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The Greatest Battle of the Personal Computing Revolution Lies Ahead

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the google-vs-google dept.

Editorial 291

As tablets and computer-phones flood the market, the headlines read: "The Personal Computer is Dying." But they are only half true: an artifact of the PC is dying, but the essence of the PC revolution is closer to realization than ever before, while also being closer to loss than ever before.

Certainly one way to define the Personal Computer stems from the era of the IBM PC: a gray box with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard (or a laptop). But the idea of the Personal Computer dates back quite a while — back to Alan Kay's Dynabook, the Lisp Machine, etc.

The Apple Knowledge Navigator provided a vision of personal computing far more dynamic than that dull gray box. Although still a pale comparison, tablet and phone platforms are beginning to look awfully similar.

The essence of those pre-PC Personal Computers was that of the user controlling the device. You control the data, you control the software; the Personal Computer is a uniquely personal artifact that the user adapts to his own working style. One consequence of this is that creating is as easy (perhaps easier) as consuming content. Another nice side effect is that your data remains private by virtue of local storage.

In many ways, then, a tablet or phone comes significantly closer to a personal computer than that dull gray box under your desk. For example, on Android, the screen ceases to be a place to throw icons and becomes a rich canvas of widgets. Additionally, my phone fits into my pocket and is always there. Ubiquitous cellular coverage gives me access to my data from most anywhere. The touchscreen and interface conventions make direct manipulation shine in a way you just can't get from a screen two feet away on a desk.

And, those are just superficial improvements over the desktop. Albeit tied to proprietary services, Google's voice search and Siri are inching closer to the dream of personal Intelligent Agents reminding us all that our mothers called us earlier today and want us to pick up the birthday cake for the surprise party With a few taps I can search basically all of my data, not to mention the collective knowledge of mankind.

But the software running on these devices has a dark side. Want to access your music collection the go? You have to get it from Google Play. Want to have lightweight instant messaging? You have to use GTalk. Or take ebook readers (certainly personal devices): that book you just downloaded to your Kindle is DRMed and stuck there! That intelligent agent? Apple records everything you bark at her and can take her away at a moment's notice.

Furthermore, the software on these devices is geared almost exclusively toward content consumption. You can listen to music all day long, but don't try multi-track recording. That ebook reader is great for reading, but you can't scratch notes in the margins of any of your books or sit down with one and scrawl out your latest manuscript. Clearly, some of this is from the youth of these new systems, but it is distressing to see them geared first toward consumption (the Newton, for example, was geared from the start as a device for creation).

The "cloud" as implemented by Amazon, Google, Apple, et al. is a distinct threat to the personal computer. Loss of control over our own data is perhaps the worst part of the cloud. We're easily seduced by genuinely useful features like access to our contacts and music from any device without having to manually sync anything. It's certainly more convenient to purchase a digital movie on Amazon Prime than to hunt down a DVD, and Netflix is definitely nicer for most people than cable television. But when you buy a movie on Amazon, you don't really own it.

Underlying many of these cloud services (especially media-related ones) is Digital Restrictions Management. Whether it be the files themselves or the protocol used to transmit data, DRM is used to control what you can do with your data, restricting even what programs you can use to interact with seemingly neutral files. Worse, networked DRM services can and have led to lost data when it is no longer profitable for the company to run the verification servers.

The only copying that DRM discourages effectively is the sneakernet. And, given that the sneakernet has existed since recordable media has existed, it doesn't seem like the sneakernet is really much of a threat to creative business. I might lend a friend a CD (or even let her copy a few files), but just as I don't unwrap that CD and torrent it through The Pirate Bay, I'm not going to download a movie from Amazon and do the same. There's really no incentive to do so, for most people — most people pirate because that's what you have to do to get the media you want, not because you have a compulsive desire to share things with your closest 10,000 friends.

In order to prevent what is effectively sharing between actual friends, pushers of DRM-infected data want us to completely cede control of our own data!

And they have made people accept it: Steam, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are wildly popular. All of those services are great ideas, but all of them treat you as if you were a criminal.

Worse yet, the spread of Software-as-a-Service is returning us to the bad old days: that powerful PC in your pocket is quickly becoming no more than a glorified terminal. The open peer-to-peer network is being subverted from an enabler of collaboration never before seen into yet another scheme to tether users to proprietary, centralized services. And, as SaaS expands, privacy recedes. No longer is it implicit that your documents are yours alone; now you write and store things using Google Docs and have no expectation of privacy (legally), despite expecting privacy. Amazon knows what you read; Netflix knows what you watch; Google knows what you visit.

Control over the programs you run, and more importantly can write, is key to a personal computer being personal. And it seems absurd that that right might be taken away, but behold: the iPhone and soon Mac Store are these mythical walled gardens. You have to subvert your device to gain real control! And the natural path for Apple is to restrict Macs similarly to iOS devices.

And so we are all-too-near an Orwellian nightmare where vendors dictate what we can do with and how we can use our own data.

But what about the hardware itself? It could be argued that a device isn't really personal for some set of people if they can't change all of the software. Here too we see some promise, and some pitfalls.

The shift to tablet and phone hardware has meant a shift from x86 machines running PC BIOS to thousands of ARM boards, each with its own peculiar way of being programmed. Things you take for granted on x86, like being able to even boot, require custom code. And let's not even begin talking about all of the DSPs and co-processors. Vendors aren't always forthcoming with documentation for their boards, and, even worse, those that do port Linux to their hardware often blatantly violate the GPL and do not distribute kernel sources. This restricts the utility of perfectly fine hardware: often to the detriment of the user and to the benefit of the manufacturer.

Anyone who finds they can't upgrade to the latest version of Android because their vendor won't support it, and the community cannot support it because of non-free drivers, knows what losing control over their hardware is like (RIP HTC Dream).

It might seem like a minor setback ("I guess I have to buy a new phone"), but the lack of specifications or support marginalizes alternative operating systems. There's Meego, Tizen, Open webOS, Firefox OS, SHR, etc., but experimenting with them on your device is a non-starter. Imagine if the x86 were so closed (something we may not have to only imagine much longer): it is doubtful that GNU/Linux or the multitude "alternative" OSes would exist (Atheos, Haiku, L4Linux, even the Hurd). Ever more closed hardware is putting us into a position where two or three companies will dictate everything about the computing experience going forward, with no room for freethinking tinkerers to revolutionize how we interact with our devices.

We are staring at a bleak future, and living in a bleak present in some ways. But there is hope for the battle to be won by the Personal Computer instead of the Terminal.

The Internet is not yet merely glorified cable television. Hypertext, email, instant messaging, trivial file transfer, etc. have revolutionized how mankind communicates (understatement of the decade). Once upon a time the dream was that everyone would be a first-class netizen: your IP was publicly routeable and with a bit of know-how you had a server. Instead, thanks to grossly asymmetric pipes and heavy NATing, it is rare for any individual to run their own servers. Instead we turn to Google, Amazon, et al and cede control over our data.

But now broadband connections are spreading fast (I've gone from 100Kbit/s to 2Mbit/s upstream in three years just with basic service), IPv6 is really here, and software is being written to challenge the centralized "cloud" model being pushed on us from above.

We've had a few victories already: SMTP is still in use, XMPP is the dominant chat protocol (and IRC refuses to die), RSS/Atom aggregation decentralizes news, and the core network protocols are developed in the open.

But Google still controls Android, and myriad services control your data. Part of this is because they have easy client and server interfaces; sure you could run gallery2 and Wordpress on your own server, but I can just snap a photo on my phone and it's up on Facebook 40 seconds later (well, if their app worked, it would be).

Luckily, there are people working on making easy to use "cloud" services. In particular, ownCloud. ownCloud provides a framework for hosting and syncing data between your devices and sharing data with others. The important part is not so much the central server, but the clients they are writing. Eventually, it should be possible to e.g. replace the Google contact/mail/calendar sync and Google Drive, while adding these features to the desktop. Integration in KDE is already underway.

Imagine, instead of being tied to Google you could move the central server to the hosting provider of your wish (or pack up your data and move it to greener pastures if you're not running your own). And, perhaps more subtle (but the real liberation): Your data would be freely movable between all operating systems (interesting that you have to go through hoops to sync your GMail contacts with anything else, and Abandon All Hope Ye who wants to share between an Apple device and anything else). Additionally, the server is designed to respect your privacy (you can e.g. only store encrypted data server-side).

On the hardware side, projects like Firefox OS are very important: having a "mobile" Free Software OS developed in the open might be essential when the dominant open platforms are developed monolithically by corporations with no interest in protecting user control of data.

And then for developing the next generation of devices, folks like Rhombus Tech are pushing for the development of interchangeable CPU boards for embedded devices, and the FSF is expanding their focus to include open hardware.

There are two serious threats that would undermine any resistance: IPv4 exhaustion and draconian content policing. The former issue is technical and likely to solve itself: in the long run multi-level NAT would be too costly, switching hardware will be replaced as it is obsoleted, etc. The latter is political and represents the most serious threat of all. If we cannot communicate freely and the pipes are owned by the very organizations whose business interests will be harmed... we've already seen how brazen the current IP regime can be, and it will take vigilance on the part of many to prevent them from having their way.

Where will we be in ten years? If Google, Amazon, Apple, and Old Media get their way, in a new dark age of computing. Certainly, you'll have a fancy tablet and access to infinite entertainment. But you will own nothing. Sharing data will be controlled by a chosen few entities, the programs you can run or write will be limited in the name of security, and privacy will be dead.

History shows that personal computing survived despite Apple and Microsoft in the 80s and 90s. So, I'm hopeful that other forces will win: the forces of Free Culture and Free Software. If they succeed (or are at least not crushed), the future is much brighter: most content will be available DRM-free, users will control their computing environments, and the egalitarian promise of the Internet will be realized (in no small part thanks to IPv6).

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The PC is dying claims are made every few years. (4, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | about 2 years ago | (#41753207)

Remember when the Palm Pilot and Apple Newton heralded the "end of the PC era"?

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753545)

Not to mention the fact that with a PC I can still work offline, then upload the changes to a server IF I want to. Tablets and mobiles are taking choice out of the equation and adding vendor lock-in.

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 2 years ago | (#41754269)

I don't know... I was reading somewhere when I got my Nexus 7 about setting up my own personal cloud storage with my own server and stuff like that. Perhaps it's doubtful other people would be inclined to do something like that, but perhaps they would in light of current personal data concerns.

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#41753657)

The Palm Pilot and Apple Newton never achieved the success the iPad has or the iPhone.

The problem with comparing the Past Systems was the fact they while they look similar, that new feature of multi-touch is the real game player.
Before we needed to use a stylus or one finger to just push a button on the screen. Doing things such as zooming in was very clumsy. The simple feature of the pinch zoom is a massive game changers. During Newton and Palm Pilot Hayday. PC's were in a get a really big display phase. 17" - 19" - 21" get as big of a CRT that can fit on your desk. Why? because you had so much information, you wanted to view but smaller screens didn't have the resolution or were too small to see it. For the most part on the screen we only focus on a couple square inches on it at any moment. But using the mouse to scroll and zooming was choppy, made it so you need to use a desktop if you want to get real work done. With multi-touch you can see scroll and zoom much faster and naturally then before.

The next problem during the Palm Era. Was we didn't have too many good enough CPU's to do the job. During the Pentium 2 Era. your Palm Pilot had the power of an 8088 (10 year gap). Today We are closer to a 5 year gap, and our need for personal processing power has diminished. We can play a movie in High Definition on our phone and it will run smoothly. Programs are responsive and quick. While not as fast as the desktop, we are by no means suffering.

The third problem was network infrastructure. The old devices you needed to sync with a PC. Today they are self updating and work by themselves without the need for the PC. And they have wireless internet that means it is actually handy if you want to look up something.

The fourth problem was culture. Technology gadgets were not cool back in the late 90's. You would have been a major nerd or geek in the negative term if you were caught using one. Cell phones getting smaller and cheaper means more popular people were getting the technology thus allowing more high tech to be more common across the "normals".

We had a bunch of horseless carriages designed before the Model-T too.

It just needed the right situation to get them to kick off.

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41754085)

But the reason Palm wasn't the end of the PC era is the same as the reason The Tablet (you seem to like apple) wont be either. They are toys. While the PC can be used for entertainment, its primary purpose is as a tool. While I'm sure there are use cases you can come up with where a tablet can be used as a tool... there were for Palms as well, the fact of the matter is, real work is done on PCs. And will continue to be done that way for a the foreseeable future. Will desktop PCs go away? Eventually... but that would require a better interface. Tablets have an inferior interface. So eventually Full VR with thought based interaction. Granted, that's likely less than 20 years off... but tablets are not going to kill the PC market. They will however kill entertainment device markets... GPS, DVD players, MP3 players... etc...

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (1)

filthpickle (1199927) | about 2 years ago | (#41754185)

But I see people in meetings at work all the time with tablets in pretty cases furiously typing into them(they are all ipads here).......are you saying that those are just toys and those people are doing any real work?

Wait a second.....where do you work?

Just because it was wrong in the past.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753743)

Remember when the Palm Pilot and Apple Newton heralded the "end of the PC era"?

Remember when it was said that:

Man cannot fly.

Nothing will come of the automobile.

If man goes over 30mph, he will die.

The PC is just a fad.

And there's more that I can't remember off of the top of my head.

Just because folks were wrong about something in the past doesn't mean they'll be wrong in the future.

I'm seeing more and more people who just use a smartphone and a tablet for all of their computing needs. Frankly, the only reason I'm still on desktop/laptops is because they're still working fine and I'm too cheap to switch. But as soon as these things die, I'm going tablet/smartphone.

A desktop/workstation is just too much computing power for my needs and takes up too much space and energy.

Re:The PC is dying claims are made every few years (2)

tatman (1076111) | about 2 years ago | (#41754219)

Those were great products just too ahead of their time. This go around, I think they may be right. The market is different, costs and benefits are more inline and the general population is much more savy than when those devices came out (especially newton).

Walled gardens... (4, Informative)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#41753209)

Great for alzheimer's patients, criminals, and little kids. Not great for free adults.

Re:Walled gardens... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753519)

Great for alzheimer's patients, criminals, and little kids. Not great for free adults.

you forgot old people. they like to show off the great wisdom that comes with age and lots of life experience ... by asking really obvious questions they are more than capable of answering on their own. they have to bug the employee about where something is that is right in front of them but they can spot a nametag 1000 yards away in the dark. that is why they demand special respect.

see they need lots of handholding so they can vote themselves into our wallets some more and really make sure they bankrup their grandchildren good. cause aarp said it was a good idea to be the first generation to fuck over their descendents. so anyway that is why they need walled gardens too. with viagra. lots of viagra. that taxpayers get to pay for. even though those over 55 are the single wealthiest demographic in the nation. special respect!

Re:Walled gardens... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753697)

Did you stop taking your meds again?

Re:Walled gardens... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41753527)

It's great for power hungry CEOs as well...

Re:Walled gardens... (1)

IAmR007 (2539972) | about 2 years ago | (#41753753)

The whole idea of PCs started as a way to get away from walled gardens. It seems Microsoft, et al. have forgotten that the very reason for their existence is that people want more freedom than what you get from a rented terminal client. Cloud computing would be a different story if people needed more computing power than what they could reasonably afford to own in full; however, the exact opposite is the case.

Re:Walled gardens... (2)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#41754039)

The problem is that virus writers are coming out with 100,000 plus variants each day. The IT industry is coming to a point where a white-list of permitted applications vs. a black-list of malware is going to be the only way to download safe software. Then the malware battle will shift over to application plugins just like web-browsers.

Re:Walled gardens... (3, Interesting)

ErikTheRed (162431) | about 2 years ago | (#41754095)

Also good for people who value their time (not having to worry so much about fraud and malware, research, etc.) more than their ability to do things with a device that they would never bother doing anyway.

It's perfectly fine for tinkerers on Slashdot to have the opposite preference and express it verbally and in the market with their purchases, but to presume that their preference - which is shared by an extremely small minority of people - is ideal for everyone else is a bit silly. I fully support people who want to tinker - I used to be that way myself. But as I've gotten older my interests have shifted and I simply don't want to spend my very limited time on vetting everything that goes into my mobile device, and the limitations imposed by the "walled garden" don't really affect my interests. It's a simple trade-off.

Re:Walled gardens... (4, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#41754295)

I agree with you here. But I think that Android has reached a better balance between walled garden, and letting the user run whatever they want. I like that I can easily go and buy apps for my phone from a reliable source. But I also like that I have the option to install third party software, or develop my own software. I realize that for most people, you can't have it both ways. Give them an inch, and they will take a mile. Give them the ability to install software from unknown sources, and they will install all kinds of crap software which will wreak havoc on their system. The only thing to really stop most users from doing this is to outright refuse to run software from unknown sources.

Re:Walled gardens... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41754167)

Great for alzheimer's patients, criminals, and little kids. Not great for free adults.

So long as the alzheimer's patients, criminals, and little kids are in the majority then the free adults aren't going to get what they want.

Re:Walled gardens... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754215)

Also great for the 99% of the population that doesn't read Slashdot and Gizmodo. Most people really and truly don't care.

OT - Re:Walled gardens... (1)

tatman (1076111) | about 2 years ago | (#41754229)

I love your signature line.

RTFA (5, Funny)

l810c (551591) | about 2 years ago | (#41753235)

Do you really expect us to read all of that?

Re:RTFA (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753307)

LOL heaven forbid an article be more than a snippet and someone express a full thought rather than a catch fraise

Re:RTFA (2, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41753309)

TL;DR: more predictions of locked down devices, death of personal computing. Same predictions that have been made for decades now. Keeps not happening, because DRM doesn't work, and locked down devices don't do what people who actually use them (as opposed to just play with them) need them to.

Re:RTFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753365)

TL;DR needs to be the next thing we fight against

let the ignorant remain ignorant if they can't be bothered

Re:RTFA (2)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 2 years ago | (#41753703)

The ignorant make up the majority of the population, so device makers cater to them. Letting them remain ignorant is the fastest way to ensure the propagation of DRM and walled gardens and the demise of unrestricted devices. Only when consumers are informed can they make intelligence choices that lead to devices which are better for consumers rather than devices which are simply more profitable for the manufacturers.

TL;DR That's the worst possible thing you could do.

Re:RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754293)

it's not only the ignorant that don't like to waste their time reading unnecessary cruft. Intelligence is in large part about distilling the important information out of incredibly noisy sources. I like it when someone intelligent has done the work for me, not because I can't do it for myself, but simply because it's more efficient.

Re:RTFA (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#41753985)

locked down devices don't do what people who actually use them (as opposed to just play with them) need them to.

Locked down devices do exactly as much as the people who sell them want them to do, everything from a G-rated kids tablet to to fully automated and unvetted signing with only a banhammer lurking. I think you meant to say "The current locked down devices don't do what I want" because what that means isn't fixed and most people get a lot of "real work" done on business computers even more locked down than the Apple, no jumping on the app store and installing random software there. In fact you're the equivalent of a sudo user with rather generous permissions yet still you claim there's no way anyone could possibly get anything done. Never mind all the people who are the residential version of pure MS Office users, they just need Facebook and a few more gizmos and they're happy. They're "users" even if you think their use is trivial.

Re:RTFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753321)

No need; the summary: Things change. Or not.

Re:RTFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753361)

No need; the summary: Things change. Or not. Wankage.

FTFY.

Re:RTFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753629)

Yup. It's a wankery blog post from a nobody.

Re:RTFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753925)

No need; the summary: Things change. Or not.

Things Change

Or Not

What to do?

Burmashave!

Re:RTFA (1)

mrbene (1380531) | about 2 years ago | (#41753853)

Come on, this isn't the "TOS-DR [slashdot.org] " article!

The Microsoft Kinect Spy System (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753249)

post by by Alphonse

So you just got the Kinect/Xbox360 gaming system and youâ(TM)re having fun, hanging out in your underwear, plopped down in your favorite lounge chair, and playing games with your buddies. Yeah, itâ(TM)s great to have a microphone and camera in your game system so you can âoeKinectâ to your pals while you play, but did you read that Terms of Service Agreement that came with your Kinect thingy? No? Here, let me point out an important part of that service agreement.

If you accept the agreement, you âoeexpressly authorize and consent to us accessing or disclosing information about you, including the content of your communications, in order to: (a) comply with the law or respond to lawful requests or legal process; (b) protect the rights or property of Microsoft, our partners, or our customers, including the enforcement of our agreements or policies governing your use of the Service; or (c) act on a good faith belief that such access or disclosure is necessary to protect the personal safety of Microsoft employees, customers, or the public.â

Did you catch that? Here, let me print the important part in really big letters.

        âoeIf you accept the agreement, you expressly authorize and consent to us accessing or disclosing information about you, including the content of your communications⦠on a good faith belief that such access or disclosure is necessary to protect the personal safety of Microsoft employees, customers, or the public.â

OK, is that clear enough for ya? When you use the Kinect system, you agree to allow Microsoft (and any branch of law enforcement or government they care to share information with) to use your Kinect system to spy on you. Maybe run that facial recognition software to check you out, listen to your conversations, and keep track of who you are communicating with.

I know this is probably old news to some, but I thought I would mention it because it pertains to almost all of these home game systems that are interactive. You have to remember, the camera and microphone contained in your game system has the ability to be hacked by anyone the game company gives that ability to, and that includes government snoops and law enforcement agents.

Hey, itâ(TM)s MICROSOFT. What did you expect?

And the same concerns apply to all interactive game systems. Just something to think about if youâ(TM)re having a âoeNaked Wii partyâ or doing something illegal while youâ(TM)re gaming with your buddies. Or maybe you say something suspicious and it triggers the DHS software to start tracking your every word. Hey, this is not paranoia. Itâ(TM)s spelled out for you, right there in that Service Agreement. Read it! Hereâ(TM)s one more part of the agreement you should be aware of.

âoeYou should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features (for example, voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions) offered through the Service.â

Did you catch it that time? YOU SHOULD NOT EXPECT ANY LEVEL OF PRIVACY concerning your voice chat and video features on your Kinect box.

Everything that needed to be said in one text wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753273)

thank you
seriously
thank you

computers are like cars (2)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#41753293)

long ago cars were sort of open and then things went to a vertical system where the manufacturer designs and manufactures the car with self made parts or custom made parts.

computers are going the same way.

most of us have better things to do than some of the nonsense in this article. $7.99 for netflix is a nice deal for what you get.

Re:computers are like cars (5, Insightful)

HWguy (147772) | about 2 years ago | (#41753429)

This. At least for the general public. The whole idea of a "computer" is simply a result of how primitive they are. That the software that controls them requires the user to understand concepts such as operating system and application, networking and device drivers. People don't really ever want to know they are "running a word processor" or "launching a web browser". They want to accomplish specific things, like writing a note (or video chatting) with a friend, looking something up or watching a movie.

The technical crowd loves to complain about Apple's walled garden, but this is exactly the genius of Apple. They get that. They get that they have to evolve the thing called a computer into a thing that people don't ever have to fiddle with. That simply exists to provide useful services for their life. The other computer manufacturers understand that to a smaller degree and then wonder why their tablets aren't as successful.

The personal computer, as technical people know it, is going away. It's growing up into what the vast majority of people really want. And thank God. I'm glad I don't have to stand in front of my car turning a crank to get it running.

But all is not lost for technical people. There will always be ways to have your own device. The free software and maker movements will ensure that. In some ways things are better today than ever. In the 1980s (some consider the heyday of the open personal computer) we had the 8-bit IBM PC. Today we have a gamut of programmable devices ranging from Arduinos to $35 linux computers to set top boxes to multi-core, multi-cpu computers more powerful that super computers of the last century. All totally accessible.

Re:computers are like cars (2)

ToadProphet (1148333) | about 2 years ago | (#41753607)

The technical crowd loves to complain about Apple's walled garden, but this is exactly the genius of Apple.

Apple is only able to create a walled garden thanks to layers that have been built before by the tinkerers and technical folk. So I think that while Apple's strategy may work well in the short term, it will likely be their downfall long term.

When you create the walled garden you allow developers to focus on apps, but exclude them from the areas that may have a large impact. Apple needs to do it themselves for the newest innovations. That fancy new, revolutionary FS or networking will need to be ported. Or they'll need to come up with it themselves. Either way, they'll start to lag behind and be restricted in what they can do.

Computers can't be compared to cars (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 2 years ago | (#41753801)

I keep seeing this comparison of computers with cars and it's just not a valid one. What has changed with cars other than the manufacturing processes and the technologie that lies in them? The answer is NOTHING.
- You can still choose through many options such as color, packages and add-ons.
- You still have to get it serviced regularly and you can have the shop repair it when it's broken

Computers are handing more the way of calculators where you'll buy one and dispose of it when it doesn't work or doesn't do what you want. Currently we can still buy parts and assemble our own but eventually you will get to shop for a computer the same way you do a cell phone.

Touchy Feely makes that much difference? (5, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41753297)

The touchscreen and interface conventions make direct manipulation shine in a way you just can't get from a screen two feet away on a desk.

Maybe for some people...personally I prefer a couple of big monitors in front of me.

Re:Touchy Feely makes that much difference? (2)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#41753803)

One does not exclude the other. I could imagine having a touchscreen as an extra entry device next to my Trackball/mouse and keyboard or even instead of the Trackball/mouse and when I leave my desk, take the device with me. It then turns from a pointing device into a autonomous one.

Re:Touchy Feely makes that much difference? (1)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#41754309)

Some laptops have touchpads built in. My old laptop has an area of space in front of the keyboard dedicated to the touch pad and press buttons which is the same size as a smartphone. It would be very easy to modify a laptop so that the docking/charging port for a smartphone would be in this area.

That's why I have a 32GB SD Card (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 years ago | (#41753305)

I have a 32 GB SD Card in my phone. The reason? Because in Oregon, Cellular isn't ubiquitous. And because I can keep my entire 2GB music collection, plus several books, plus a bunch of other aps that don't need the net, on it.

Re:That's why I have a 32GB SD Card (3, Funny)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41753501)

2GB music collection? LOL.

It's not a 'collection' unless it's at least 1TB.

Touchscreen smuchscreen (5, Insightful)

hack slash (1064002) | about 2 years ago | (#41753319)

There's no fuckin' way I'm ditching my mouse and keyboard for a touchscreen.

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41753531)

Yes there is, and here's how:
1. Make sure no company makes new keyboards and mice.
2. Render the old keyboards and mice unusable by making your new computing devices have no place to hook up your old keyboards and mice.

Are you right that this plan is taking away consumer choice? Hell yes. But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41753765)

Yes, because Douglas Engelbart had to buy his mouse from Logitech.

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753785)

1. Will never happen
2. Will never happen - see USB
3. Write drivers that would run at user level

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (1)

arctus (2753027) | about 2 years ago | (#41753997)

There's no way I could do my job without a keyboard (IT).

I think its totally plausible for the classic interface tools to disappear from the consumer market, but I have no idea how many years these are going to last in the IT domain.

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (1)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#41754019)

Perhaps not on the desktop and perhaps not now.
I thought that a mouse was great, but now I use a trackball.

But basically it is all the same difference. If you use a mouse, a trackball or the screen to point, it is all pretty much the same that you are doing.

A lot of the times I would love to have a touchscreen. Not in front of me, but next to my trackball and keyboard. Mufti-touch to my main screens. Then teh ability to take it with me wherever I go.

So not instead of a desktop, but next to a desktop.

Re:Touchscreen smuchscreen (1)

arctus (2753027) | about 2 years ago | (#41754025)

I agree, I have plenty of touchscreen devices but they're just additions.

Contrast this with my non-technical wife and her parents who almost exclusively use tablets and smartphones.

Won't be complete until we're all borg (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753327)

Direct neural I/O is the way to go. None of those razmatazz, nancy-boy, cartoon icons. Real men stick wires in their heads and program at thought-speed.

TL;DR missing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753329)

TL;DR: Cool story, bro.

Editorial piece?? (0)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 2 years ago | (#41753333)

Oh come on now, dude!! This is a stupid editorial piece based on your own personal opinion full of cherry-picked "sources" to back up said opinions.

And it's ridiculously long, to boot. $100 says less than 2% of readers will finish it.

Re:Editorial piece?? (1)

jalopezp (2622345) | about 2 years ago | (#41753631)

What's wrong with opinion pieces? The whole point of slashdot is that we all give our comments. You're just upset because this one is longer.

I agree we've barely scratched PCs (3, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#41753349)

I've been in [personal] computers over 40 years, seeing them from the kilobyte/kiloflop era to the threshhold of the terabyte/teraflop era. There have been both surprises and disappointments at every turning. I dont see why this would not continue for another 40 or 100 years.

My two biggest mispredictions were:
(1) In the mid 70s I wounder why anyone would buy a store-made computer. They were so fun to solder together yourself.
(2) The sudden rise of the world wide web in 1993. Everyone knew cycberspace would eventually happen, but probably another decade or so. That was a huge victory for open source: thanks Tim!

Re:I agree we've barely scratched PCs (2)

jbolden (176878) | about 2 years ago | (#41753553)

My worst prediction. I figured built in indexing (Gopher) was too valuable to give up and HTTP would thus remain a niche protocol mainly for graphics heavy content.

Re:I agree we've barely scratched PCs (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#41753795)

> HTTP would thus remain a niche protocol mainly for graphics heavy content.

You were right. However, graphics heavy content is the format strongly preferred by humans.

Re:I agree we've barely scratched PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753999)

I made the same mistake, however, web pages back then were to me, nothing more than gopher and ftp. I was a huge DOS user and loved xtree gold. So when I see a directory of files, I'm in heaven. Never thought about rich content at all. I already had all the tools I needed. Want a file, I go get it, want to see pics, let me copy this directory [albeit a slow way to see pics].

I notice how this is still basically how I interact with a computer, however, my mom would be lost, and it would be boring for her to navigate this way.

I revised my thinking, now bear with me, because I become elitist sounding and sexist when I say this. My analogy; back in the day, mostly men had cars. Men worked, women stayed at home with the kids. Women started working, for various reasons I wont discuss. This allowed and almost made it a requirement that they also get a car. The luxury of an automatic transmission soon became the default option because car companies can save money by not offering two different models, but also because amenities like AC and auto was what the majority was buying. So now, we have insane amounts of people on the road, police have turned into nannies, in fact, driving is one big money making scam for local governments, and they get away with it because we need our cars, all the tech jobs around me are in the suburbs, not the city [i prefer to live in the city, so now i have to commute like a suburbanite, despite my urban wisdom].

Now imagine all the friends you have that never before had a computer. If youre like me, you hang out with a lot of girls, but all the guys have computers. Maybe some of the girls have laptops. As the internet gets older, and more main streamers use it, they will become shocked at what seasoned internet users deem as normal. Parents shocked their kids can find porn easily, cyber bullying. All these existed in the 90's, except parents kept the family pc in the living room. Now kids have ipads in their bedrooms, they can bike up to MacDonalds and get free wifi. Parents cant control their kids even if they tried [except ya know, not buying them things I as an adult cant even afford]. This is divergent and Im focusing on parents, but its the same thing with people my age. One friend wrote "why does windows allow people to make viruses". As if virus writers have no talent, as if theres hook they easily use that windows documents [okay, i opened myself up to jokes]
anyway, theres an increasing generation of internet users that wernt computer users first, they dont understand tech, they just crave it, they crave gadgets because of marketing, they crave content.
These people are mainstream. Not everyone with a car wants a sports car, not everyone with a internet device wants to create.

The computer geeks, they will have their [fun] area, everyone else will be stuck in a corporate controlled walled garden and they will like it, because it keeps them safe, ignorance is bliss.

Re:I agree we've barely scratched PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754147)

Didn't HTTP win mainly because there was an open specification and open-source implementations of both client and server?

That would make it an example of openness winning over technical features...

you got your jizz all over slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753373)

thanks for the masturbation. hopefully it felt good cause it read like shit.

Good article. (2)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | about 2 years ago | (#41753375)

Excellent read. Thanks.

I use a PC to create (3, Insightful)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 years ago | (#41753387)

The 'real' PC, used for design and engineering work, is not likely to go away any time soon, as all our technological advances would grind to a halt without it.

The PC will get more expensive as the sales volume goes down from hundreds of millions to hundreds of thousands of 'real' computers per year. but then, those of us who use PCs for real work have been riding the coattails of the gamers for a decade now.

Re:I use a PC to create (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#41753537)

So do I, but it's a Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC w/ a Wacom digitizer and pressure-sensitive stylus. I draw, sketch, create plans for woodworking projects, design typefaces, do some light programming and typesetting using (La)TeX and keep several decades worth of notes on it. The slate form-factor is well-suited to design work, and it's nice to be able to do this pretty much anywhere (Fujitsu has a history of offering daylight-viewable transflective displays, which my ST-4121 has). It also makes a very nice map reader for long trips.

Looking forward to the MS Surface and hoping that there's a standardized way to install Mac OS X on it (hopefully 10.6, since I need to keep FreeHand MX).

Re:I use a PC to create (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 years ago | (#41753941)

Let me know when there's printed circuit board CAD software available on a 19" tablet.

Re:I use a PC to create (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#41754233)

Since the Sony Tab 20 is a Windows x86 machine, you should be able to run anything you'd like on it:

http://www.wpcentral.com/look-at-sony-vaio-tab-20-windows-8-pc [wpcentral.com]

That said, if you're billable rate is high enough, and you need a beefier machine you should probably just get a monitor for your existing machine which has stylus support (there's a 24" model which has touch):

http://www.wacom.com/products/pen-displays/cintiq/cintiq-22hd [wacom.com]

im buying a pc tomorrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753405)

and im not buying a smart phone, tablet or iStupid anything , and guess what i buy this pc so i can do work that makes me money rather then spend it like the idiots that sell tablets and such are doing.

Re:im buying a pc tomorrow (1)

micheas (231635) | about 2 years ago | (#41753549)

and im not buying a smart phone, tablet or iStupid anything , and guess what i buy this pc so i can do work that makes me money rather then spend it like the idiots that sell tablets and such are doing.

And then go post on slashdot.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753407)

I didn't know you could find so clever articles in slashdot. Very well written.

Who owns your data? (1)

david.emery (127135) | about 2 years ago | (#41753457)

This is the most significant concern raised by the article, and I think it's legitimate. That's why I continue to buy backup drives and keep my data local (except for the backup at my friend's house.)

At a minimum, we need warranted Service Level Agreements with cloud providers, that include guarantees with penalties when access to their services (cloud based apps or data) fails. "Sorry about that, we won't let it happen again" ain't good enough.

I'll Take a Tablet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753459)

When there is an option at 17" or larger, and I can still use an external keyboard and mouse...

Screen real estate is important to many people... not only do I want a larger screen, but I don't want the on screen keyboard and my fingers being in the way, either.

I think Apple missed the boat with the iPad Mini... I don't think people really want a small tablet, I think that they pick it because it is cheap and the larger tablets cost too much for the functionality that they offer. If I want a $600-800 tablet, I want at least a 15" screen, but still prefer the 17" or larger screen.

Re:I'll Take a Tablet... (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#41753567)

Your wish is Sony's command. Presenting the Tab 20:

http://www.wpcentral.com/look-at-sony-vaio-tab-20-windows-8-pc [wpcentral.com]

20" display, 2 hour battery.

Re:I'll Take a Tablet... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41754037)

does it run linux?

Clown Anus - all dolled up and ready to please! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753461)

i wish i could fit my feet into my rectum during cold nights and store them there like when han solo prepared a dead animal's chest for the nearly frozen luke skywalker.

when yoda was on luke's back and luke was running, did you know yoda was secretly having sex with luke? that's right he had a long penis inside the shirt of luke which ran down into the pants and into the anus - sort of like a battery to power luke from within

One size used to fit all (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about 2 years ago | (#41753465)

Up until recently, there was one style of computer, the classic desktop box

It had many diverse uses

Some used it as an embedded controller

Some used it for CAD design, video editing, music production, science, etc

Some used it to read email and surf the web

Since there was only one style, lots were sold, so they became very cheap

Now, we see the market segmenting

Many people can have their needs met by a smartphone or a tablet, but not all

Some, like CAD designers, video editors, music producers, scientists etc, still need the big screen, powerful graphics, large hard drive, mouse and keyboard

The bad news for us is that since the masses will probably move to the alternate devices, volume will go down on traditional computers

This means prices will rise

Re:One size used to fit all (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41753759)

The bad news for us is that since the masses will probably move to the alternate devices, volume will go down on traditional computers

This means prices will rise

Is it a terrible thing?

I mean, the problem is the "general public" cared about cost and we ended up in a race to the bottom, where margins are thin and we're seeing the results in low-res screens, integrated graphics, and basically a lot of sameness as everyone builds to a price.

Let prices rise a bit - clear out the low end crap. If you wanted a decent laptop with a screen higher than 1366x768, you always had to pay more than $1000. Or discrete graphics. Or computers not built from flimsy plastic.

See ultrabooks - we're getting very high-res screens and other innovations, even though they cost $1000+, a market most PC manufacturers shunned in the face to build sub-$500 PCs.

All that's happened with the race to the bottom are companies like Apple realizing they have the whole $1000+ PC market to themselves - all they have to do is entice people away from the $500 crowd - see what you get when you spend more.

Shut the fuck up already. The PC isnt dead. (5, Insightful)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 2 years ago | (#41753505)

The PC will never die. These attention seeking whores are fucking technology morons. They use their computers for facebook, jerking off and youtube. Computers are more than a jerk off machine and a twitter device.

Yes, for the average idiot who was destined to sweep up shit for a living, they probably dont need a real deal pc workstation... because they'll never create or do anything.

PCs are for people who USE pcs. PCS are for people who work, create, manage, code, program, animate, draw, paint, record, do research, study... PCs are for real users. The general public doesnt need roof ladder, but everyone has a fucking ladder still.

You mean there's an app for that? (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | about 2 years ago | (#41753811)

I always that for that purpose one had to rely on one's imagination . . .

Next... (1, Insightful)

JamesTKirk (876319) | about 2 years ago | (#41753533)

I only read far enough to determine there's no useful information in the post.

Reality (3, Interesting)

jbolden (176878) | about 2 years ago | (#41753713)

1) Not one of these locked down devices is hard for a "free thinker" to put a new OS on. No one is making nor planning on making devices that are actually secure against a knowledgeable owner that wants them to do something different. They are looking to add some security that is impossible without hardware support. No one is actually advocating the position your essay is opposing.

2) When PCs started they used to come with the OS (and arguably sometimes more than one OS) on ROM. People still booted different OSes on them.

3) There is wealth of content creation tools for all these platforms that already exist, so concerns about consumption / creation are overblown.

4) DRM is obviously popular with content creators to avoid sharing, and larger entities to allow for distribution and control. It comes in and out of fashion and has for long time. There is no long term trend in either direction. For example in the last 5 years virtually all music is sold DRM free while previously music companies had required DRM.

5) On the consumer tablet / phone devices there already exist a wealth of services to setup alternative "clouds" including both Android and iOS. They are cheap and easy to configure. Instead of whining about them not existing for consumer just set one up.

Re:Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753863)

How dare you be logical! We want some ignorant group-think anti-Apple knee-jerk here, not someone who actually has a grasp on technology, reality and the market therein.

(Seriously, mod parent up. This article is just a flame-baiting nonsensical rant.)

Re:Reality (2)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41753981)

Not one of these locked down devices is hard for a "free thinker" to put a new OS on.

They are all significantly harder than a current PC, and end up only partially functional when you do.

No one is making nor planning on making devices that are actually secure against a knowledgeable owner that wants them to do something different.

Nonsense. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, etc. all spend lots of time and money designing and implementing security schemes that make doing this more and more difficult. The EFF scored a coup by getting an exemption to the DMCA, but you can bet your ass they're lobbying hard to get that exemption overturned. Where the technology fails they plan on sending the FBI to cover.

No one is actually advocating the position your essay is opposing.

Not openly.

There is no long term trend in either direction. For example in the last 5 years virtually all music is sold DRM free while previously music companies had required DRM.

Music was freed of DRM but instead the most popular platforms have DRM integrated from the bottom up. And virtually every other media (books, video, etc.) are all slathered in a layer of DRM with no forward progress on removing it.

On the consumer tablet / phone devices there already exist a wealth of services to setup alternative "clouds" including both Android and iOS.

But are they integrated? If someone buys an iOS device, can they set their cloud provider to Dropbox instead of iCloud and have it work? Last I checked iCloud was integrated into the APIs and if you don't have iCloud, none of it works.

Re:Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754061)

1) Not one of these locked down devices is hard for a "free thinker" to put a new OS on. No one is making nor planning on making devices that are actually secure against a knowledgeable owner that wants them to do something different. They are looking to add some security that is impossible without hardware support. No one is actually advocating the position your essay is opposing.

Counterexample 1: The PS3 - Support for installing Linux explicitly removed
Counterexample 2: The iPhone. Name one OS different from iOS that you can install on it.

2) When PCs started they used to come with the OS (and arguably sometimes more than one OS) on ROM. People still booted different OSes on them.

True. They didn't have to work around signed bootloaders, though. These have the potential to make booting different OSes impossible without sawing open some sealed chip.

4) DRM is obviously popular with content creators to avoid sharing, and larger entities to allow for distribution and control. It comes in and out of fashion and has for long time. There is no long term trend in either direction. For example in the last 5 years virtually all music is sold DRM free while previously music companies had required DRM.

And why do you think it has gone out of fashion? Also, what support do you have for claiming no long term trend exists ?

5) On the consumer tablet / phone devices there already exist a wealth of services to setup alternative "clouds" including both Android and iOS. They are cheap and easy to configure. Instead of whining about them not existing for consumer just set one up.

Which will stop working the exact second the vendor of your tablet / phone kills them. Of course, this will never happen... it's not as if vendors have ever removed apps or data from consumers tablets or phones without the consumers' consent...

chromebook, a glorified terminal? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753729)

Using the chromebook as an example of a glorified terminal is missing the mark, as unlike Android or iOS, ChromeOS have a boot time key combo that opens up the possibility of using it as a full blown laptop via the developer mode.

How do Netflix & Steam treat you like a crimin (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 2 years ago | (#41753799)

I'm not sure that this statement makes any sense. It might make sense for Blizzard (Diablo 3), or any new games from Ubisoft, all of which apparently requires a persistent connection to play your games.

Netflix is basically a movie rental service with no due dates, and you can watch the stuff you want at any time as many times as you want. I'm not under any illusion that I own any of the content they have available.

I have Steam, and I usually only buy games that are on deep discount whenever they have one of their crazy 75% off sales. The only time I go online with them is when I buy games, otherwise I go into offline mode.

the right tool for the job (1)

kdemetter (965669) | about 2 years ago | (#41753893)

That's all pc's , labtops, tablets, smartphones are.
They all serve a different purpose, and so one will never replace the other, it will just complement it.

Re:the right tool for the job (1)

arctus (2753027) | about 2 years ago | (#41754155)

This is pretty much how I feel exactly. I love a tablet for reading a book, or casual web surfing, watching a quick a TV show in bed etc. The interface just seem superior to me for these types of activities and its a nice break for someone who uses a keyboard and mouse about 10 hours per day (IT position).

At the same time, I could never do away with my desktop or laptop, tablets will never replace these for me in their current state.

I really would like to see widespread adaption of the Transformer Prime concept (or maybe even the Windows Surface tablet), where a physical keyboard is integrated as part of the device instead of as a clunky after-thought solution. At that point, I could do without my laptop and be satisfied with a desktop and a tablet hybrid.

Interesting article, but misses the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753969)

I wrote up an effort-post about why this article is wrong, but the tl;dr is that most people don't care about all the stuff in this article. They just want to plug in and consume, and because so many people are like that, that is the direction the market is moving.

Sorry. A majority of people are outside of our insulated world of free-software and self-tinkering hopes and dreams.

Hey ma, look! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41753993)

I finished that correspondence course on LISP so I'm ready to tell the world the future of computing!

For the love of whatever, could someone stop accepting these ads posing as informaiton from web kiddies?

Who owns the data? (1)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 2 years ago | (#41754009)

Some very good points made there, and I completely agree that the main concern for the future is ownership of data, not what your PC looks like.

I have been rather luddite in my avoidance of cloud services. In fact the only exception is Steam, which is perfectly fine and convenient for now, but I can foresee potential issues in the future. In particular when my 3 yr old son gets a bit older and wants to play games from my collection at the same time as I want to. I think the solution would be a bit torrent, rather than the odious option of re-purchasing games that I have already 'bought'.

As for my personal data, the simple answer is no way, online backups onto servers I have no control over, access subject to current download speeds and/ or their uptime. Not to mention the vagueries of their TOS and the laws of the country where the sever is hosted.

Am I being too paranoid? Maybe, but until I find a service that I genuinely trust (ownCloud.org could be a candidate maybe) my personal data, music and film included, stays stored on a device I own and control, backed up onto devices that I own and control.

TLDR (4, Insightful)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 2 years ago | (#41754015)

blah blah blah. walled gardens and cloud storage. I've been playing with my raspberry pi. it's just as fun as my first Apple II and way more hackable (maybe just because i'm a little bit smarter now) Personal computing is better than i ever imagined it would be. There is something to hack EVERYWHERE. get an android device, jailbreak your iphone. find cameras in the garbage. quit lamenting the fact that people who don't care about using computers settle for the walled garden.

biggest battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754021)

The battle is between the corporations, which have amassed huge amounts of power in our legal and social structure, and the force of history created the PC and networking and that naturally wants people to be more free to gather information and grow on their own terms without middlemen.

That's the epic battle of our time and, due to the former condition above, it's hardly ever even commented about. They have reason to fear it because if our largest corporations (especially the media and information-based corporations) can't monopolize and be middle men there isn't a great need for them. Today's small businesses can easily do what a multinational did only a generation ago.

Needs more anal-retentive editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754029)

DRM = digital rights management, not digital restrictions management.

Re:Needs more anal-retentive editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754231)

From the point of view of the user, "digital restrictions management" is entirely accurate...

Open hardware devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41754057)

The hope for personal and general purpose computing is on devices like the raspberry pi.

Are people still witeting this stuff? (1)

Billgatez (2652403) | about 2 years ago | (#41754059)

Desktops are the most common form of computing, and will continue to be for some time. Chances are if you have a smart phone or tablet you also have a desktop or laptop.

The Cloud is expensive.... (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 2 years ago | (#41754083)

The theory behind the cloud is that your data is available on multiple devices wherever you go. This is only a reality if you stay within your own connectivity area. Anyone who travels quickly understands that access to the cloud either becomes prohibitively expensive (data roaming) or limited. Streaming music on a beach in Mexico, and for example, if requires paying huge data roaming fees or requires the purchase of a local SIM card and an unlocked device. In my opinion the cloud will not become useful until worldwide data plans become inexpensive.

It's about the pipes. (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#41754091)

The editorial hits the main points, but perhaps understates the importance of US ISPs being controlled by non-competitive private companies. This is a disaster. Aside from Verizon Fios (which - surprise! - has stalled), Americans haven't put new pipe in the ground in ten years. Google shouldn't be making headlines with a modest proposed fiber-to-house project in Kansas.

In the 1990s, backbone providers had to sell bandwidth to all last-mile-ISPs at the same rate. There were literally tens of thousands of ISPs to choose from nationwide. In the name of deregulation, this got nixed around 2000. Backbone providers -- who also had local ISPs -- could price their competition to death. And they did. In 2002, we have about a dozen ISPs. Not so bad... but then they met at a conference and literally divided up the major markets between them. So we have a couple cable providers... but none in the same markets. Unlike a government monopoly which is beholden to the public will (with varying degrees of success), we have a monopoly on information services that is contractually obligated to shareholders to push their own content offerings.

As a result we have lower speeds and much, much higher prices than our friends in Asia and Europe. ( http://www.netindex.com/download/allcountries/ [netindex.com] ) More troubling is the prospect of political filtering. Want information on breaking DRM? Not via our pipe, buddy.

And this is just landline.

The PC still has decades at least (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about 2 years ago | (#41754157)

I, for one, wouldn't like to type a term paper or play Guild Wars 2 on an iPad. Tablet-style computers are a fancy toy until one of them comes up with an input that doesn't require the use of a keyboard, virtual or physical. My vision for the future would require heavy research into handwriting and voice recognition. It would be much easier to use something that stores your own handwriting like digital paper, but still searchable like pure text. I'm just thinking from the perspective of ease of use by older people. There are too many issues with cloud storage, from privacy issues, control over your own data and connectivity, just to name a few. Read some of the current EULAs we have and you come across Adobe writing that use of their basic online Photoshop gives them full royalty rights to your images. Cloud storage is useless if your internet is down.

gobbledegoo (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#41754187)

But they are only half true: an artifact of the PC is dying, but the essence of the PC revolution is closer to realization than ever before, while also being closer to loss than ever before.

I... wat?

DRMed e-books (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 2 years ago | (#41754321)

Or take ebook readers (certainly personal devices): that book you just downloaded to your Kindle is DRMed and stuck there!

TTBOMK, all of the DRM schemes in common use for e-books have been broken. Of course, you have to get the files onto a normal sort of PC in order to decrypt them.

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