Expanding the Definition of a PC

Perhaps I’m stating one of the most painfully obvious things in the world, but I’ll come out and say it anyway: The definition of a PC as we know it is changing and evolving rapidly.

The PC — or personal computer — is typically defined as a general-purpose device that, under most circumstances, comes in desktop, laptop, netbook or handheld forms. In a nutshell, a PC is most commonly used for the following:

  • Surfing the Internet
  • Emailing
  • Social networking
  • Accessing multimedia (movies, music, games, etc.)
  • Utilizing productivity software (e.g., Microsoft Office)

I often see my wife utilizing her iPhone for things she would have normally used her laptop for (e.g., surfing the Internet and checking email). The thing that fascinates me here is just how much horsepower that little device packs. From a nuts-and-bolts perspective (i.e., processor, hard drive space, etc.), it’s about two times more efficient than the PC I purchased in 1997. I often see handheld PC devices (aka smartphones) being characterized as companion devices for PCs. However, I believe they could quite possibly become the new PC hub devices.

I’d also like to draw attention to something I saw at this year’s CES trade show: Internet-capable TVs. If I can surf the Internet, access my email and do PC-like operations from the comfort of my couch, does that mean my TV is also a PC? How about proprietary consoles? Each new generation is looking more like a PC to me as more functionality is added. What’s next? These developments require me to expand my own definition of PCs.

This leads to the question: How do you use a PC? More importantly, how would you want to use a PC in the future? How would you define it?