If the PC is dead, what's all this innovation about?
15th Feb 2014 | 10:00
Forget smartphones, tablets and wearables. The PC's where it's at
For a device that's supposed to be dead, the PC sure does seem to be extremely innovative, beating every other digital device around.
According to most media outlets, the PC is on a deathmarch to redundancy. Smartphones, tablets, wearables, 4K displays, consoles – anything that's not a PC – that's what all the cool kids want.
Well, have a great big bag of meh. Because I'm going to explain why what innovation we've seen in those areas is either over, an illusions or actually happening on the PC. Meanwhile, the PC itself is the platform where the really exciting stuff is happening.
Let's quickly count the ways. First there's the whole tablet-convertible thing. I'm an big fan of the concept, even if it hasn't yet delivered on its promise.
There are plenty of reasons why it hasn't quite come good yet. But when it does, I know I for one want it to be a PC and not Android or iOS based. Because the PC is simply more flexible and more powerful. Yes, even than Android.
In the gaming arena, the new consoles are making headlines. But the truth is, they're feeble, cynically-specced boxes that the PC can barely be bothered to sneer at.
Meanwhile, the PC itself is in the process of reinventing itself as a gaming hub. Valve's Steam Home Streaming tech is now in beta and looks frankly fabulous.
AMD is shaking things up on the pure performance side with its new Mantle API, which could enable a complexity and realism in gaming never seen before.
Then there's the Oculus Rift VR headset, which has true potential to deliver on that greatest cliché of them all, the paradigm shift. Just remember that there's zero chance the new consoles can compete. They simply don't have the horsepower for proper VR.
As for 4K, well, guess what? It's only the PC that can currently give you the full benefit of 4K. There's basically no content. And 4K on portable device boils down to high-DPI willy waving. It's of little actual benefit, especially in a world where the web still doesn't scale properly for DPI.
But on the PC, you can immediately benefit from 4K in both games, which look ridonculously good in 4K, and simply in terms of desktop workspace.
Meanwhile, I reckon most of the fun stuff has already happened to smartphones and tablets. Over the last couple of years, they've become epically faster and sleeker and more functional. But that perfect storm of innovation is now dying out, at least for a while.
Once you've got a a fast CPU with a high DPI screen combined with GPS, connectivity, a finger print scanner, NFC, yada, yada, you're then left refining the proposition.
Indeed, you know they've got the fear re real innovation when gimmicks like curved screens begin to pop up. Much the same applies to tablets.
Oh OK, maybe wearables...
The explosive innovation has happened and until the next step change arrives – perhaps true flexible displays or maybe holographic tech – we're in for a period of relative stagnation.
One possible exception involves wearables like Google Glass. But we've got to allow the poor dears something.
Is this nothing more than a disingenous, tendentious sermon from a low-priest of all things PC? Maybe there's a whisker of truth in that. Up to a point, it's my job to evangelise the PC.
But there's also more than a whisker of truth in the notion that the PC is alive, kicking and innovating like mad. And it's just to much fun to poke smug smartphones, tablets and 4K TVs in the ribs.