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Mac Planet: Last post for the PC?

Death of the PC? Devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod could replace the desktop computer system completely. Photo / AP
Death of the PC? Devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod could replace the desktop computer system completely. Photo / AP

Not by a long shot, but when Apple refers to the 'post PC era' it doesn't just mean PCs as in non-Apple computers, anyway. It means Personal Computers - including Macs.

Perhaps Apple does mean that one day we won't have PCs, just devices But for now anyway, Apple just means you can use your iPad/iPhone/iPod touch without necessarily using a PC/Mac as the key to the equation, via iTunes.

That's what the iCloud is all about, being able to keep things in sync without having to plug them in to a computer.

On the death of the PC thing, (again, I include Apple's Macs in the PC category), to be fair, most people can do most things they do with PCs on something as simple and (relatively) underpowered as an iPad.

I mean, your home PC might be able to run the 1969 space program and put men on the moon, in power terms, if you take it back in time, but if all you're doing with it now is some writing, web surfing and checking email, you're hardly using its potential.

Not even close.

However, even if an iPad could handle editing Martin Scorsese's next cinematic effort, or design Vogue, or record and mix the next Nine Inch Nails' album, who on earth wants to do serious work on a tiny screen, no matter how high-def?

Although one can imagine a future where you chuck your solid-state tablet in your bag, sit in a café or on the bus and do your email, and slot it into a desktop system at work that provides a bigger display.

And that's a future I definitely like the sound of.

Besides, how long do you use a computer? I can spin my Macs out to five years, but the second-to-last year of that time frame is boring. The last year is pure agony and frustration, mostly because I feel like I'm so missing out by then combined with no longer being able to review the latest software. So three years suits me better, and I pass on the older devices and they get several more years doing less critical tasks.

As for my current MacBook Pro, I missed out on Thunderbolt by three months and it's been driving me crazy ever since, just because I get offered devices for review with it and I can't do them. So if a new as-rumoured, slimline, MacBook Air-like 15-incher rolls out, I'm going to be sorely tempted.

Be warned though, most of the rumours stem from DigiTimes which has been saying for weeks we're getting a new little 7-inch iPad. (No, we didn't, in case you were wondering.)

That said, I know people who have been using the same Mac for seven or even ten years, and while that says a lot about the build quality of some of them, it makes it awfully hard to help them when things go wrong. And those older operating systems look really funny after a gap of a few years.

But that's nothing - a company called Sparkler Filters in Conroe, Texas enters transactions on a *computer that dates from 1948. Sparker prides itself on being a leader in the world of chemical process filtration. But not of administrative hardware, demonstrably.

* OK, it's really an 'automated electromechanical tabulator.' Every home should have one.

As far as iPad 3 goes (I can't bring myself to call it 'the new iPad'; I consider that one of the sillier of Apple's marketing decisions) it's nowhere near the power of even Apple's least-powered Mac mini yet. But it will inevitably get there, one day.

But so far I'm not tempted to get one, as my iPad 1 still does everything I need it to.

Which is not much, to be honest, although I have discovered it's an excellent portable note taker with a Kensington case that opens out to show a little keyboard. For the rest, it's good for looking for recipes, my daughter checks Facebook on it, and the nieces love the Talking Tom app with the cat that repeats what you say in a weird voice. (OK, I like that too. And yes, I bought the fart upgrade. What can I say?).

But I spend far more time in front of my MacBook Pro, which has an extended keyboard plugged in plus a second, larger monitor. It's extremely useful.

So while our 'old' iPad gets used a lot, for me, a new iPad with better this and that doesn't seem like a step worth talking, and I don't really mind how detailed and sharp the screen is ... not having seen one anyway.

As I have to admit, I couldn't understand the fuss about the iPhone until I saw one, so that may change.

But I will let you know more when I have a look, which will be very shortly, thanks to iPhone New Zealand lending me one they brought in from a place where they're allowed to sell them.

By the way, Steve Wozniak said the iPad is what Steve Jobs always envisioned - it just took 25 years or more to realise it, technologically. The two Steves famously sold 'blue boxes' to fund university, before founding Apple - these devices whistled tones into telephones so they could make long distance phone calls for free.

No, it wasn't legal.

But Apple does seem to plan a long game - a rare and interesting Apple prototype surfaced on eBay recently. The 1993 'WALT' (for 'Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone', I kid you not) combined a telephone, fax, personal address book and more with a HyperCard user interface. It never shipped ...

Like the Newton MessagePad, which it resembled as far as gunmetal grey goes, WALT had a touchscreen, a stylus and handwriting recognition. Unlike the Newton (and the iPhone) it was designed to be a desktop (landline) phone companion, developed in cooperation with Bell South.

As I've said before, there was the Newton. This was the Personal Digital Assistant Apple invented, launched, sold for a few years and then dropped, leading to the Palm being created by some ex Newton developers.

Anyway, some Newton models were worked towards phone capabilities and had the mic and speaker placed as if they were telephonic handsets. And Apple had a mysterious phone site domain sitting there for years - I remember looking at it at least 15 years ago.

Soon I'll let you know what I think of the latest iPad. "Apple, there's something wrong with it! I can't see any pixels ..."

- NZ Herald

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