Should Tablets Be Considered PCs Or Not?

As Juliet once said in the Shakespeare classic, “Romeo and Juliet”:  What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. While this might be true, there has been some recent debate behind using the name “PC”.

What’s in a name, a PC by any other name would still use applications and Internet, right?

Okay, so it seems former VP of AMD, Patrick Moorhead, has set his foot down on this one. PCs are NOT tablets or smartphones, or smart houses or tech-powered watches.

According to his recent post,

I’d like to propose a few tests and run a few products through to see what filters out. A PC today must have or be:

  • Electronic: a PC must run off some kind of electric power, AC or DC.
  • Operating system: a PC must run something above BIOS or machine code
  • Personal: the PC is designed for one or a few people, not many. In other words, it’s not a multi-user server. (Clarification: It could serve many people, but isn’t classified as a server.)
  • Portable: a PC can be moved
  • Apps: a PC must be able to run an application above the operating system level
  • Storage: a PC must be able to store personal data, settings or content
  • Customizable: a user can change the PC’s settings
  • Input: a user can input data so that the PC will react to commands
  • Display Output: the PC will visibly show data based via some visible display technology

As he argues such a definition would in fact classify many devices as a PC, including the dashboard on fancy cars like the BMW and even some smart-fridges.

Moorhead further proposes that the following must also be present in order to classify as a PC:

I believe a PC has all the nine characteristics at the top of the page but with the following conditions:

  • display greater than 5″
  • physical keyboard
  • physical mouse or trackpad
  • light enough to be picked up by an average age adult 
  • open application environment where users can load, side-load without having to jail-break

So let’s look this over, by his statement an iPad isn’t a PC because the only source of apps are from the App store and there is no physical mouse or keyboard. This is fair enough, I suppose but it also means that Windows 8 ARM tablets aren’t actually PCs either, at least if the recent rumor that they won’t run a desktop mode is true.

Personally, I agree that tablets are a sub-category of computers, just like PCs are a sub-category of a broader group of computers as well. Of course, the idea “Personal Computer” means that it is used for personal uses and on a smaller scale, which I suppose adds to the confusion.

Regardless, I want to agree with the points made by Moorhead, or at least mostly agree. The only argument I have with his point, is that this means that likely the “PCs” of the future won’t be PCs, at least by his definition.

A fully touchscreen PC that uses voice, kinect-style cameras, and touch while running a wide variety of apps from various sources is still a PC, I would wager. Of course, not by the statements above, which say a keyboard and mouse is necessary to qualify as a PC.

You might be thinking, even if a user primarily uses voice/touch/kinect to use a PC they would still have a keyboard and mouse though. Honestly, I’m not sure about this.

If your ONLY purpose is internet, watching videos, and other basic uses than you wouldn’t necessarily need a keyboard and mouse at all. Again, I think a keyboard will likely stay as a required tool for a while, but a mouse or trackpad?

Unless you need precision when operating your PC (for things like gaming and other specialty purposes), touch could easily take the place of a mouse or at the very least a touchpad, and such a device should still count as a PC if you ask me.

Personally I’ve always hated laptop touchpads and would find using touch completely no less annoying than using just the touchpad (again I do still use a mouse attached to the laptop).

Additionally closed markets for apps are becoming a big thing, and although this probably won’t happen for at least a decade or more, I could see brands like Apple eventually making applications only run from a marketplace controlled by Apple.

Would these future Apple Macs still be PCs? I don’t know, I am somewhat mixed on this.

So what do you think about Moorhead’s terms for classifying a PC? Do you agree with his qualifying points? Should a PC that doesn’t use keyboard or mouse still count as a PC though? Share your thoughts below.

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  • ECM2

    IF by the word “computer” one means “desktop computer” or “laptop computer”, then tablets are NOT computers. I know a lot of people who bought iPads and Android tablets and all of them are still using their laptops and desktops.  None of them tossed their laptop/desktop in the trash, none of them donated their laptop/desktop
    to charity, and none of them gave me their laptop/desktop even if they know I like tinkering with old hardware.  Obviously they still need their
    laptops and desktops – even if they already have tablets.

    IF we look at it from this perspective, windows 8 tablet is really a tablet+PC — a class of its own (by tablet, I mean multi-touch tablet, not the old pen tablet). 

    Also from this perspective,  it is easy to see how Microsoft will be absent from the multi-touch consumption tablet
    market — the market that is very HOT right now — if Microsoft decides NOT to release a WP7-derived ARM-base tablet.

    One has to see through the “semantics” to appreciate the real world (and the gadget market demands).