For the PC The Bell Tolls: What is Real Work, Anyway?

Here are four links to articles on a theme. The first three ask, in their own way, if the tablet is coming of age: is it ready to do real work on, can it really replace the laptop for some of us? The fourth article is a link is to my piece from 2013, that posits the PC as we know it - all pervasive, in our homes, on our laps - was just a blip, and its first home, the office, should be its one and only home. To me, they are all singing the same song.


Can you do ‘real work’ on an iPad? - Charles Arthur

 “At some point, the difference vanishes. Most people never did “real work”, by whatever metric, on their computer; they were happy to browse web pages, send emails, Skype friends, whatever. Yet the redoubt of “real work” is defended valiantly, perhaps by those whose jobs depend not on the work, but on the tools used for it — the PC.”

A great article around the general derision of the use of tablets to do what people snobbishly refer to as ‘real work’.

Doing Real Design Work on an iPad - Subtraction.com

 “Moreover, what I’ve come to realize is that the iPad is a much more elegant system than my Mac. This isn’t to say that I have no use for my desktop (more on that in a moment), but that by and large iOS software is considerably more thoughtful, more carefully considered, and more visually polished than desktop software.”

A discussion of whether with the latest generation of iPads and accessories, and the accompanying software, if designers can now build successful workflows without resorting to a PC.

Can the MacBook Pro Replace Your iPad? - Fraser Speirs

 "The fact that the keyboard and screen are limited to being held in an L-shaped configuration seriously limits its flexibility. It is basically impossible to use a MacBook pro while standing up and downright dangerous to use when walking around. Your computing is limited to times when you are able to find somewhere to sit down.”

A tongue-in-cheek ‘review’ of a MacBook Pro, set in a parallel universe where iPads came first.

Back To Where They Came From - Philip McDermott

 “The PC unwittingly really did become the personal computer. And then the iPhone happened. And we all realised that actually, that was what we really wanted when we said personal computer.”

Back in 2013 I discussed the hisory of the PC, how it inadvertendly ended up in our homes, and why I would love to see it leave again once and for all.


We are at the dawn on a computing era where we should, before undertaking any new project, be  asking ourselves: "what do I want to achieve?". Actually achieve. Not "what app should I build, what program should I wrote, what digital artwork should I create, what blog post should I write? What do I actually want to achieve?". (Yes, I just used bold-italic.) When you have honestly asked that question, then, look around, without prejudice, and pick the device or devices and tool or tools that allow you to accomplish that goal. For so many people now, finally, computing no longer needs to be the goal: it can consigned to being the magic glue that provides the tools for us to accomplish our goals and dreams.

Back To Where They Came From

Back in the eighties and early nineties, we had home computers. These home computers were sleek all-in-one beasts, could be plugged into family TV set, and very importantly, were used for leisure. Not to play down the significance of the Apple Macintosh, it was actually the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga that stole the show in my generation. And why was this? Games.

Let's face it: the majority of Atari STs and Amigas were used almost entirely as games machines, with maybe a little bit of time spent in Deluxe Paint, Degas Elite and STOS. (To be fair, one of my my best friends wrote a DBMS while I played Lotus Elite Turbo Challenge, but I suspect he was the exception.)

And then something happened: dad brought his work home from the office.

Enter the IBM PC (and compatibles). The big, boxy, beige machines invaded the home, straight through the front door: families only needed one serious computer, and what better to pick than the one that was already familiar from the daily grind?

The PC, while running all manner of CAD and spreadsheet packages very well (remember when we called apps packages?) wasn’t so hot on the games front at first. From the humble beginnings of Sierra graphical adventures games and some dodgy flight simulators, games on the PC went from strength to strength as the teenaged children of the aforementioned father spent their weekend job money on sound cards, graphics cards, motherboards and processors. One upgrade at a time, the office PC became the home-office PC, the family PC, and finally the gaming PC.

The next twist in the PCs unusual life was the explosion of home internet. The internet gave the PC more strings to its bow: no longer just a productivity and gaming machine, it was now the information and communication hub of the home. And lest we forget shopping.

While all this was going on in the spare bedroom, games consoles were enjoying a parallel life in the living room. Each generation of console became more powerful, more accessible, more mainstream. Some people preferred the PC for games, others the console, but before long we were all playing the same games, on almost the same hardware.

So what was next for the PC? Well, what many didn't see coming was PC becoming so cheap and portable that everyone got their own. The PC unwittingly really did become the personal computer. And then the iPhone happened. And we all realised that actually, that was what we really wanted when we said personal computer. The iPhone, in hindsight, marked the major step in giving us a personal computing device that could manage most of the tasks that most people want to do.

The iPhone spawned the iPad which spawned numerous other tablets, and we now live in a world where an iPad will do 90% of the tasks 90% of home PC users. This is not to say that the PC is dead. Far from it. The PC is the best tool for many, many tasks, but the majority of those tasks are associated with work, not leisure. The PC is the ideal tool to be used in many workplaces for years to come. And yes, I'm talking about Windows PCs with mouse and keyboard input: this paradigm is actually fantastic for many productivity tasks, that are just horrendous when carried out on touch screens or machines held in one hand. Even the ecosystem that has grown up with them, the enterprise market, is in many ways a mature and solid setup, that like the sub-optimal "design" of the mammalian eyeball, is actually quite fit-for-purpose.

The thing is about the PC: we just don't need one at home anymore. Consoles and set top boxes provide us with amazing gaming and entertainment. Tablets and smartphones provide us with much better ways to consume news, knowledge and information, and to communicate and remotely socialise. These devices all do what they were designed to do where for years the poor PC had to limp along, doing it's best. It's time to give it a break.

I’m not calling time on the PC: I’m just saying it’s time for the PC to go back to the office.