The Coming War On General Computation

As I’ve been arguing for many years now, the general-purpose PC is and has been on a slow path to disappearing from daily life. It’s an ongoing process, not an overnight one of course, but the trend’s been obvious to me for about ten years now. And I remember every time I said this, I was told I was wrong, and people would point to current sales and say “they’re still strong so you’re wrong,” no matter how many times I said this was a long term trend and not something that was going to happen next week. Well at this point it’s no longer deniable: desktop computers are steadily disappearing, and now notebooks are shrinking as part of everyday life.

One thing I always said is that they would probably never completely disappear, they’d just be gone from everyday life for everyday people. My view has been that eventually the same people would have them that had them back 30, 40 years ago: geeks, nerds, engineers, scientists, and maybe some gamers. At this point, I’m not even sure of that. Cory Doctorow, in this video, suggests the strong possibility that there will be a strong effort by large corporations to actually destroy the general-purpose computer:

Anyone who looks at Windows 8 can tell that Microsoft is moving toward tablets, and moving away from a PC that you have full control over. Not quite yet, but the trend is there: get us used to depending on the “apps” and being as isolated as possible from the OS itself. From a non-technical user standpoint, this may be a bonus, since you need less training. But from the standpoint of personal freedom, I begin to think it’s a genuine threat.

I know I’ll almost always have a PC, and always said so. But I wonder what the world will look like if and when they eventually try out outright prevent people like me from even having them.