There’s no doubt that we‘re on the cusp of some of the biggest changes that the technology industry has ever seen. The emergence of cloud computing promises (or threatens) to move strategic computing resources out of the datacenter and into the web. At the same time, mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are now the rivals of desktop PCs. It’s only been a short time since the introduction of mobile devices, and now these technologies are ushering in a new always-connected approach to doing business. The cominbation of these two emerginc technologies, cloud computing and mobile devices, has prompted many experts to declare the death of the PC and that we are now in the “Post-PC Era." Despite this, I’ll tell you why I think PCs are here to stay.
The Beginning of the Post-PC Era
At VMworld 2011, Paul Martiz, CEO of VMware, declared in his keynote address that we are now in the post-PC era. According to this way of thinking, new mobile and consumer devices will be preferred by end users to take the place of Windows-based PCs. Smartphones and mobile devices now outnumber PCs, and today’s IT users want instant access to their strategic computing resources from their favorite personal device. Database applications and web sites that are typically accessed via browsers will need to adapt to the smaller-form factors found in mobile devices. This trend will also be fueled by cloud technologies that don’t require anything more than a thin client and a browser. The computing power comes from the cloud infrastructure, not end users’ PCs.
The PC Isn’t Going Away Just Yet
There’s little doubt that Martiz is right about the need for IT to embrace and support mobile devices of all shapes and sizes. However, at Microsoft BUILD 2011 in Anaheim, it became crystal clear that the PC is far from dead. Although mobile devices are certainly proliferating and have become an integral part of our work experience, the changes that Microsoft has made in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 (formerly code-named Windows Server 8) clearly show that the PC isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
In fact, Windows 8 appears poised to herald in a new touch-centric computing experience that looks like it will change the PC computing experience permanently. Windows 8’s touch-based interface is called Metro and is undoubtedly Microsoft’s response to the surprising success of Apple’s iPad. However, it does all the things that an IT professional and developer could want—capabilities that the iPad could never deliver—such as the ability to run Microsoft Office and Visual Studio.
Windows 8 Server Improvements
Although the Windows 8 interface is a huge change, the improvements coming up in Windows Server 8 are every bit as enormous. As Windows 8 doubled up on its GUI by adding the touch-based Metro interface to the standard Windows Aero interface, Windows Server 8 sheds its GUI entirely. The default installation of Windows Server 8 will be the minimalist Server Core. You can add the GUI as a feature, but the default out-of-the-box installation will set up Windows Server 8 in the Server Core configuration. In addition, Server Manager has been enhanced to provide multi-server management capabilities, and PowerShell has been extended to provide the ability to manage all Windows infrastructure servers. The changes made to Server Core and PowerShell promise to revolutionize the Windows Server management experience further by cementing Windows Server as a core IT infrastructure service. These improvements also ensure that PCs will be part of the IT landscape for some time to come. For more information about upcoming changes in Windows Server 8 that are important to SQL Server installations, see “SQL Server–Oriented Windows Server 8 Features".
A New User Experience for PCs
There’s no doubt that cloud computing and mobile devices will require a broader approach to how applications deliver data to end users. That said, it’s also perfectly clear that the so-called “post-PC era” that we’re supposedly in is actually going to include PCs. The Windows 8 desktop will deliver a new user experience while continuing to run all existing Windows 7 applications. Core infrastructure servers such as Windows Server and SQL Server continue to improve and evolve, and they’re going to be around in the foreseeable future.