The PC Is Dead. Big Whoop.

There’s always a Debbie Downer:

The PC is dead. Rising numbers of mobile, lightweight, cloud-centric devices don’t merely represent a change in form factor. Rather, we’re seeing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers on the one hand, to operating system vendors on the other—and even those who keep their PCs are being swept along. This is a little for the better, and much for the worse.


The fact is that today’s developers are writing code with the notion not just of consumer acceptance, but also vendor acceptance… Both put the coder into a long-term relationship with the OS vendor. The user gets put in the same situation: if I switch from iPhone to Android, I can’t take my apps with me, and vice versa. And as content gets funneled through apps, it may mean I can’t take my content, either—or, if I can, it’s only because there’s yet another gatekeeper like Amazon running an app on more than one platform, aggregating content. The potentially suffocating relationship with Apple or Google or Microsoft is freed only by a new suitor like Amazon, which is structurally positioned to do the same thing.

Reminds me a bit of the Michael Mandel paper (via) on how innovation requires large corporate investment. Here’s Mandel with his similar but sunnier version:

The second part of the Schumpeterian Hypothesis is the observation that companies with more market power might also be more willing to invest in innovation. The argument is that if a firm in an ultra-competitive market innovates, the new product or service is quickly copied by rivals, so that the gains from innovations are quickly competed away. Conversely, a firm with market power has the ability to hold onto some of its gains from innovation, so it may pay to invest in product or other improvements.

Back to the Harvard conclusion:

If we allow ourselves to be lulled into satisfaction with walled gardens, we’ll miss out on innovations to which the gardeners object, and we’ll set ourselves up for censorship of code and content that was previously impossible.

You can imagine how many articles like this were written about IBM in the 60s and 70s and Microsoft in the 80s and 90s.

Besides, both of choose to deemphasize the point that with each turn of the generational wheel, the real innovation (the programs we use every day) is being done in a progressively more distributed manner. Mainframes, PCs, mobile.

I could write an app on my own and sell it to the world. Couldn’t do that with a PC. DEFINITELY couldn’t do that with a mainframe.

Wishing it were even more distributed is fine, but put your whining in context, please.


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