Apple’s Jobs: iPad is post-PC era. Dell’s Dell: Nonsense!

Change happens. It’s the nature of life that things die. Those who don’t recognize change, or create the change themselves, will become victims of someone else’s change. Just ask Michael Dell.

Michael Dell came out of retirement to save his company. He’s doing a bang up job. Dell is now worth less than $30-billion.

Steve Jobs came back to Apple to save his company. He’s doing a bang up job. Apple is worth almost $400-billion.

Who Should I Believe?

Steve Jobs wondered aloud if the iPad is ushering in the post-PC era.

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people. … I think that we’re embarked on that. Is the next step the iPad? Who knows? Will it happen next year or five years from now or seven years from now? Who knows? But I think we’re headed in that direction.

Apple now calls the era in which we live the post-PC era. What of Michael Dell? What does he think?

There are a billion and a half PCs in the world and while Gartner change their estimates here and there, they also estimate there will be two billion PCs in the world by 2014. So when I look at that, I think the idea that the PC is no longer here is complete nonsense. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. You see PCs, tablets, you see smartphones. But those other devices aren’t necessarily replacing the PCs, so we are very committed to that part of the business, as part of this broader, end-to-end IT solutions company.

Whom should I believe? Steve Jobs, head of a company which blazes trail after trail of new and exciting products and creates incredible value and worth while bringing happiness to many tens of millions of customers?

Or, should I believe Dell, who doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on in the world of computing devices?

Railroad owners didn’t understand they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business. They missed automobiles and trucks and airplanes and could have owned a future industry of monstrous size.

Dell doesn’t understand that he is in the computing industry, and computing devices are going ever smaller and mobile while Dell is not. Dell hasn’t had much success in that arena, so it’s understandable that he would consider it nonsense that his business would go away. Meanwhile, Apple makes their own businesses go away while inventing another one.

When it comes to prognosticating on the future of computerdom, whom should I believe?


  1. Both are right – Dell near term – although that might turn out to be much nearer than he cares about – and Jobs long term.

    If you’re used to operating an iPad, the whole idea of a PC (and Mac to a lesser extent) is absurd. I opened my iPad this morning – I checked my news feeds and my email. I opened my Windows PC this morning – it downloaded 27 critical updates while I was trying to actually get something done. Drivers?! Operating Systems? Updates? Security alerts? This is all BS that gets in the way; the iPad does away with all of it and the result is beautiful.

  2. I wonder what it is like to have to wait on Microsoft for an OS that will run on a tablet that you may or may not have in the waiting. That’s why Apple can outmaneuver the competition. It creates its own OS for its devices. Dell and HP have to try (WebOS) to create their own (but they aren’t real good at it because to them it’s a cost of doing business when they can get it done for free by MS) or they are at the mercy of a company (MS) that for the last ten years hasn’t been able to get its act together. No wonder Dell is losing market share and profits. They don’t control their destiny. I can’t think of a worse scenario to be in as a company. And imagine if you get a turd like Microsoft Vista! Woo-boy. That’s gonna leave a mark.

  3. The earth is flat! The moon is made of cheese! Apple should return all it’s money to its shareholders!

  4. The big issue with companies trying to wring profits from the PC business is that for some time now PCs have become commodities…like pork bellies. They’re all alike, there’s no innovation, because the companies can’t afford to…it’s a race to the bottom of price.

  5. There is a stark contrast to how these two respective businesses are run. One is being run toward the future. The other is being run into the ground.

    Dell is old school, a legacy from the 90s. Apple is new wave, new age, product and customer oriented. It’s all about the experience. Dell is all about price and bullet points. Those who live by the price, die by the price. Dell operates on hubris. Apple operates on mixed emotions: joy and fear. The joy of a great new product. And the fear that they’ll become like their moribund competition.

  6. What is it they say?

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

    Dell was quick to criticize Apple in the past. He’s quick to criticize Apple today. But the truth is in the taste of the pudding. Apple is worth about the same as Microsoft, Google, and Dell combined.

    Sorry, Dell. When customers stand in line to buy your products you’re doing something right.

  7. I think Steve’s truck analogy is right on the nose. I’m a developer and the concept that I would trade in my Mac for an iPad is absurd. But there aren’t that many developers and an iPad works perfectly well for a good 75% of the computing public.

    PCs will always be a good business, though, much like trucks are a good business. Heck, I don’t see GM and Ford and Toyota deciding not to make trucks anymore. In my opinion, the PC isn’t going anywhere just yet. People still want the flexibility of a PC (hey, how’s that Flash website working out for you?)

    But in another, say, 10 years or so, people will figure out that they’re spending much more time on their iPads than on their PC. And when that PC finally craps out, somebody will say, “Why do I need to buy one of these again?”

    • I bought an iPad 2 just ‘because.’ It’s a living room netbook without all the overhead. Then, my wife tried using it. Now I have to buy another iPad so I’ll have one to use. The little PC netbook? Gathering dust. We only start it up on Sunday afternoon to run the anti-virus program.

  8. While agree with the gist of your article, the analogies really need some work.

    The first autos weren’t trucks. Not even close. They were tiny, two seat buggies. It took decades of development before autos had the horsepower, hauling capacity, and infrastructure necessary to be used as trucks. (In fact, most of the work people assumed was done in the early twentieth century by trucks was actually done by small, industrial, portable railroads!)

    As for railroads missing the car era: Well, that story is far more complicated. The self inflicted wounds of US Railroads came from the horrible decisions of CEOs who believed they were in the real-estate/unit train business, not because they believed they were in the “railroad” business. However, most of the damage came at the hands of GM in its effort to supplant trains with autos using semi-illegal business practices (like buying out all the locomotive manufacturers and discontinuing all but diesel manufacturing – GM is still one the worlds two largest diesel locomotive manufacturers). Railroads outside the US are profitable and expanding at fast rate. In fact, one of the Canadian railroads has now bought out most of the routes in the mid-west and operates their own trains, non-stop, from Canada to Mexico City; routes American “MBAnuses” seem to think are useless and unprofitable.

    • You do realize that the ‘quote’ above, hence the analogies, came from Steve Jobs, right? The first autos were not even autos, in the sense that we know of cars today. A buggy wasn’t much more than a horse and carriage without the horse; and the carriage was the truck of yesteryear.

      Did railroads miss the transportation era as asserted? Hell yes! Even today all they can do is trains. For what it’s worth, US railroads are profitable, too. But they don’t rule shipping like trucks in the US.

      Regardless, Jobs was spot on. Things change. Either control the change or be controlled by someone else’s change.

  9. And it is a good thing you do. Without good teachers, we are definitely in the post PC era already. Post thinking in general…

    But, back on topic, I’d hate to be competing with Apple right now. It would be like fighting Muhammad Ali. You’d be on the ropes, then on the floor, then out for the count. You’d be getting your chops busted every way you tried to turn.

    The fine folks at Apple, Jobs included, have been out thinking and out performing the collective PC makers for a very long time. The PC apologists have clouded the issue very well — “the PC must be better, look at how many there are…” But it was all ‘rope a dope’. Apple created a thriving ecosystem right under their noses — clever, beautiful device designs; bustling, elegant stores; world class customer support. Who among the PC manufacturers will prevail against them now?