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'The tablet is my device of choice': Why PC creator Mark Dean has largely abandoned his electronic child

Gordon Mah Ung | Dec. 17, 2014
Thanks, Dad? Mark Dean, who helped created the original IBM PC, predicted his creation's death three years ago. We check back to see how he feels about it now.

I also see the demise of the smartphones via "wearable devices", and the demise of the tablets via "virtual workstations". Most of this capability will be enabled via 3D I/O devices, projection technologies and the ability to handle media data like text. 

Has anything in the last three years in the PC industry lead you to change your position on the fate of the PC? 

Ouch. Most people took your column to say that tablets were the future. What you really said was: "...that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact." Can you give me examples of innovations you've seen in the last three years? Are we talking Internet of Things? Social media? 
One small example is enabling people to interact, work and play together in real-time through their devices. This includes distributed interactive games, interactive document creation, video conferencing, interactive product development, and MOOCS/distance learning.

Social media services and applications is another example, creating a new way for humans to interact and share information. The Internet of Things is yielding opportunities in productivity improvement, reduced waste, transportation efficiencies, and more. Don't forget the cloud, which is changing how we access computing applications, services and storage. The Internet continues to be the enabler for all these advances.

But there are problems all this capability is creating: The need to store and analyze exponentially increasing amounts of information, and the ability to secure and protect all that data. We have yet to solve either of these problems.

When you were a CTO at IBM, you said you used a tablet as your primary computer. I'd think a university professor has to use a PC with large monitor or many monitors to be highly productive. Do you truly use a tablet for all of your work?
For 85 percent of my activities, including reading research papers, homework, email, information sharing and delivering class content, I am using a tablet. I still need a PC to visualize large amounts of data and/or to enter large amounts of text data. The tablet is my device of choice.

In 2011, you said you were glad IBM had sold off its PC division to Lenovo. Today, IBM is facing layoffs and declining sales and revenue, while Lenovo has seen a 300 percent increase in shareholder value and is the No. 1 producer of PCs in the world. Do you think IBM should have stayed in the PC business?
No. PCs are commodities: high volume, low margin devices. It's difficult to differentiate a PC. IBM must continue to leverage its strengths: highly innovative technologies, products and services.


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