Linked by David Adams on Tue 31st Jan 2012 23:08 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless An article at The Next Web points out that the latest marketshare numbers put Apple at the top of "PC" makers, and that some PC makers that don't have any tablet momentum are calling foul. It's "controversial" to count tablets as PCs, they say. The article points out various justifications for not categorizing tablets as personal computers, and then shoots them down. I must say, I find the argument compelling.
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Multiple Meanings
by zztaz on Wed 1st Feb 2012 04:30 UTC
zztaz
Member since:
2006-09-16

"Personal Computer" can have the broad meaning suggested by the literal meaning of the words. There are two parts. "Computer" in this instance means "general purpose computer", or a computer which the user can tailor to different tasks by installing and running different programs. "Personal" means intended for use by a single person.

The other common use of "PC" started as shorthand for "IBM PC Compatible", but has come to mean "systems running Microsoft Windows", sometimes including servers.

It's clear to me that tablets fall into the category of "general purpose computers intended for use by a single user." There's nothing in that first, and original, meaning of PC that requires all PCs to be interchangeable. The Apple II and the Tandy TRS-80 were both personal computers.

It's also clear that people who think "PC" means "Windows" will not accept tablets as PCs. Ignore them; they can't see the forest for the trees. "Personal Computer" isn't about form factor, operating system, or instruction set. We have other terms to describe those characteristics. The market has moved beyond the Windows PC definition, just as workstation and minicomputer are no longer useful descriptions.

Cell phones raise an interesting question. On one hand, smart phones are general purpose computers aimed at single users. On the other hand, general purpose computing may not be their primary purpose. If computing is secondary to communications, is it misleading to call the device a computer? It's been a long time since I saw a car that didn't come with and audio system, but I wouldn't call a car a portable music player. It's portable, it plays music, but that's not its primary purpose.

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