The Post-PC Era: Are We There Yet?
There's been a lot of talk about the "post-PC era" over the past few years. But what does that mean—and are we really seeing it play out? The phrase was originally coined by Steve Jobs around the release of the iPad in 2010. His reasoning was that the usability, mobility and "powerful-enough" computing of tablet and mobile devices would soon meet most consumer needs, and that bulkier PCs would be relegated to the office and specific uses. By this thinking, PCs become “trucks,” good for heavy-duty tasks but not the most practical choice for everyday driving.
It is widely predicted that 2013 will be the year where the post-PC era is realized, with tablet devices finally beginning to outsell PCs. Towards the end of 2012, tablet sales were up nearly 50% year over year, whereas PC sales were down roughly 5% (IDC, Gartner). 2012 saw an expansion of the tablet market, as great devices from the likes of Amazon (Kindle HD), Samsung/Google (Nexus tablets), and Microsoft (Surface) challenged Apple's iPad and began to level the playing field.
Still, skeptics maintain that the post-PC era isn't real, that the main thing tablets replace is really paper— pilots using them in the cockpit, doctors using them in place of written notes, etc. Certainly, there are cases where this is true. But we’re also still in the early stages of touch devices and we've only seen hints of how things might change as these devices become the norm in more industries. 2013 affords us an opportunity to see whether the trend continues.
Brands, however, don’t have the luxury of waiting to see. The trend indicators that are available support the need for brands to be ready to go mobile, to provide interaction opportunities to customers on tablets and smartphones. And yet, “small screen” adoption among brands is limited at best. Here are a couple quick tactics that we’ve found helpful for companies who need to embrace new formats:
1) Adopting a "mobile-first" approach wherein the (re)design of your site is conceived and sketched for smartphones and tablets before the content and experience are adapted to PC. By approaching requirements from this direction, we’ve found the requirements of the small screen help focus goals and solutions, providing a tighter experience.
2) Employing a responsively designed site that intelligently adapts to a particular screen and form factor. We've found this to be a great option for many clients looking to provide a good customer experience across screens and devices.
Mobile-first and responsive design approaches do not constitute a mobile strategy by themselves, of course. These are just a few suggestions. But as the “post-PC” era looms, it’s important that companies be ready to adapt.