The PC makes a comeback

The right tool for the right job.

by Carl James | BLOOMINGTON, IN | Dec. 26, 2020

Laptop setup by Flickr user AUM OER

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in technology that would not have happened otherwise. The hot item in tech is once again the good, old fashioned, personal computer. After a decade of the PC taking a back seat to smart phones and tablets, the limitations of those devices became apparent.

I have often heard laments that the work week has become 24/7 due to the smart phone starting with the Blackberry. The killer app was mobile email. People could be reached at any time and that extended working hours. What we didn’t realize was that after hours work was not full fledged work. The smart phones, while great for basic communications, are not the best tools for the true rigors of office work.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad he said that Apple recognized a need for a device in between a smart phone and laptop. While a big step up from a smart phone in screen size, even a tablet has it’s limitations when it comes to performing office work.

The personal computer in laptop or desktop form is still where it is at. The ability to truly multi-task and move information around to multiple apps is what the PC in all of its operating system variants are good at. Now that’s not to say you cannot do those things on a smart phone or tablet. You absolutely can, but it is clunky. Google made this more possible with cloud based applications like Docs and Sheets. It was a big deal to get the actual data storage off of the computer and work on items directly in the cloud.

Microsoft then took Office to the cloud with Office 365. Working either on local apps or in a web browser, Office 365 allows tablets and smart phones of multiple operating systems like iOS and Android to edit and create new documents. I love those applications and use them often. However, I find that I still almost exclusively use them on a personal computer to create new documents. I do use the cloud version of Office 365, but that’s when I’m running my older desktop with Ubuntu Linux. It’s still on a personal computer.

A big reason the PC still dominates is screens and/or desktops. Apple Macintosh made virtual desktops popular while Microsoft Windows relied more on multiple screens. Over time the two operating systems took the best from each other and now both give the users the options of running multiple monitors and also have multiple virtual desktops. Ubuntu Linux now does this as well.

Personal computer setups, where laptop or desktop, have still improved dramatically over the past decade. Most of this was dedicated to he workplace. People stopped spending there own money as the smart phones and tablets did most of what the needed them to do at home. Well, COVID-19 made the home the workplace, and suddenly that decade of neglect in home hardware became exposed. As such the hot tech item this year is once again the personal computer.

Will this be just a short term fad, or will the PC have staying power in the home? Only time will tell.

Carl James is CompTIA A+ ce Certified

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