IBM, already in the midst of celebrating its 100th anniversary, is about to hit another milestone: Aug. 12 marks the 30th anniversary of the company's 5150 personal computer, which ushered in the PC era.
Now one of the system's creators is adding his voice to the chorus of people who believe the industry is quickly entering the post-PC era.
In an Aug. 10 posting on the IBM Smarter Planet blog, Mark Dean, now the CTO of IBM's Middle East and Africa unit, said he was proud of what IBM accomplished in fueling the PC era, but added that that time is coming to an end. IBM executives saw it coming when they sold the PC business to Lenovo in 2005, and their predictions are coming to pass, Dean said.
However, it's not necessarily only the rise of smartphones, tablets and other intelligent devices that are pushing the PC into the background, but by the social interaction that such devices enable.
"My primary computer now is a tablet," Dean wrote in his blog post. "When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they're no longer at the leading edge of computing. They re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs."
Computing is becoming not only more personal, but also more social, he said.
"PCs are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of device -- though there's plenty of excitement about smart phones and tablets -- but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress," Dean wrote. "These days, it's becoming clear that innovation flourishes best, not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people's lives."
Dean's comments echo those of some other industry executives.
In a blog post in October 2010, soon after he left Microsoft, Ray Ozzie talked about the need for the software giant and other tech companies to understand where computing is headed and to embrace that which is technologically inevitable -- a future of varied devices connected to the cloud. The days of the PC-centric environment, which helped fuel Microsoft's success, are declining as the use of mobile devices and cloud computing rises, implied Ozzie, who had been Microsoft's chief software architect.
At the unveiling of the iPad 2 in March, Apple CEO Steve Jobs also talked about a post-PC world dominated by such devices as smartphones and tablets. Some other vendors view tablets as something new in the PC market, but that is not the right approach to this, Jobs said.