A few days ago Google’s CEO pronounced that that the PC would be dead in 3 years.
As an Ex-CTO for a large multi-national hardware company that stet strategy based on his predictions, you’d likely give his comments a lot of credit. Given it was Sun that he worked for, maybe not so much.
The arrogance of such a comment during the week when the Game Developer’s Conference is underway got me thinking of a recent story I heard about dialog between Marine Pilot and an Iranian Controller. Obviously I was connecting Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, to that controller. (On Arrogance the story of the Obstinate Lighthouse is even better; there is even a great video of that).
The PC is far from dead and while OnLive could shift a lot of load to the cloud, AMD showcased a series of things yesterday that suggest we still have a lot of headroom in the old PC. I can picture both Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs giving Eric Schmidt a big raspberry while hoping he stays a Google until he sinks the company. Speaking of dead Gizmodo pronounced the new Dell Adamo XPS dead in error and, evidently that product is coming to a Best Buy near you.
Let’s chat about why the PC is not only far from dead, it appears to actually be evolving.
OnLive: Why It Will Fail to Kill the PC
The funny thing about OnLive is that it seems like every time I bring it up, someone points out that it can’t work even though the Beta seems to be going just fine. There clearly will be areas that won’t have enough bandwidth or too much latency (which has actually turned up to be the bigger problem) to do this service but with the massive Cisco announcement this week along with AT&T regarding a massive improvement in internet capacity by mid-decade the vast majority of those that might want this service, at least in the US, should be able to get it.
This week they announced that the service will go live on June 17 and many of us (I’m still waiting to get connected myself) will see what it is like to game in the cloud. Initial cost for the service is $14.95. Since this service, if it works, requires far less desktop performance you’d think it would be the strongest argument for “the death of the PC”.
I mean if you can do high end games in the cloud, what do you need a PC for anyway? Well, OnLive will initially be available on; you’ve got it, PCs. The reason is there is no other readily available client that has the necessary performance to make this service work. Yes, there will be an option of an ultra thin client device if you would rather use your TV, but if you already have a PC and a gaming rig, you can put OnLive on it and often will likely have a better experience.
And you’ll still do other things on that PC, which now has extra headroom even while gaming.
AMD: The PC is Feeling Better All the Time
I’m reminded of the funny Monty Python segment (I know it doesn’t sound funny) where they are bringing out the dead from the plague in the middle ages and one of the guys not only isn’t dead, he is feeling like a walk. You kind of have to see it.
AMD set a gaming mandate and promised to make the experience better going forward. One of their cool new technologies being demonstrated at the GDC this week is Eyefinity 6 on their 5870 card. This is 6 inexpensive monitors arranged to build a really cool gaming screen. Granted it will get better when the special monitors with ultra thin bezels and matched stands show up later in the year, but it is stunning never the less. In addition, AMD has promised to bring 3D to this platform and the end result could be an unmatched experience of big display and, good resolution and better reality.
While 3D is clearly in the future they did showcase the stunning new Aliens Vs Predator game from Rebellion Games, Sega, and 20th Century Fox. (Which reminds me, we kind of need a good Aliens Vs. Predator movie, the last one really sucked).
In any case the PC clearly has some legs yet and I’ll bet it lasts longer than Eric Schmidt does at Google, though I expect Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs hope Eric stays there a long time. Seriously, don’t you get the sense that Eric must have slept through the Apple board meetings? He didn’t seem to learn anything.
Adamo XPS RIP?
Speaking of dead PCs, Gizmodo had a story titled R.I.P. Dell Adamo XPS, You Died Too Young which was a nice obituary on that product. Only problem it isn’t dead at all. Had they called Dell they would have found out that the reason it isn’t on Dell’s site anymore is that Best Buy liked it so much they took it as an exclusive which means Dell wasn’t allowed to sell it directly anymore. Halo products are designed to build store traffic and work much better in brick and mortar store. I carry this Dell myself and still love it; it was good to know it is far from dead and actually getting a deserved second life.
Wrapping Up: It’s ALIVE!
It is silly to pronounce the death of something as widely used as the PC is against any timeline, let alone 3 years. We said the mainframe would be dead in the 80s and it is actually one of the strongest products IBM has nearly 30 years later and the FAX machine seems to have missed its own death in the 90s. Years ago I said Apple would be dead by the end of the decade unless they made some changes, and they did, and they are certainly far from dead.
The only way the PC will die is if it doesn’t evolve fast enough and even then it would likely take decades to die. However, the PC is evolving to embrace even high performance cloud services like OnLive and to provide ever richer experiences like those showcased with Eyefinity 6 by AMD. Like that guy in the Monty Python movie, it isn’t dead yet and seems to be feeling better all the time.
And like that F18 Pilot said to the Iranian controller when threatened, it’s still waiting for Google or anyone else to field something that could take it out. Given how Buzz did, it may be waiting for awhile.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.