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What Does ‘Post-PC’ Mean, Exactly?

Ubiquitous, casual, intimate and physical

“Post-PC” is a term you’ll hear a lot, thanks in part to comments by Steve Jobs of Apple. A report by Forrester Research Inc. attempts to answer the question of what that means.

The study by Sarah Rotman Epps targets consumer product planners but it may find interest too among media managers who are trying to understand the future of consumer behavior.

Forrester defines the post-PC era as “a social and technological phenomenon in which computing experiences become ubiquitous, casual, intimate and physical.” It documented trends in computing that have followed that path so far (see the accompanying chart) and talked about changes that have fed those trends — such as diversity in product form factors, the evolution of flash memory, the boom in social media and the erosion of the “work/life boundary” in our lives.

Forrester writes that the “post-PC era is real, and its consequences will revolutionize computing product strategy.” Although the PC market will continue to grow, the company said, newer form factors like tablets and smartphones will flourish and be joined by “wearables” and new surfaces.

The company laid out its expectations for the next stages. It thinks existing products such as printers and photo frames will be further enhanced with “post-PC” capabilities like wireless connectivity and e-mail. New consumer products meanwhile will find expanded uses in the workplace, while home networks will get smarter. Voice and gestures will play a greater role overall. And there will be more attention on new product infrastructure, including “context-aware” sensors, natural user interfaces and flexible rather than rigid glass-based displays.

The study urged product planners not to wait to build for the post-PC era because it’s happening already, changing how people interact with devices and content.

“The form factors that consumers use in the post-PC era will change over time, but they will be shaped by the same underlying dynamics — a shift toward ubiquitous, casual, intimate and physical computing.”

— Paul McLane