The PC Is Dead and Apple Is Evil: Jonathan Zittrain Complains

“The PC is dead,” declared Harvard law and computer science professor Jonathan Zittrain last week in the MIT Technology Review.

Thanks to consumers’ ongoing migration from laptops and desktops to mobile devices, and thanks to those devices’ relatively restrictive designs, “we’re seeing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers on the one hand to operating system vendors on the other,” Zittrain writes. His assessment: “This is a little for the better, and much for the worse.”

Zittrain is part of a cadre of Internet scholars and technology pundits who lament the shift from PCs—with their relatively bottom-up, open infrastructure, which allows users to run practically any software they choose—to devices that lack the same openness or "generativity." The complaint isn't new, and the wider debate boils down to a question over how much producers of digital devices should be able to control the products they produce and the software and content on them. But Zittrain adds a semi-nonsensical twist to the argument against walled garden operating systems.

[Apple] developers can’t add an icon for their app to the desktop or the dock without user permission, an amazing echo of what landed Microsoft in such hot water. (Though with Microsoft, the problem was prohibiting the removal of the IE icon—Microsoft didn’t try to prevent the addition of other software icons, whether installed by the PC maker or the user.) [Emphasis Zittrain’s.]

In the eyes of U.S. and European regulators, one of Microsoft’s antitrust sins of the 1990s was ensuring an Internet Explorer icon appeared on every PC desktop that shipped with a Windows operating system. Now, Apple’s apparent sin is allowing users, rather than software developers, to choose which icons appear on their computers.

But the fact that apps must routinely face approval masks how extraordinary the situation is: tech companies are in the business of approving, one by one, the text, images, and sounds that we are permitted to find and experience on our most common portals to the networked world. Why would we possibly want this to be how the world of ideas works, and why would we think that merely having competing tech companies—each of which is empowered to censor—solves the problem?

This is especially troubling as governments have come to realize that this framework makes their own censorship vastly easier: what used to be a Sisyphean struggle to stanch the distribution of books, tracts, and then websites is becoming a few takedown notices to a handful of digital gatekeepers.

Setting aside Zittrain’s comparison of "censorship" by tech companies with the suppression of information by governments, it's bizarre to imply that (genuine, government) censorship today—in a digital age that allows people to throw websites up and publish information in seconds—is easier than when we just had books and papyrus and the like.

And is it really so "extraordinary" that a private company would choose to design its products and offer its services on its own terms? Apple does operate its app store under relatively strict terms—a practice that may make getting an app approved a relatively onerous and lengthy process but has benefits like keeping malware out of its software offerings. Zittrain himself has noted that the shift in models of operating systems has been “driven by a desire for better security and more convenience.”

Most software users aren't power users—they prefer devices that are easy to use right out of the box, like many of Apple's "closed" products. As Ars Technica's Timothy B. Lee (also an occasional Reason contributor) noted in his thorough treatment of the topic, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the App Store":

It made sense for early personal computers to demand that their users have specialized knowledge. But as computing technology matures, it's natural for most consumers to want to outsource the process of vetting software to more knowledgeable third parties.

Of course, there will always be a segment of the market that wants unfettered control over their computers, just as there is a market segment that prefers to drive a stick-shift car and change their own oil. That's important, but in the long run, these power users will be a small part of the market. Most people just want their cars and computers to work without thinking about it too much.

In Reason's March 2011 issue, Adam Thierer countered concerns shared by Zittrain and similar internet scholars while addressing "the rise of cybercollectivism."

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  • ||

    Uh, I can write whatever software I want for a Windows Mobile phone, or an Android phone, without approval, and put it out there. What the fuck is old man Zittrain talking about? It's not like you have to use an iPhone/iPad.

    Crotchety old concern troll is crotchety and old and concerned.

  • Tman||

    Free markets and consumer choice, how the fuck does it work?

  • Free market chose Obama||

    People didn't vote with a gun to their head.

  • Colin||

    Unless you want to sell that Android app on Amazon.

  • ||

    Boo hoo. If Amazon wants to make sure it doesn't sell crap or malware, I can't fault them.

  • .||

    You honestly thought you had a point with that "sell it on Amazon" stupidiy?

    REALLY?

  • ||

    Just like back in the good old days, when you couldn't sell PC software at CompUSA without their permission.

  • ||

    Barnes and Noble also got all pissy when I tried to sell my old books at a table in the back of their store.

  • Maxxx||

    +1

  • ||

    Change that I don't approve of, is bad!

    Uh, I can write whatever software I want for a Windows Mobile phone, or an Android phone

    While that was true for WM, Windows Phone 7 marketplace uses the same curated system that Apple does.

  • ||

    I haven't worked on Win Mobile 7, but previous versions of Win Mobile allowed me to install whatever the hell software I want. I just put it on a flash card, popped it in, and ran the installer.

    Is that not the case now? Because moderating their marketplace is not the same thing. You can't install an app on an iPhone without going through the Apple store unless you jailbreak it, as far as I know. But Win Mobile was always totally open.

  • ||

    From what I know, that's the case: you have to go through the Windows Phone Marketplace to publish an app. But, Microsoft's publishing restrictions don't seem anywhere near as jackbooted as Apple's. Go figure. Windows Phone 7 was a ground up rewrite of the OS and WM apps won't run on WP7.

    You can check on XDA Dev about the details and there's no "official" jailbreaking for WP7 yet that I know of. I've seen some stuff about sideloading apps onto WP7, but nothing concrete.

  • ||

    (reposted in correct thread)

    Regarding Windows Marketplace/Store, I am quite annoyed to hear that the store in Win 8 will only support Metro apps, and not traditional desktop apps.

    I want my centralised package management goddamnit!

  • Paul||

    e, I am quite annoyed to hear that the store in Win 8 will only support Metro apps

    Metro apps? What, they all have tasteful blonde hilights?

  • .||

    "From what I know, that's the case"

    What you know is incorrect, there are tools that allow for installation of unapproved apps on winmo7.

  • E.Z.||

    Don't know if there's some kind of 'jailbreak' option for WP7, but you can pay $100 to turn your phone into a 'developer phone' and deploy whatever you want to it.

    MS chose the middle path between the anarchy of Android and the benevolent dictatorship of Apple. Having worked on all three platforms, it's by far my favorite. Better tools, better store submission experience, and their app store has a lot less crap than Google's.

  • Brett||

    Apple did very well with computers in the early 80's but their restrictive policy with their OS and lack of programs quickly gave PC's the edge. Apple dominated the mobile market with the ipod and the iphone but with Palm and Balckberry staying in the game with Windows having better software and with Android dominating the for license OS market Apple may find themselves in trouble.

  • ||

    The thing that is nice about Apple's jackbootedness is the low rate of malware/spyware/viruses you get on their devices.

  • skr||

    But that's just app store approval and that is totally fine. They are creating a trusted source. The dick move is not allowing side loading. Of course you would have to recognize that if you side load apps there is risk involved. That doesn't mean you have to prevent side loading completely.

  • Paul||

    The reason Apple doesn't even allow sideloading is because they're very protective of the "experience". Apple (Jobs) wasn't stupid. He believed that Apple products didn't just provide function, they provided an "experience"-- one of the reasons Apple wasn't gung ho about multi tasking.

    They wanted their phones to be responsive, quick, and smooth.

    If people were allowed to put on anything, at some point, one app would interfere with another or run haywire in the background and the phone would slow down.

    Since 97.586% of all users are tech idiots, they would blame this on "The Phone(tm)" and their experience would Diminish.

    I've never really liked Apple Products, and they've out-microsofted Microsoft in every conceivable way, but I know why they do what they do.

  • ||

    What they mean is cooperative multitasking. Preemptive multitasking eliminates those sorts of problems. AFAIK iOS is still cooperative.

  • Paul||

    AFAIK iOS is still cooperative.

    If my understanding serves me, it is. Applications have to be written to take advantage of the new multitasking model used by iOS. It's 1979 all over again with Apple's OS model.

  • ||

    I don't see that Apple or any other tech company has a responsibility to support the 5% customer case/corner cases.

    The vast majority of iPhone users are either not technically sophisticated enough to side load their own homebrewed apps, or they're contented with the apps available to them commercially through Apple.

    Apple's market share does not seem to have been significantly hurt by their protectionism (they're currently at 28% of the mobile market); hopefully if they see their market share dip, instead of whining to the gub'mint to protect them from their own pigheadedness, they'll shrewdly loosen their app restrictions.

  • ||

    The complaint is not that Apple doesn't support sideloading - its that they take step to prevent it.

    If you look back to the beginning of the Iphone, the app store was a last minute addition in response to all the people who immediately worked to jailbreak their phones to run the software they wanted. The app store was created as a way to control that impulse and make some money off of it.

    And remember that the first Iphone patch bricked phones that were jailbroken. Apple said too bad, since jailbreaking was against the TOS.

  • Skr||

    Exactly, that's why I don't buy the "experience" argument. If only a tiny fraction of people are going to have the impulse to side load, that tiny fraction will be the only ones with a diminished "experience". They are also the very same people that won't blame the machine instead of the software.

  • Paul||

    Jobs was a fanatic about the experience, and he didn't want the tiny fraction doing it. Probably because the tiny fraction would be the very ones blogging and twittering about it.

    You may not buy the "experience" argument, but make no mistake, Jobs believed in this "experience" angle very deeply, and made sure his products followed the guidelines at every step of the process.

    Apple repeatedly knocked Microsoft as being an insecure, unstable platform. And Apple knew the lesson well: Allow users to run anything on the platform, and its stability suffers. In the end, the users blame the platform, not the plethora of questionable apps they've loaded. There was no way Apple was going to become the next Microsoft. And you can see it right there in the business model.

  • ||

    If you have malware on an Android device you're an idiot. You have to approve the level of access to the device that each app gets when you install it.

    If a daily planner app is asking for permission to connect to the Internet and make phone calls, don't download it. Duh.

  • ||

    I have to agree with this. No phone or PDA I've ever owned has ever had malware on it. Even without protection its a simple as being careful of your sources and controlling the level of access.

    There's a ton of cool apps that I would like to use with my Android phone but they want permissions far greater than what the app should need to run. I don't even use the Facebook app anymore since now it wants access to my contact list, ability to send and RCV call and txts, acess to my GPS, etc.

    Shit, asking for all that for a SM app make the app malware in my opinion.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Is that why they are the most valuable tech company in the world, and were switching back and forth with Exxon-Mobil in market cap for a little while? Because they may be in trouble?

  • Jonathan Zittrain||

    Get off my lawn!

  • ||

    It's also nonsense. People are shifting to mobile devices for some purposes but not all. We're loaded for bear in my household, but the PCs still get all sorts of use.

  • Lord Humungus||

    exactly - I have five wi-fi devices - an iPhone, a iTouch (for my son), two netbooks, and a Kindle. Downstairs is my PC - used for mucho speed and the big screen for gaming. My personal netbook is used for writing, MP3 and DVD ripping, etc - and does the majority of 'real work'.

    Really, a smartphone will be enough computer for many users - as long as they can 'net surf, FB, send email, and watch videos of people being kicked in the crotch.

  • ||

    That reminds of something that happened a few days ago. A couple people in front of me in line for breakfast were buying bottled water that was one of those "water plus" products. They were talking to the cashier about what was different about this water when compared to tap water, and they looked at the bottle and said, "This water has electrolytes." I couldn't resist noting that was what Brawno had in Idiocracy.

    The good news is that they both knew what I was talking about right away and laughed. I told them not to pour it on their plants as we went our separate ways.

  • cynical||

    We must protect the benighted Apple users of the world from their own slavish tendencies! It's the Windows/Linux man's burden.

    But I think denying them the franchise would be a more effective solution.

  • Gojira||

    OT:

    Saudi Arabia sentences Australian citizen performing the Hajj to 500 lashes and a year in prison. Australia lodges official protest.

    What's the thoughts on outrageous punishment being meeted out to citizens of other countries if done so in a place that probably has a shitty and corrupt court system (so one cannot reasonably assume that one is guilty simply because the court found him so)?

  • ||

    You goes to a primitive barbarian backwater, you takes your chances?

  • Gojira||

    That was kind of my thought to, but I'm interested in the legal aspects of the case.

  • Gojira||

    *kind of my thought too

  • ||

    Arrested for blasphemy on a pilgrimage to Mecca. I wonder if he was born to the religion or converted. I also wonder who narc'ed on him and what exactly he said about the prophet's family.

  • ||

    "Ix-nay on the pedophili-ay."

  • shut the fuck up||

    "What's the thoughts on outrageous punishment being meeted out to citizens of other countries if done so in a place that probably has a shitty and corrupt court system (so one cannot reasonably assume that one is guilty simply because the court found him so)?"

    That they should get a thread of their own instead of assholishly derailing a totally unrelated thread.

  • Ed||

    Yeah, this is great, but does anybody know where I could find an article about Obama's trip to Kansas?

  • Jimbo||

    I hear he may have given some kind of speech there.

  • ||

    Who?

  • Teddy Roosevelt||

    ¿quién se cree que es?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    What?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Obama. You know...the basketball player.

  • Lord Humungus||

    funny thing - when I see an article with a picture of Tiger Woods, my first thought is 'oh, the president went golfing...'

  • Paul||

    Who?

    Kansas.... K-A-N-S-A-S.

  • T||

    Well, Apple is evil. But I loves my iPhone and iPod. If Windows Mobile for phones hadn't been such an unmitigated bucket of suck and fail when I first tried it, I would still be using it. But MS screwed that pooch so hard it's not even funny. Now that I have an Android device, I may switch phones next upgrade cycle.

    Unfortunately, the iPod wins the MP3 player market simply because of network effects.

  • ||

    Mrs. Dean rocks the Android. The employer she currently graces with her presence supports Apple Iphones and Ipads. The IT Dept. was very interested in her Android phone and tablet. Consensus: slight edge to Android.

    Android's open market for apps should mean that it eclipses the Apple closed market for apps sometime fairly soon.

  • Overt||

    It will eclipse, but the apple market will never die.

    Walled gardens are in demand too, and there is something to be said about someone watching your back. (I say this as one of the biggest Apple PC haters in the world, but one who like the fact that he rarely reboots his iphone compared to friends and family that constantly reboot their androids).

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Yeah. I don't care how a hammer is built nor do I want to build one myself. I just want to pound fucking nails.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Having developed for Apple's app store (iphone) it does suck...but so what. Free fucking advertising, free billing department, free distrobution. Seriously, WTF? Also, jailbreak the damn thing if you want.

    I agree that the iPhone and Apple in general are extremely stable platforms. I have very few problems with any of mine. The only issues I usually have are almost alway Active Directory (pos) and Apple's mail client (not the iphone one).

  • Lord Humungus||

    my experience with smart phones is extremely limited - I put off owning one since I was getting a freebie cellphone from my company.

    Well, they took away the freebie and put me on a stipend. So I went off and got an iPhone. Its an impressive little toy - but that's exactly how I look at it.

  • ||

    I'm rocking a Windows Phone 7 (Dell Venue Pro) and I like it very much. The Dell itself has some issues, which Dell completely screwed the pooch on and won't be getting my money again, but the OS itself is buttery smooth and very easy to use.

    I haven't had too much of an issue with iPhone and Android apps that haven't been ported to WP yet, other than Trapster. The better news is that I'll be able to use it control the Xbox 360 S I just bought as a Xmas present for the kids (Honestly, honey! It's for them!)

    Some of the Android phones are verrrry nice, such as the Galaxy II S and the new Galaxy Nexus. Very tempting to dump Windows Phone and move, but I want to give the platform some time to mature, which has every indication that it will. That and Nokia, who has bet the farm on Windows Phone, will be releasing the Lumia 900 in Q1 2012. That will be a nice phone to have.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Android's open market for apps should mean that it eclipses the Apple closed market for apps sometime fairly soon.

    I wouldn't call that a given... Android is largely a knock-off of iOS. If Apple can continue adding innovative new features to iOS faster than Android can copy them - something they have a history of doing - they can still stay ahead of Android.

    One of the advantages of owning the platform is that you can introduce drastic innovations that break computability with previous releases - a luxury "open" platforms don't have...

  • shut the fuck up||

    "Android is largely a knock-off of iOS. "

    I'M AN APPLE FANBOY WHO MAKES STUPID SHIT UP!!!!

    How does Jobs' cock taste? Like cancer and rot I assume.

  • Realist||

    The majority of new features in the new iOS were cribbed from Android.

    Strange definition of "knock-off" you have there.

  • ||

    Both of you do understand that Android started as a Blackberry clone, and only after the iPhone decided to go for full touchscreen? That's one reason why their UI is so laggy.

  • ||

    They're all just ripping off that computer system that Tom Cruise was using in Minority Report.

    SO INNOVATIVE, NO ONE CAN DO ANYTHING SIMILAR OR THEY'RE RANK COPIERS!

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Unfortunately, the iPod wins the MP3 player market simply because of network effects.

    Well, I do like their cloud service that lets me access anything in my iTunes library from from my iPhone - a feature not to be sneezed at due to the fact that my computer can store much more data locally than my iPhone can. Now if I want to listen to something in my library not currently on my iPhone, I just delete something I'm not currently listening to and download something else.

    iTunes Match.... that one still has a few bugs. Wait for a few more iterations on that one....

  • T||

    iTunes needs to die in a cleansing burst of nuclear fire. There is no reason adding music to your device has to be that complicated. MediaMonkey, FTW!

    By network effects I mean that (conservatively) 80% of the accessories out there for MP3 players are designed for iPods. I muddled along with an iAudio X5 for a few years. It was, hands down, a better piece of equipment, but there were no accessories for it.

  • Paul||

    This. For god's sake, Apple... EM PEE THREES!

  • Invisible Finger||

    With wifi access you don't need ANY files on your iPod, there's software that will stream it to the iPod from your PC.

  • ||

    Android has the exact same thing with Google Music, Google Books, etc.

  • Colin||

    You still need a PC to develop mobile apps, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

    Also, in many spheres, such as the computer graphics industry, mobile devices are nowhere near powerful enough.

    PCs are far from dead.

  • Ice Nine||

    They'll be dead when everyone like me who can't stand to read my internet stuff on a little teeny screen are dead.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    Tablets like this are filling the niche between phone (too small) and PC/laptop (too big, no touchscreen). There's something for everyone.

    For me, I share your hatred of small screens, and I have to have a keyboard. Touchscreen keyboards are like pulling teeth for me. The linked tablet has a docking keyboard, but it's still too small for me, and even with a bunch of cores, its graphics capability is too weak.

    PCs/laptops aren't going away.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    How does anyone write anything of any length on a smaller-than-standard keyboard? I suppose for hunt-and-peckers it doesn't matter.

  • ||

    Phone keyboards are fine for quick replies, but I don't know how anyone tolerates it for more than a couple sentences.

  • Sudden||

    Try the Swype keyboard on Android. It actually makes typing on a touchscreen, even one as small as a phone touchscreen, almost seemlessly like actual typing.

  • SFC B||

    I lose a ton of time having to select and redelete 17 variations of typos of "the" though.

    I wish it would prompt me to add any new words to its dictionary.

  • Warty||

    I got that for my mom for her birthday. It's a nice little device.

  • ||

    I got your mom something too, but it was bigger.

  • Ted S.||

    Herpes is big?

  • ||

    The biggest.

  • Warty||

    I got your mom a sex donkey, but she eated it.

  • FlyoverCountry||

    The transformer is cool - but the sweetest Asus thing is the Slider.

    Full keyboard hides beneath the touch screen and then BAM slide that fucker out and type like a fiend.

  • ||

    Ugggg, driving a manual does not make you a car power user, and driving a slushbox does not mean you just want your car to work without thinking about it.

  • ||

    Jeez, OK, what if he'd said "manually set the spark advance" instead?

  • ||

    What we are seeing is the final failure of the dreams and aspirations of those who drove the personal computer revolution.
    Remember when the rallying cry was 'end user programming'? I do. And I learned quickly that end users weren't interested. They didn't want to program apps, they had work they needed to get done.
    Got myself an awful lot of consulting money from people who enrolled in programming classes, discovered it would be tantamount to a second career, and one with significant delay in producing results the primary career demanded, and hired me to code up the app for them.
    And now we're shifting from 'one cpu (at least) per user' and 'death to the dumb terminal' to cloud computing and 'results on the desktop [from elsewhere].'

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  • Paul||

    Got myself an awful lot of consulting money from people who enrolled in programming classes, discovered it would be tantamount to a second career

    I see you haven't worked with many physicians in your time.

    Oh if I had a nickel for every physician that learned a few tricks in Fox Pro and throught he could write his own billing system... and still thought the results were cool when he was done.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Remember when the rallying cry was 'end user programming'? I do. And I learned quickly that end users weren't interested.

    I'm not interested either, and I'm an ex-programmer doing sysadmin work.

    I have my hands full enough supporting my servers. The last thing I need is to have to write software and admin my laptop as well. As soon as tablets have enough functionality I'll be ditching my laptop, too.

  • ||

    , it's bizarre to imply that (genuine, government) censorship today—in a digital age that allows people to throw websites up and publish information in seconds—is easier than when we just had books and papyrus and the like.

    for example, the guy handing out pamphlets about jury nullification. he shoulda just started a website, tsk tsk tsk.

  • Zeb||

    While I have more or less the same feelings about Apple and iWhatever and other similar closed platforms as this guy, so what? Don't buy it. It is ridiculous to think that PCs are going away. The market is just a lot bigger. I am sure there are more people using PCs (and even hacking and coding) now than ever. But that is not the primary market for computers.

    I don't find it pretty disgusting that what passes for a high school computer literacy class is pretty much how to use Microsoft office, though. If you are going to bother teaching such a class, at least give some idea about how computers and software actually work.

  • ||

    If you are going to bother teaching such a class, at least give some idea about how computers and software actually work.

    First lesson: reboot, reboot, reboot.

  • Zeb||

    "Have you tried turning it off and then on again?"

    "Is it definitely plugged in?"

  • Fluffy||

    And is it really so "extraordinary" that a private company would choose to design its products and offer its services on its own terms?

    That's not the question.

    A private company would be entirely within its free-market rights to offer a kick-ass phone that just so happened to include a clause in its TOS that allowed the company to send a recording of any or all of your calls to the police, and to have the activation of the phone require a positive check-off stipulating that you waived your 4th and 5th amendment rights in all criminal proceedings after the date of activation.

    They would still be dicks.

    It would still be appropriate to hope that they failed.

    It would still be appropriate to say, "Gosh, I wish this company and their products had gone into the shitter, and the market was still dominated by the previous company and its main product."

  • ||

    And it would certainly be appropriate to make sure that everyone was aware of what the company is doing, and its implications, too.

  • ||

    The economist actually just had a debate on whether or not the PC is dead, the consensus was NO it's not.

    For anyone that actually needs to do work, the PC will remain the choice, at least until we get neural nets.

    And for those of us that don't like reading a 3 inch screen, the PC will still remain the choice.

    A phone is great for reading in the shitter. Not so much for running a spreadsheet, writing a paper, or doing something like music production.

    And I really don't like the browse the web on it either.

  • ||

    The economist actually just had a debate on whether or not the PC is dead, the consensus was NO it's not.

    For anyone that actually needs to do work, the PC will remain the choice, at least until we get neural nets.

    And for those of us that don't like reading a 3 inch screen, the PC will still remain the choice.

    A phone is great for reading in the shitter. Not so much for running a spreadsheet, writing a paper, or doing something like music production.

    And I really don't like the browse the web on it either.

  • Veemee Sashimi||

    Was the double post due to a PC or an iPhone?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    “The PC is dead,” declared Harvard law and computer science professor Jonathan Zittrain...who, obviously, has never played a video game in his life.

  • ^^Gojira||

    That's exactly what I was thinking. Game developers are pushing the max all the time on graphics cards and processors for full pcs - phones and tablets simply can't compete.

  • Sparky||

    Many people with this view feel consoles are going to take away the gaming industry from PCs. I don't agree in any way, that's just what I've heard.

  • ||

    I think that there may be a convergence. There already is.

    The categories "PC", "TV", "Game Console", "Tablet", "Cell Phone", "DVD Player", etc. are already blurring. New categories may emerge.

  • Trespassers W||

    You're speaking, of course, of the PVD, the tabsole, the TVablet, and the DVD player that fits in your briefcase and lets you send texts.

  • cynical||

    Not unless they actually get off their asses and release a new generation. Hell, the next Nintendo console is rumored to be more powerful than the PS3 or 360. And it's not like good gaming PCs are a billion dollars. We had to replace my wife's laptop recently after the old one croaked; for around $850, we got something that plays Skyrim just fine on high settings. Considering that even a non-gaming laptop is a few hundred, the marginal cost of gaming capabilities is about the same as a console, and the hardware is much better. Plus you get mods and user fixes, and the games are usually much cheaper provided that you wait a few months for a Steam sale.

    Of course, even if the hardware catches up, there are still some things a controller sucks at. What they really need is a console controller that co-opts the benefits of mouse and keyboard. Maybe replace one analog stick with a trackball, replace a trigger with a scroll wheel, and add a small touchscreen that can display hotkeys, information, or a keyboard depending on context.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    And I don't think the traditional desktop experience is going away until OLEDs are cheap and abundant. Then my computer can be rolled up like a cigar and taken everywhere...boy I can't wait.

    WHERE IS MY FLYING CAR?

  • ||

    Besides you need the PC to run good strategy games..

  • Sparky||

    QFT

  • ||

    Why is Harvard so good at publicizing the wrong ideas of stupid people?

  • ||

    I refer you to the Iron Law:

    You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

    The ideas may be wrong, but they are what lots of people want to hear. Those people reward Harvard.

  • ||

    RC you reference these Iron Laws a lot. Is there perchance a list of them somewhere I could peruse?

  • ||

    They are all tattooed on his penis. He will be happy to send you a 1200 dpi .tif.

  • ||

    My email will reject any email with attachments larger than 10 mB, so bear that in mind.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The Lawz are stated here on several occasions. Google foo or reason foo will help but my skills are weak.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    WOW look at me go! (Here they are)

  • Cliché Bandit||

    My favorite is number 7

  • Matrix||

    own a MBP, iPhone 4, iPad 2, newer iPod nano, and Airport Timecapsule. While I do have some problems with Apple, they have been pretty consitent with quality. I haven't abandoned Windows. I do have a desktop PC I use for gaming and ripping blu-ray movies.

    Tablets may do away with netbooks, but they will not do away with more powerful laptops or even desktops. Tablets and phones cannot compete with the functionality of laptops and desktops.

  • ||

    Regarding Windows Marketplace/Store, I am quite annoyed to hear that the store in Win 8 will only support Metro apps, and not traditional desktop apps.

    I want my centralised package management goddamnit!

  • NotSure||

    One has more choice than apple last time I checked. I personally believe that android will dominate, which is an open platform. This professor probably wrote his article and not not a tiny little phone, which proves him wrong.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would agree that general consumers are much more likely to replace their PC's with Tablets and Smartphones. Businesses will still be purchasing them for years to come though. Many hobbyist as well like gamers, photoshoppers, etc, etc.

  • Matrix||

    which will suck for hobbyists because innovation will likely slow and prices will significantly increase.

  • ||

    I lament the decline of the PC and rise of the mobile too. But NOT becaue of Microsoft, or Apple, or Google, or anything like that.

    I greatly lament that the market prefers tiny 3" inch screens rather than 20"+ desktop monitors.

  • ||

    They're totally different products. I don't think there's a point in saying the market "prefers" one over the other.

  • BoscoH||

    You try sticking 20" in your pocket.

    Signed,

    Tommy Lee

  • cynical||

    Ideally, VRDs will eliminate the need to choose between visual area and mobility within a decade or so. Some companies are already working on them, and the required technologies already more or less exist.

    And then Neal Stephenson will vindicated yet again.

  • chris||

    “The PC is dead,” declared Harvard law and computer science professor Jonathan Zittrain last week in the MIT Technology Review.

    Harvard guy says invest in Apple, invest in Dell. Harvard guy says expect sunshine, take a raincoat.

  • kinnath||

    Off-topic but amusing -- Gingrich should emulate Ron Swanson.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bro.....anson.html

    Can't forget the obligatory dissing of Ron Paul:

    Of the current crop of presidential hopefuls, only Ron Paul shares the strict libertarian politics of Swanson. But Paul lacks the understated charm and air of paternal wisdom.

  • chris||

    But Paul lacks the understated charm and air of paternal wisdom.

    'cause nothing is more important in politics than making the voters feel like a happy little sheeple being baby talked to death.

  • ||

    'cause nothing is more important in politics than making the voters feel like a happy little sheeple being baby talked to death.

    True. Not sarcastically.

  • ||

    From the comments:

    Jeff Lincoln
    The BBC is fuc king in hell.
    1 Hour Ago from slate.com · Reply

    Wha?

  • kinnath||

    I never read the comments at Slate. I will occasionally read the comments at Salon for the humor factor.

  • Wesley||

    The Republican candidate with a mustasche just suspended his campaign over "untrue" allegations of sex.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "Apple does operate its app store under relatively strict terms—a practice that may make getting an app approved a relatively onerous and lengthy process"

    Or, if you make fun of Jack Nicholson, an impossible one.

    http://avanneman.blogspot.com/.....ntive.html

    Also, no tits allowed.

    http://avanneman.blogspot.com/.....rules.html

  • ||

    Nice try, Anal "Blogwhore" Vanneman.

  • Pip||

    Don't forget to wipe your ass when you've finished shitting, Vanneman

  • Zeb||

    The no tits rule really seems like a dumb business decision. Isn't like half the internet still porn?

  • ||

    Every iPhone and iPad comes with a web browser. There's porn if you want it, just not in the App Store.

  • The Angry RPh||

    "...one of Microsoft’s antitrust sins of the 1990s was ensuring an Internet Explorer icon appeared on every PC desktop that shipped with a Windows operating system...."

    IIRC wasn't Microsoft's biggest transgression the failure to pay enough tribute to the Beltway Pirates? Now they have a large lobbying operation. Presto! No more lawsuits.

  • ||

    Blago just got 14 years.

  • ||

    I hope they give him extra time for stapling a dead cat to his head. That is just something a civil society should not tolerate.

  • ||

    Poop poop poop. Poop poop poop poop poop poop poop poop. Poop poop poop poop poop? Poop poop poop poop poop!

  • ||

    +1 to me. If you're gonna spoof, don't use my e-mail address, asshole.

  • ||

    Which is the spoof? I really can't tell!

  • ||

    Poop poop poop poop poop poop. Poop poop poop poop poop poop poop poop poop poop poop . Poop poop poop. Poop poop poop poop poop poop?!

  • ||

    Which is the spoof? I really can't tell!

    :-(

  • ||

    If you're going to have a conversation with yourself, at least space out the posts a few minutes so that it isn't obvious. Retard.

  • Warty||

    I'd be more offended that the griefer put so little effort into it than anything else. You deserve better mockery, sloopy.

  • ||

    See, that's what I was thinking. Epi gets multiple paragraphs and I'm stuck with Poop x 20? In a fair world, trolls would be forced to spread their trolling equally so the under-trolled could get ahead.

  • Warty||

    YOU ARE THE 99% POOP

  • Cliché Bandit||

    i'm never trolled

    *sniffle, hangs head*

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, there seems to have been a spate of spoofs with real email addresses lately. Lame.

  • PantsFan||

    Shit. Harry Morgan died.

  • Pip||

    Guess he took Blago's sentencing really, really hard.

  • ||

    Who was better in MASH: Colonel Potter or Colonel Blake? I may get ridiculed, but I liked Potter better.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I liked both.

  • Zeb||

    I liked Potter better too. I actually like Winchester too. But I liked the show better when Blake was there.

    I'm kind of amazed the Harry Morgan was still alive.

  • PantsFan||

    The show was good until Alda got preachy.

  • PantsFan||

    The show was good until Alda got preachy.

  • Just Sayin||

    Episode #2?

  • BoscoH||

    It's very fair to point out the difference in interest and treatment by regulators of Microsoft circa 1995 and Apple circa 2010. Zittrain is spot on that there is a very different standard at play. He is also spot on that the Apple model is not really in the interest of anyone other than Apple.

    That doesn't have to be a call for regulation. It could be a call for consumers to make themselves aware of the issue and buy accordingly. One thing I remember back in the mid-1990s was that as Microsoft began dominating, a distrust and backlash also developed. In Apple's case now, things would be best if the same kind of backlash developed and could temper the company's sense that it does everything best. Because Apple does not do everything best.

    One other thing to keep in mind here is that on the legal front with its IP, Apple is being damned aggressive. It has disrupted a "mutually assured destruction" balance that kept legal peace in Silicon Valley for a long time. It is trying to assert rights in things it cannot own (such as "the tablet") with a death by 1000 cuts with obscure software patents that are questionable on many levels. They make pretty products, but they are not a good corporate citizen in their space.

  • ||

    It has disrupted a "mutually assured destruction" balance that kept legal peace in Silicon Valley for a long time. It is trying to assert rights in things it cannot own (such as "the tablet") with a death by 1000 cuts with obscure software patents that are questionable on many levels.

    This. Apple's ridiculous patent lawsuits alone are enough reason to want to see them get cut down a peg or two.

  • kinnath||

    My feature phone is on its last legs, so I have been contemplating a move up in the world to a smart phone. But I can't convince myself that it would be of any value to me. I'm a boring guy in his mid-50's. I use a grand total of about 10 minutes a month in cell time. I really only carry a cell phone so my wife can call me to ask me why I'm late or so my daugther can call me to ask for money.

    So, good friends in the H&R commentariat, why should I buy a smart phone?

  • Warty||

    If you like looking at porn while you're shitting, go for it. Otherwise it's not worth it.

  • kinnath||

    Thanks

  • ||

    If you like looking at porn while you're shitting, go for it.

    Um, iPad. Hello?

  • ||

    If you are using minutes a month, get a pay as you go phone. Way way way cheaper.

  • kinnath||

    My wife uses enough minutes on her phone to justify the contract (a least she did 3 years ago). Getting two phones on one contract is better that getting one on contract and one on pay as you go.

  • PantsFan||

    I still have a flip phone.

  • kinnath||

    I have a flip phone. My wife's flip phone has the battery taped in place. These phones are nearly shot. We will probably get new ones this weekend.

  • ||

    Are you gonna get a smartphone when they start setting up towers for them in Manitooooba?

  • ||

    My smart phone exists for email and killing time when I'm stuck somewhere. The Netflix app is a supreme boredom killer.

    Keep in mind that you'll be paying $20+/month for a data plan to go with that phone you'll barely use.

  • kinnath||

    I have already noted that. So that the underlying question is whether I would suddenly find the smartphone so compelling as to justify the data plan.

  • ||

    So you can surf the net at work without your employer knowing what you're doing.

    (not that I would know anything about that)

  • kinnath||

    Noted

  • ||

    I use roughly the same amount of minutes a month and am at a computer the vast majority of a day so I use Walmart's prepaid. I paid $30 for my phone, it costs $35 a month with tax, no contract. It uses Verizon's network, so the reception is good.

  • kinnath||

    We use a small regional carrier in Iowa. Our contract committment was filled a year and a half ago. We pay $60 a month for 2 phones and 10 times more minutes than we use. The most likely solution for us is to just buy two new, cheap feature phones and keep our current plan unchanged.

    The only time I've wanted a smart phone in the last year was when I was standing under a tree in the rain on the golf course. It would have been nice to see the local radar.

  • FlyoverCountry||

    kinnath - I was the same way you were before I got my android. I wanted access to work email (so I could stay home more) weather on the go and google maps (since I never got a GPS for the ride).

    I've found that I use those features more than enough to compensate for the extra charges and, since I'm in a commissions-based industry, having access to the market on the golf course has helped me land 2 deals, which basically covered the data plan cost for two years.

    Plus, my wife can happily watch Grey's Anatomy at home, and I can sit on the couch with her and play angry birds... Happier wife, happier life.

  • FlyoverCountry||

    Edit: Read 'android' as Droid X

  • Zeb||

    Don't.

    But I'm probably not the person to ask. I don't have a cell phone at all. Doesn't work at my house, so I can't replace the land line, and honestly the last thing I want is for people to be able to call me wherever I am. About twice a year I sort of wish I had one.

  • Butts Wagner||

    The airhorn apps are hilarious!!!

  • ||

    GPS is great for finding your way around. Read restaurant reviews when you want to eat in an unfamiliar area. Use the web browser to answer those little questions that often come up ("Who was that guy in that movie...?"), get your email when away from your desk, etc.

  • Realist||

    This is fucking stupid.

    It doesn't stop being a PC because you change the interface from a keyboard and mouse to a touch screen, and lock down the apps.

    Tablets are PCs. Smartphones are PCs.

  • ||

    Flatscreen TVs are PCs. Washing machines are PCs. Microwave ovens are PCs.

  • kinnath||

    My 14-year-old Maytag is not a PC. It will probably last longer than I do, so I doubt that I will ever have to deal with a smartwasher.

  • thank you||

    For totally failing to refute the point in any way whatsoever.

    Why do you bother posting.

  • ||

    Locking the apps pretty much makes it the unpc . The primary difference between the PC and app,ple started when PC opened up its architecture, allowing clones... And apple didn't. It all cascaded from there. Artsy fartsy and liberals tend to love apple , but south park is produced on them, so they can't be THAT bad.

    If you lock down a PC, it aint a PC

    The defining difference between PC gamers and console players has always been the open to mods and free content (think doom) nature of them vs. the self contained nature of consoles... Dating back to the plug in a cartridge era of the old Ataris.

    Sure, that is morphing a bit, but consoles are still for those who want to turn it on and go, and pc's which have lot massive market share in gaming to consoles, are about tweaking the ini files, running mods, etc

    Apple has always been massively controlling and closed. PC, even though began by te evil empires of IBM and Microsoft, are defined by beng open

  • Zeb||

    Apple IIs and Macs are PCs too. I'd say it's not the open architecture but the open platform that makes it a PC. But an iPhone or iPad I certainly wouldn't call a PC. It may have the necessary hardware to be a PC, but the product isn't.

  • ||

    And one result of this is that Apple has always had a superior user experience over Windows. Yes, you can build your own PC and (maybe) save some money, but getting (say) your chosen graphics card to work with your sound card and CPU and applications may be a pain in the ass.

  • ||

    depends how you define superior. imo, the individualistic aspects of the PC far outweigh the drawbacks. so, for ME and many other PC users, the experience is definitely superior for us.

    ymmv

  • ||

    Apple does operate its app store under relatively strict terms—a practice that may make getting an app approved a relatively onerous and lengthy process but has benefits like keeping malware out of its software offerings.

    Uh, the link the author of this post offered for this claim actually goes to a story about a guy who successfully got malware into the App Store. Oops.

    Apple's process for vetting apps in the App Store has more to do with "look and feel" and not competing with an Apple product than malware detection.

  • Trespassers W||

    Harvard law and computer science professor

    Honestly, I kind of zoned out at that point.

  • Patrick Ewing||

    Couldn't get in to MIT.

  • protefeed||

    So, by Apple choosing to decide what apps get put on their devices, and giving consumers one more choice to how to communicate, this is somehow restricting our choices?

    This is retarded.

    I'm typing this on an Apple iMac, BTW, and enjoying the virus-free operation and the lovely Pandora music coming out of the speakers.

  • Zeb||

    Well, macs are really the exception with Apple products. I use a Mac as well, but I'll never buy any iCrap.

  • ||

    Macs aren't inherently virus free, they're just such a small market share that it's not profitable to hack them. And they're not virus-free in practice either, as we found out from the Mac Defender fiasco this year.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    My phone has a rotary dial, a coiled cord, and is avocado green, the way God intended.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Trimline 265 in Olive? Nice!
    Damn near unbreakable.

  • protefeed||

    Ron Swanson would be proud of you.

  • Zeb||

    Mine too. Seriously. (Though I did break down and buy an answering machine and a cordless phone last year.)

  • Matrix||

    So you finally made it to 1990?

  • Zeb||

    Just barely. I'm no Luddite. I make robots, for fuck's sake. I'm just highly selective in my technology adoption.

  • I||

    I was still using my 80s-era answering machine with the 90-minute cassette tapes as late as last March. I saved the old message tapes, too. Got drunk one day and listened to them. Hilarious! And sad. Dead people on them, long-lost friends, parents soon-to-be-dead...how long do cell phone voice mails last?

  • Meister574||

    Apparently, this guy has never heard of Android. Yes, as a single device the iphone outsells any other smartphone. But Android phones as a whole outsell iphones 2 to 1. Android has a more open architecture. Microsoft is sort of DOA in this space.
    I personally do not like the iphone. I have never liked any of Apple's operating systems. But that is a personal choice. A lot of people like "it's Apple's way or no way". If they don't, they get an Android device.

  • ||

    First, apps are moving to the "cloud". This is not new. I remember the idea of "network computers" back in the mid 1990s. Now they are becoming real.

    Two, there is a platform independent, network based application development and deployment environment, HTML5, which is getting all of the press. HTML5 based applications allow developers to bypass Apple's closed appstore. Financial Times has already done this. This idea also is not new. We had this idea with Java and Flash on the PC (nobody ever had to download a "YouTube media player"). HTML5 seems to be the preferred environment for web enabled mobile devices.

    What the closed system like Apple provides is a very stable configuration for those HTML5 programmers to target. This is not new either. As Microsoft became the dominant application vendor for its own operating system, other ISVs could leverage Microsoft application modules such as the HTML rendering engine in Internet Explorer.

  • ||

    You people can't leave out new leaps in technology. Just yesterday computers were large-building sized.

  • PP-l||

    Something that just amazes me is that the amount of hard drive storage I own today is very likely a significant fraction of the capacity which existed in the whole world at the time when I first started working with computers (early 70s).

  • Mr. Mark||

    I bought a tablet so I could write Android apps. (Need to get familiar with using one in order to understand the user experience, and as a test-bed outside of the emulator)

    Tablets are gimmicks.

    They're toys.

    For the non-technical, non-IT, non-writing consumer, they might be okay.

    But for people who make stuff (software, documents, information), tablets are lame.

    So, the PC might be dead for the "OMG Jersey Shore last season! J-Lo has a baby-bump!" crowd, the PC is by no means dead in the world of productivity.

  • Nike Dunk Shoes||

    thanks

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