John Herlihy, the head of Google’s operations in Europe, told a conference recently, “In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant.” I think his timing may be a bit aggressive, but I agree with his statement in general.
In a few years, our phones are going to be the way most people do their personal computing. From email to Facebook to casual web surfing, the phone is going to be the more popular option.
Learning By Example
Just a few decades ago, if I told you that paper would be irrelevant before too much longer, you’d have laughed in my face. It’s now 2010, and PCs really have made paper more irrelevant than most people realize. I’d say at least 90% of the reading I do is on a screen, with the rest on paper. And that mostly in book form.
Most people access the Web all the time, but they certainly don’t print out every webpage they go to. (Can you imagine a teenager printing out Facebook every time they check their friends’ status?) Nor do we all print out every email message we get. Or every text message.
People keep printing out tons of paper — mostly at work — but I think the vast majority of it is wasted. A typical example is a guy who prints out a copy of his 30 page report for everyone in the department, but few people do more than glance at it.
Many companies have stopped offering user manuals on paper because the vast majority of them end up in landfills.
Newspapers subscriptions fall every year.
I think the same thing is true of PCs and phones. Years from now, just about everyone is still going to have a desktop/notebook, but they won’t be nearly as important as they are now.
We will turn to the PC for tasks it performs better than a phone, in the same way that we use paper for things that it handles better than PCs do. But a majority of the time we’ll be using our phones.
This about it this way. Until a decade or so, everything was on paper. Now, everything is on the PC. If they had a choice between totally giving up paper or totally giving up their PC, I’m sure the vast majority of people would give up paper.
In a few years, given a choice between giving up their PC and giving up their phone, the PC is going to be the one being put out to pasture.
Phone for Pleasure, PC for Work
Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m talking about personal computing, not work. We’re still going to need PCs for our jobs. When you sit down to crunch the department’s finances for Q1, you’re still going to be sitting at that old trusty PC. And then printing out copies on paper.
For the generation that is being born now, this process will probably feel like they are writing it out longhand on foolscap with a quill pen.