Your Laptop?” The conclusion in Dan Moren’s article on the subject seems to be that it depends. Now since I’ve been working on Macs since the 1980s — with occasional forays into the Windows world — you might expect that I would prefer to continue to use Macs as well.

In large part, that’s true. I cannot see any iPad-based solution, for example, for doing post-production on my radio shows. Most of that work is accomplished in Bias Peak Pro 7, although I also do some editing in Amadeus Pro 2.0.5. Audio interviews via Skype are captured courtesy of Ambrosia’s WireTap Studio 1.2.0 and Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro 2.10.1. Although there are useful audio apps for the iOS, such as GarageBand, I am not able to produce the same results in as efficient a fashion. I also have to upload the completed files to the GCN network, which would still require use of my Mac. An iOS solution to accomplish similar goals would not be effective.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be able to eventually move my workflow to an iPad; the tiny screen of an iPhone just wouldn’t work. Over time, I do grant that there will be iOS-based audio apps that will allow me to migrate my workflow and, perhaps, make it more efficient. If I could accomplish the same tasks at similar or better production levels on a $499 iPad as I can today on a two grand iMac, great.

But forget about writing articles of this sort on an iPhone or iPad. Perhaps the latter with a physical keyboard, but I might just as well switch to my MacBook Pro and have all the capabilities I need in one box, rather than engage in a clumsy setup of an iPad and a physical keyboard. Yes, I know people do it, but I am not one of those people, at least not yet. Maybe if I get used to some sort of dictation scheme, or maybe I’ll just be too old to care when people stop buying Macs and PCs.

However, I can see where many of you are able to use an iPad to fulfill all your computing needs. My wife is one example. She never took to a Mac, and used it grudgingly. But the iPad she embraced with a passion. She doesn’t write long letters, but manages to peck out short notes on the virtual keyboard, and the remainder of her computing needs are well served by the iOS versions of Mail, Safari, and a few other apps.

Now Barbara is not alone. I know of many others for whom an iPad is all the computer they need, and this is certainly demonstrated in Apple’s most recent financials. Many iPad sales came from PC users who gave up on the traditional computer, a smaller number were Mac users. If Apple can continue to leapfrog the industry with future versions of the iPad, more and more PC users will switch. Sure, there may be other tablets — I regard the Amazon Kindle Fire as a more limited purpose gadget — that will become functionally competitive with the iPad. That will only speed the trend.

Certainly I don’t presume to be able to tell you what sort of computer to purchase when you upgrade. But it’s pretty clear where the market is going, and quite clear that Microsoft must be in a state of total panic if they’ve yet grasped the reality of the situation.

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5 Responses to “What Will You Do When You Want to Replace Your Computer?”

  1. Dave Barnes says:

    iMac will replace iMac.
    iPad will replace iPad.
    iPhone will replace iPhone.
    Airbook will replace Airbook.

    Yes, we are a Mac household/business.

  2. DK Jones says:

    Being a “power user” of Adobe CS & Apple’s AV creation tools, I have a Mac Pro, an iMac and soon a 13″ MacBook Pro so, I’ll be buying Macs, not iPad; though I love my iPhone and can’t imagine being without one in the future.

  3. DAG says:

    They can have my Mac when they pry it from my cold, dead hands…

    I own a Mac Pro. MacBook Pro, iPad 2 (had an original before it), and an unlocked iPhone 4 and do not see ToiOS (iOS) as a replacement for a real computer any more than a 11″ MBA is a replacement for a desktop. For the FaceBook/Twitter crowd and cloud people maybe, but not anyone who does anything very complex or large.

  4. ChristineS says:

    The personal computer hasn’t been around that long, and as it’s user begins to age, I can almost guarantee that he/she will be wanting ‘bigger’ – take this from someone who’s already there. My next upgrade – and that will be within the next couple of weeks will have me moving from a 24″ to a 27″ iMac, unless my research pulls me in another direction. My needs are for larger graphic displays for design, and a screen big enough to read larger print in comfort, without having to squint or wear spectacles.

  5. Turner Bain says:

    I have an SSD Air. It is my 3rd MacIntosh, the previous two being the iMac and an iBook. I use my Air for a number of hours every day. It is my primary source of culture and information. I also correspond with a number of people on a daily basis. I do not use the social networks except for convenience when signing into some sites. I rarely remove Air from my desk, but it is handy to take to the library to take notes, etc.

    I like the idea of an iPad, mostly contemplating watching movies or reading in bed or an an easy chair. I do not like having to enter text when I play with a friend’s iPad. I would not like using it as my primary source of the www, or processing data. However, it would be great to take along on a trip for the available road information , rather than having to lift a lid and power up. In my rural area, the iPad is the good to go tool for field reports, etc. The local Verizon store, which just opened cannot keep them in stock, mostly selling them for working purposes.

    It is difficult for me to imagine not having a real keyboard for working with text. Also, reading a lot of text on a small screen would affect my conscious (esthetic) vision. I tried watching a physics lecture on my Classic iPod, and even though the video was mostly of a professor walking around in the front of the class, being unable to read the chalkboard made trying to learn anything futile. The lecture would have been more effective if it had been oriented towards audio.

    I can imagine being able to edit iPhoto using an iPad as the control device and a large screen monitor if OS is integrated that far. If Apple ever fulfills its long ago stated ideal of e-devices being appliances and fully integrates its products, I would have a mac mini server, a MacBook Pro, an iPad for armchair control, and a large screen monitor. But since I am of limited means, I would rather have a laptop Mac than any of their other products.

    Even with a ‘listening’ app, I would rather key in information than to have to constantly repeat actions: ‘up, up, window 3, click on x, etc., etc.’

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