The Post PC age lasted about four years. Some reasonable people might suggest it never existed. Historians will have to decide on that. At least customers have already decided that they no longer like iPads, and that they prefer Windows and Android tablets instead.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

Historians will probably also struggle to determine when the Post PC age actually started. I think the release of the first iPad in April 2010 would be a good date, although Steve Jobs had already started using the term in 2007, and on every possible subsequent occasion. The term “Post PC era” was first coined in 1999 by futurist David D. Clark.

IDC had to correct their predictions about tablet sales in 2014, once more downward. For the first time, tablet sales have had only single-digit growth (7.2 percent). Originally, IDC predicted this for 2017. So much for the long term predictions of market research institutes. If we put this into perspective, in relation to a growth rate of 53 percent in 2013, it becomes clear that some fundamental changes are under way. The red line in the graph below demonstrates this impressively.

IDC - Tablet growth forecast

IDC - Tablet growth forecast

Even more interesting is how market shares in the tablet market are changing: In 2014 the iOS will lose 12.7 percent, whereas Windows will gain a whopping 67.7 percent (of course from a lower reference point). Android is still doing well with a 16 percent growth. If we consider that the iPad was once celebrated as THE post PC device, I think it is fair to say that an era has indeed ended.

What would Steve Jobs say? He loved the term “Post PC” so much, probably because he never got over the fact that Apple lost its battle for the personal computer to Microsoft and IBM. On the other hand, if he were still around, would Apple be losing its market share so rapidly? I doubt it. It appears that history repeats itself.

Apple crashed soon after Jobs was pushed out by John Sculley. And right after Jobs returned, Apple was back in business (with the help of Microsoft’s investment). Sometimes I wonder if he intentionally selected Tim Cook as his successor to the Apple throne. That way, the dent that Apple left in the universe will always be attributed to him.

The 67.7 percent growth of Windows in the tablet market surprised even me (the fan boy). Let’s face it, the Windows tablet market share more or less means a Surface market share. I have always harbored doubts about Microsoft’s ability to build hardware, but it seems I was wrong.

One thing is sure, hardware manufacturers will be heavily influenced by these numbers. If we take the success of Windows 8.1 into account, we can assume that we will see a lot more of the Windows tablet soon. The reception of Windows 10 has been quite positive so far (although I still don’t like the UI changes), so it is not difficult to predict that the market share growth of Windows tablets will accelerate once the Windows 8 successor becomes publically available.

IDC sees the main reason for the slump in tablet sales as due to the fact that most people are using their tablets for 3-4 years, instead of 2-3 years as previously predicted. This could be related to the fact that there is little real innovation happening in the market, which explains precisely why fewer and fewer are people are willing to buy the overpriced "iPaids."

The still respectable growth rate of Android tables can be explained by their falling prices. However, the growth rate of 67.7 percent in Windows tablets clearly shows that people are now realizing that for many computing tasks the PC is the most suitable device. Thus, it is very likely that Windows will be gaining still more ground in 2015.

One thing is for sure. IDC’s predictions for 2018 are highly dubious. Nobody, not even the late Jobs, can make predictions about market shares four years from now. Market researchers are very aware of this because they are probably the only ones who notice that their previous long-range predictions were completely wrong.

In my view, it is very likely that something new, something that nobody (except the engineers who are already working on it) can foresee, will burst onto the market. Perhaps there will be foldable displays, a new kind of brain-computer interface, or an AI-interface that enables you to interact with computers in natural language? Nobody will need a tablet then. No market researcher saw the iPhone or the iPad coming. The only thing that is relatively easy to predict is that eras will come and go, but at an ever increasing pace.

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5 Comments
  1. assist 3 years ago

    I don't think the "post-pc age" is over... all devices are undergoing significant, radical changes, including PCs. Future will surely bring us something unexpected because mobile devices will evolve more and more at great speed. Mobile computing is the key, everybody can see that, even Microsoft. They shipped 11 million tablets in 2014, less than 5% of the marketshare, and the reason is people still put more confindence into Android rather than Windows 8.1. That's the reason why 8.1, relatively new and with only a 11% share on PCs, is going to be replaced soon. Microsoft is understanding the need of rethinking and rebuilding from scratch their OS, as Windows is rapidly becoming unsuitable for what has yet to come. Rather than "the post-pc era is over" I'd say that "the Windows era is coming to an end": a breath of fresh air is something good for everyone, even for Microsoft.

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  2. Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

    You are right, Microsoft’s market share in the tablet market is small. However, the latest numbers indicate that they are absolutely on the right path. I love Android, but it has many shortcomings when it comes to doing some real work. As things stand now, by no means I could replace my PC with an Android tablet. Now, as the tablet hype is over, many people are beginning to realize this and replace their old PCs with new ones.

    In my view, the importance of mobile computing has been exaggerated lately. I mean, it is nice that I can now bring my personal computer everywhere I go. I just worked the whole day at the beach. So yes, the PC has been undergoing some fundamental changes and it will continue to do so. However, the point about tablets is not so much that there are mobile, but that they have a new kind of interface that people find more intuitive to use than a mouse.

    The big changes that are coming next have little to do with mobile. They will all be about new computer-human interfaces. It is possible that neither Windows, Android nor iOS are suitable for these interfaces. 3D, virtual reality, and augmented reality are the battlefields of the future but not mobile. The battle about mobile is over. Mobile is now standard. PCs are now mobile devices. But I absolutely agree, Microsoft really needs a breadth of fresh air and so does Apple and Google. Let’s hope that the post 2D age starts soon. Amazon has already made a tiny first step.

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  3. Satish Singh 3 years ago

    In the times to come, there will be no smartphones, tablets, laptops, PC, all-in-ones, smart TV's and all those devices. There will be just one "computing device" with different screen sizes. And because Windows is such a complete OS, especially with Win 10, it will be an ideal OS for such a computing device. Even Intel's plan to merge the mobile and PC unit is a strong indicator of this. It is high time that we realize that SCREEN SIZES will no longer be a differentiating factor between computing devices.
    If mobile OS's like Android has to survive this Tsunami, they will have to start making a full fledged OS for the PC. Otherwise, they will become a thing of the past like SYMBIAN. Take my words!

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  4. Juan Garcia 3 years ago

    This is the kind of an article that I would expect from an MVP. I don't know if we are in a Post PC era but we are certainly in a Post-Microsoft era.

    Why? Because in the user side users are sick of paying for botched betas and being promised that if they pay more money they'll fix it in the next release. On the developer side because programs like MVPs. Microsoft always has played dirty on competition showing no information at least you paid or go widely advertising its products so they can name you 'MVP' as they feed your pride. .NET is falling and even Microsoft had ti admit that node and git are replacing the server side because it is open and standard. They tried to open .NET (not fully yet though) but maybe it is too late. Companies around the world are even investing in non Microsoft laptops.

    Microsoft represents the 20th century. Now everywhere I look I see mobile phones and tablets. Just not Microsoft ones.

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  5. Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

    Satish, I totally agree. My phone is more than a year old and is powerful enough to run a full-blown Windows. All that Microsoft needs to do is create one coherent UI for all the different screen sizes and input devices. I wonder when the Google founders understand that they only seriously can compete with Microsoft if they bring Android to the PC.

    Juan, I am glad I could meet your expectations. But don’t you think that these Microsoft hate speeches are bit outdated? And you know what, everywhere I look I see internet TVs, just not Microsoft ones. So what? For the last few decades politically motivated people predicted (hoped) that Microsoft would go down which didn’t prevent it to report record earnings after record earnings. This also applies to the so-called post PC age. Microsoft grew fantastically despite the fact that most mobile devices don’t run Windows. Don’t you think we should only start counting out Microsoft once they stop reporting record earnings?

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