Friday night topic: Imagining the PC's future

— 8:52 PM on June 28, 2002

I haven't heard enough lately about what the next frontiers of personal computing will be. People used to talk about amazing future developments like full-color graphics, motion video, or instant communications. Now that those things are cheap and ubiquitious, I haven't heard much inspiring talk lately about the future of the PC. Folks talk about the 20-year-old PC as a "mature" product and as a commodity, and sometimes, I'm wondering if they aren't right. Intel's marketing types seem to be floundering in their quest to find the next "killer app."

Speculation and energy now centers around a few semi-interesting trends, like Tablet PCs, wireless PDAs, "convergence" devices like Microsoft's HomeStation project, single-use "appliance" boxes, and PCs as "digital hubs" for the home.

Those things are fine for what they are, I suppose, but I'm still more interested in what my home-built, general-use PC will be doing for me in five or ten years. Things like Hollywood-quality real-time rendering, real and effective high-quality positional audio, high-bandwidth networking and clustering peer-to-peer funkiness, or... well, what? What's next for the PC? What will our ever-expanding computing power allow us to do that we can't do now? And how will that computing power expand? What kinds of breakthroughs could come, and what kinds of applications could they enable? Have we just lost our vision, or are we, in some substantive ways, nearing the end of this particular road?


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