Earlier this year when Apple introduced the second generation iPad, it trumpeted itself as the leaders in the push for this so called "post-PC era". It was the transition of our computing digital life away from the personal computer to portable mobile devices like mobile phones and tablets. No longer will you be tied to the big hunk of PC tower and monitor setup at home to process word documents or surf the web. Everything digital will be assessable everywhere you go.
The post-PC era is clearly the next logical big leap in our computing lives. The majority of of things we use the computer for are content enjoyment and social networking. Surfing the web, reading books, watching videos, listening to music, and viewing photos are examples of the kind of mass media content that consumes the most of our computing time. Social networking of course is the other big part, with websites such as Facebook, and the myriad of instant messaging apps. For the majority of people, the PC in essence is only a place to peruse the Internet, store/view digital media, and network with friends.
Nowadays, people want to do all of that anytime, anywhere. Not because it is an indulgence (that teenage with paid mobile broadband might be), but it is to save people time, and enrich their lives. Think of the first smartphone you have ever owned. Before that you not ever think you need mobile internet or emailing capabilities on phone, but once you have used the smartphone for a period you wonder how the heck did you ever lived without it. Another example: for people saddled with the indemnity of a torturous work commute, how much better would it make if they can have access to their music collection on their mobile devices (as opposed to 1000 CDs).
HIGHLY MOBILE DEVICES
Certainly, the big hunk of steel that traditionally house the guts of PCs are not at all portable (even all-in-one PCs like the iMac are not at that portable - easier to carry, yes). But you say the majority of people have laptops, are they not mobile? That may be true, but once you have used a tablet device, you are going to find that even the average laptops are quite heavy. Or let's put it his way: you are on the road, and need to check email quickly. What would you rather use - A mobile phone or a laptop? Laptops can be seen as the first wave in the transition of the post-PC era, but with today's available technology, even it is categorized in the same camp as traditional PCs.
The computing future for the majority will lie in mobile phones, tablets, and ultra portable laptops. Mobile phones has had the most advance stage of transition in that smart phones with browsers, email, and thousands of apps are already outselling "dumb phones". It has taken over our digital lives, as evident in all the people walking around staring into their phones, invariably running into objects. Tablets such as the iPad offers the same function of smart phones but with a larger canvas that primarily aids in a better enjoyment of digital content and web (I am certainly not watching a movie on my phone).
Ultra portable laptops are the most interesting. As proposed by chipmaker Intel earlier this year, they are a new breed of laptops that undercuts the weight of the average laptop by half (2.5 pounds and under). These are not just underpowered net books however, because ultra portable laptops have low wattage mobile versions of full featured, consumer class processors. They don't skimp on screen size either, as it varies between 11"-13". What this class of mobile device aim to do is replicate the lightweight and batter life of tablets, but offer some things tablet could not - TRUE multitasking, and an actual keyboard for better long form word processing. An example of ultra portable laptops out in the market right now is the Apple Macbook Air.
LIVING WITHOUT THE PC
No matter device, the aim of the post-PC era movement is to rid the majority of consumers of their PCs at home. The devices aforementioned have made the abilities of the PC redundant. Having both a PC and mobile devices is simply a waste (electricity!), when the latter can perform the tasks of the former equality well.
There is one thing that mobiles devices lack - massive amounts of storage. Just when we are starting to talk in the realm of terabytes, mobiles devices have knocked us back down to gigabytes (of course, this simply due to space and cost constraints). So if where will consumers store all their digital content? The answer involve networking on the intra and inter levels. The krux of the problem is the lack of storage space correct? The easiest way to solve the problem is to off shore the storage off the device, either by an external hard/flash drive (either plugging it in directly to the device or accessed via wifi by plugging it to a router), or storing it on the internet cloud (where the content can be accessed anywhere).
Being mobile is great, but what about the home? Indeed, people don't really want to stare at tiny screens the whole day (though a 10 in tablet is surprising comfortable to use). The solution is simple - docking stations. Have a way to "plug in" your mobile device and the use it off an external monitor and wireless connected keyboard and mouse. This will please the people that simply prefer a larger screen (like a traditional PC) and actual keyboard do computing at their home.
Another solution is connected TVs. If you want to show or enjoy your digital content on a larger canvas, one should be able to simply and wireless beam the signal over from their mobile device to the TV (a la Apple Airplay technology). Television is just about the last major tech appliance to still not be connected to the web, and that is rapidly changing. Soon TVs will have small computers in them to allow them to connect to devices, the web, and run computer apps.
THE POST-PC ERA
In the post-PC era, traditional PCs will only be sold to people that requires it, namely content creators, digital art professionals, and hardcore PC gamers. Even then, it will only be for the serious ones that really need the horsepower of traditional PCs. Apps for mobile devices are plenty varied and plenty robust that even photographers can edit photos on tablets. Those apps will only get better and more technical when the technology behind mobile devices grow powerful (there is no reason to not assume that mobiles devices will someday be just as powerful as PCs).
Clearly, the technological foundation is clearly set for the transition to the post-PC era, and it is nice to see tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft (Windows 8 is completely mobile device focused), and Intel be the innovators and pushers of the movement.