I’m a Mac guy so it matters. Not really, but I am curious. The question was sparked when I read some analysis claiming that if you count iPad sales, Apple is now the biggest PC retailer, just ahead of HP. (Note, this is counting hardware not OS, which Windows still wins without contest.) Take out the iPad and it’s a very different story.
Some argued it wasn’t a PC when you still needed a computer to use it. No argument really. But that was two OS iterations ago and with iOS 5 the iPad is a bona fide stand-alone device.
Some argue it’s not a PC because the OS is not a desktop OS. Does that matter? Is the OS (or CPU) the deciding factor? You can get tablets that run Windows and OS X (customised Macbook Pros) – so are they not PCs? Windows 8 will run on a tablet, but iOS and Android don’t run on desktops. Linux can run on either with the right hardware. But the hardware has the same form factor, more or less.
Some argue it’s not a PC because it can’t do everything a PC can do, it’s just a big iPod touch. But I can use the iPad for everything I use my desktop for.
Some argue it’s not a PC because of the form factor. Many desktops now have touch screens and ultra-portable laptop screens start at 11″. Are we going to quibble over an inch? (Or are ultra-portable not PCs either?) I can hook up an external keyboard to my iPad, just like I do on my iMac. Arguably the iPad is no more hobbled than, say, a cheap laptop compared to a Mac Pro. You can’t do things on the cheap laptop you can on the Pro, but they both get counted in the PC sales figures. What about hybrids?
Some argue it doesn’t have true multi-tasking. It does, just not unlimited multi-tasking. So were the early PCs not PCs because they had multi-tasking limited by OS or memory? (After all, it’s only a software limitation set by Apple to conserve battery – the iPad is capable of multitasking if someone just changes some code.)
Some say it’s not a PC because I can only download software from the App Store. But if I jailbreak I can download from anywhere so does it become a PC if I jailbreak?
Some argue it isn’t a PC because it doesn’t have a user accessible file system.
It’s all become blurred, and maybe that’s saying something in itself.
So, do we dump everything under the PC category? Or do we separate them into narrower categories – desktops, laptops, tablets…
(I think smartphones should be excluded, they have a clear differential. What about handhelds? Apart from the iPod touch does anyone even do handhelds anymore? I loved my Palm, but that was ages ago in tech terms. The Touch is virtually unique and clearly aimed at media consumption and games, so maybe should go in the same category as handheld gaming. But if you really want, it fits all the arguments above.)
In the end, such labels are somewhat arbitrary and really only matter to marketing departments and industry hacks trying to get a headline.
But I’m a Mac guy and would still like to know. Is Apple now the biggest PC maker? Having thunk about it in this post, I think yes.
Tablet PCs have a different form factor to traditional PCs. And most of them have a different OS. PCs are evolving, but the iPad does everything a traditional PC does. In fact, take your iPad back in time 10 or 15 years and it does more. Far, far more.
What do you reckon?