The PC Is Dead. OH RLY?

TO PPL WHO R COVNINCED THET TEH PC IZ DED, I CAN oNLY SPEEK IN LOLCAT LULZZZ!!!!!!111ELEVENTYONE

But if you’re not one of those people, then read on, and find out why some rather big names made fools of themselves when they grabbed the headlines (by mistake or not), by uttering one of the most idiotic statements I heard in the past few years: “The PC is dead” (or “Long live the Cloud to which I shall sell my soul to” and so on).

I will not bother to list those persons, just click here^ and let a wonderful service do it for you.

I will also not bother to tell you why I’m qualified^ to dis-qualify all those supreme beings who think they figured it all out and they know the¬†Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (which is said to be 42^).

The fact of the matter is that people who rush blindly ahead and spell the demise of the Personal Computer platform are either clueless, misquoted or have some sort of vested interest.

Reasons

First of all, why all this rush to “kill” the PC? Is it because the PC has betrayed us in some way? Of course not. Rather, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of new, promising technologies, forgetting that tech trends have an unproven track record in terms of lasting end-user experience (take a look at the netbook for example: it’s already yesterday’s news). And really, this is the most innocent motive I can think of.

But actually, I believe that some of the people who spoke against the PC know the facts all too well! They simply want to hurt the PC’s popularity and/or grab headlines. Why would anybody want that? Well, money, of course. Lobbying against the PC probably pays well.

The PC is the most open platform ever. This also makes it the greatest target of piracy. Because the PC is so open and well-known, it is very easy to bend to our will, and that’s exactly what some companies don’t want. For example, on the PC, no company can force you to buy a certain product or watch a certain advert.

Another financial interest in killing the PC is that the current commercial climate is dominated by rampant consumerism. You have to buy more devices and throw them away as soon as possible. Since the PC is “so yesterday”, you should go buy an iPad, get your ass on the Cloud, consume some advertising and entrust various organizations with your most private files.

According to this trend, you would have to buy 3 different devices to handle something a few PC programs do 10 times better. Not only is the hardware/software at a stage of adulthood, with a vast selection available, but PC performance has gone through the roof in the past 10 years and even the cheapest desktop/notebook can satisfy the vast majority of buyers – therefore, the PC does not favor consumerism any more.

The purpose of this indoctrination is to brainwash you into consuming and submitting to other (usually closed and lo-tech) platforms which are easier to control, and offer you less freedom. Preferably, platforms which squeeze a monthly fee out of your pockets.

Lean-Forward vs Lean-Back

As someone else^ said it before me, the PC is a “lean-forward” device. That is, it is a device we usually “work upon”: it is a content creation tool.

Ironically, this oh-so-doomed PC is at the root of almost if not all the stuff that is supposed to kill it! Without the PC, there wouldn’t be no “apps” and without the PC there wouldn’t be any “Cloud” or tablets or video games to play on your console or… duh, the console itself!

Without the PC you wouldn’t have the latest Audi cars, Whirlpool appliances, electricity in your home and food on your table (well, food would actually be less of a problem, but you’d be surprised how many millions of people would starve if the software created and maintained on/by PCs wouldn’t be there in every modern greenhouse and warehouse and shop to optimize and speed-up our production).

The PC will not disappear simply because it’s the engine which we used to improve our lives in the past several decades, and, until the next big discovery, it will remain the supreme engineering tool.

On the other side, consoles, tablets, smartphones and some of the other lo-tech stuff that are supposed to “murder” the PC are “lean-back” devices, designed for content consumption. But without the PC, there would hardly be any content to consume.

By the way, this reminds me… let’s see what an excellent movie director has to say^ about the (overrated) “smartphone” (and this applies to tablets as well).

The Cloud is NOT the Next BIG Discovery

I said that the PC will remain the supreme engineering tool until the next big discovery. And by that, I really meant BIG. Think quantum processors, brain implants or artificial intelligence. Think BIG.

The Cloud is so small, from a technological advancement perspective, that it makes me laugh when I see just how much ass kissing it gets. I can but stand in awe at the power of marketing (a topic on which I already wrote^ in the past on The Inquirer).

People, calm down. There’s nothing revolutionary or mystical about Cloud Computing/Services! This marketing label, “the Cloud” (which, by the way, is way too generic for its own good), is just a damn server farm with a highly complex (or is it? *snicker*) software framework on top of it. There aren’t any naked angels on fluffy vapors, bringing the glory of Heaven upon thy bits, it’s just the next step in a natural series of upgrades to server infrastructure and resource partitioning.

This is not to say that the Cloud is not important. Of course it is. But it’s simply an evolution of something that was already there. And guess where that evolution came from?

Bingo! From people working with PCs. Software engineers who inherited and built upon the foundations laid down by their forerunners in the past decades, foundations that were constructed using the same you know what.

Even more importantly, only governments and large companies can truly benefit from the strengths of Cloud Computing. The advantages of using “ze Cloud” for end-users are still completely unproven. And besides, to access or work effectively using Cloud services, you still need a… yeah, you know where this is getting to…

PC Gaming Is In Danger

As an avid gamer who used, in the past 25 years, just about any device that can do games starting with 80’s TV ping-pong, cheap Chinese handhelds (Tetris, Slots, Ninja Turtles), Nintendo (Gameboy, 64), Sega, PlayStation 1, 2, 3 and down to the modern PC sitting on my desk, I cannot even begin to comprehend how such a retarded idea might even be considered by anybody.

Hello?! The PC is the engine of progress in gaming! It has been for the past decades and will continue to be. And again, allow me to doubt-check my words: the next big discovery, which may hit us from a completely unexpected direction, is likely to change this, but I don’t believe that it will happen so soon.

Beside the fact that consoles have a lousy hardware refresh cycle, which only got worse now with all this global financial turmoil, let’s not forget that the PC has a keyboard and a mouse (besides the 12 game-pads/joysticks which you could theoretically squeeze on it, multiple monitors and so on). While a keyboard/mouse combo is not required for quality gaming, all well-educated gamers know that the most amazing and content rich games reside on the PC, not anywhere else.

Sure, piracy is still a big problem, as Crytek unfortunately found out^ lately. But since we’re talking about first person shooters, DICE has had enormous success with their Battlefield franchise (granted, BF has a stronger focus on multiplayer, which kind of forces people to go legit). Let’s not even get into Blizzard Entertainment or the immensely popular Steam games distribution platform (where I own more than 150 titles). So, anybody who even imagines that PC Gaming is in danger, is in need of a cold shower.

And as I already said, the PC is an open platform. There are literally dozens of game engines and game development frameworks out there, many of them free. Personally, I think I’ll never buy a console simply because I’d be locking myself in a cage. Check this out: Xbox 720 won’t let you^ play used games. Way to go Micro$oft!

Last but not least, let me address the emerging OnLive and Gaikai “Cloud Gaming^” platforms. Hahaha. Addressed.

The Privacy Factor

Ok, I was joking. Let’s talk some more about OnLive and Gaikai and about the Cloud. First of all, Hell will freeze over before I trust Google, OnLive or any online service with my important documents, software and games. Thank you very much guys, I prefer to have my stuff here on my cozy SSD, backed up on optical and magnetic media. Remember MegaUpload^? How about Ubisoft’s DRM antics^?

And I’m not old fashioned either. I usually know about the latest gadgets, and, if I find a reason for a purchase, I’m always an early adopter. For example, I switched to e-Readers before anybody I knew.

OnLive and Gaikai will battle the issue of in-game latency for many years to come. Some games just don’t work right when played over dozens of router hops, even if the network is blazing fast. And even if this latency problem is solved, it will take decades for the entire planet to afford the required internet connectivity quality level.

I think that the next big discovery will actually happen sooner than OnLive will be able to deliver super low latency gaming to anybody on Earth. These guys don’t threaten PC gaming, they’re merely complementing it. Besides, a lot of their stuff is actually meant for PC use: they’ll just allow you to stop paying for new hardware every two years or so.

That is not to say that OnLive doesn’t have awesome potential! Sure, there is a market for everybody! But will this help “kill” the PC? Give me a break…

As for other “Cloudy” aspects… Google and all the corporations who try to bait people into their farms will never provide the same level of security we get from the good ol’ PC. Heh, that’s funny actually. “Baiting people into their farms”. That’s exactly what they do, really. Because nothing is for free. For Google, every user is a nice digit in a huge statistical advertisement calculation. Their “do no evil” mantra (which, excuse me, is hypocrisy), only sticks as long as they “make lots of money while doing it”.

Remember how PayPal and Visa refused to cooperate with WikiLeaks when the US Government started barking at them? Keep in mind that all these companies who you’d so happily entrust with your privacy have only one interest in mind: to make money, and, by extent, to grease the mighty politicians.

You don’t have to be a criminal for this to affect you. You just need to have an opinion on something. What if you want, one day, to blog about the corrupt government in your country? And what if you’re a damn good writer, and you start annoying the wrong people. Then, all of the sudden, you realize you lost all of your website’s files, backups and perhaps all your passwords were changed too, all because of a mysterious technical issue with your Cloudy Provider. And yeah, sure, this may happen with standard hosting as well, but at least that’s easier to switch/backup/propagate because it’s very common.

I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist (because I’m not), but these things (and worst) are likely to happen (and some already happened) in the current climate of increasing social unrest. My advice is to stay away from any Cloud services unless you have a good technical reason not to. For example, even I use certain Cloud services for collaborating with some partners, but I established some clear boundaries on what I will and will not do.

The PC’s Next Step

Some people argue that the PC hasn’t evolved in a long time because its basic architecture is similar to what it was three decades ago. That’s the same as saying that the car hasn’t evolved in a long time because it still has four wheels, an engine and some pedals. Just because the PC still has a CPU and a motherboard doesn’t mean that it hasn’t evolved.

The automobile analogy is quite fitting. Just like the usual automobile is here to stay, along with motorbikes, segways and other inventions of smaller caliber and narrower application, so will the PC continue to technologically overshadow its newer competitors.

The PC changed, changes and will continue to change. The latest major evolution, the introduction of the Solid State Drive, was fantastic, and I can’t wait for the next one.

What will that be, who can know? But the PC will live on, regardless of what some publications or “experts” would want you to believe.

Indeed, sales in the PC market have and will continue to slow down. This isn’t a sign that the platform itself is in danger, rather, it’s a confirmation of its immense popularity. Just look around you and see how many of your friends and relatives have a PC. Because of the performance aspect I mentioned earlier, I know my parents won’t need a new computer unless their current one breaks down. But when (not if) it does, I can assure you, they’ll buy one. Not a netbook, not a smartphone and certainly not a tablet!

The PC is here to stay people. And I’m very happy for that, because I’m a content creator.

I’m typing on my old but wonderful Logitech G15, enjoying my music in 24bit/192kHz, I have an excellent and cheap 100 megabit fiber optics Internet connection and don’t even get me started on my computer’s performance. When I feel a bit bored, I fire up Steam and immerse myself in amazing graphics while my huge projects await for me in Visual Studio 2010. BluRay 1080p 3D movies? No problem! Thank you, PC (and regardless of Apple’s deceiving series of commercials^, the Mac is a Personal Computer as well).

In Closing…

Regarding the above-mentioned “big names” who made fools of themselves, let’s not forget that a lot of publications / writers are to blame for that. In the greedy battle for headline supremacy, do not lose sight of the fact that a lot of scumbags turn around the words spoken by honest and respectable professionals, making them look like idiots.

As a matter of fact, I’m sure that most of the headlines you will find about this topic are horrid exaggerations of otherwise unspectacular declarations.

But this doesn’t change the fact that this “PC is dead” topic gained a lot of traction in some circles, something I hope will stop, because it makes people who believe that, look dumb (and sometimes this is not deserved).

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