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Happy 30th birthday IBM PC – but it’s time to make way for the next generation

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In his blog post of August 12th 2011 marking the 30th anniversary of the IBM personal computer, Mark Dean, one of the engineers who designed the first machine, declares that  PCs “are going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.”

Admitting that his own primary computer is now a tablet, Dean says “while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing.”

Although he sees PCs as being replaced at the centre of computing “not by another type of device but by new ideas about the role that computing can play in progress”, there’s no doubt that smartphones and tablets are rapidly taking over as work device of choice – the latest figures from research firm Gartner reveal that global smartphone shipments have grown 74% in second quarter of 2011, with worldwide sales of mobile devices reaching 428.7 million units.

As a new generation of tablet-toting employees enters the workplace, it brings with it a new set of expectations. These employees don’t rely simply on email and the phone but will routinely use video, IM, web conferencing, social networking and blogging to support their work activities.

This fundamental change in approach is driving the move towards the PC-free desk – in fact you might ask “what desk?” Enabled by the power of the Cloud to provide the mobility, cost savings and efficiency of the shared infrastructure, smartphones are freeing employees from the confines of the office.

So now, nearly three decades on from Bill Gates’ embracing of IBM’s landmark development and his vision of a “PC on every desk”, we’re on the brink of new era: the era of the Smart Generation.

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