Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Internet Leading to Changes in Personal Computing

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Internet Leading to Changes in Personal Computing

Article excerpt

Is it time to scrap your PC or dump your investments in the likes of PC kingpins Intel and Microsoft? For the past five years a vocal melange of pundits and industry leaders have been predicting the death of the PC. It's complicated, expensive, unreliable and underutilized, they say. IBM, the mainframe computer giant that legitimized the personal computer with the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981, included a section in its annual report last year titled, "The PC Era is Over."

Scores of companies are racing to introduce PC replacements. Computer trades shows such as Comdex and PC Expo, which historically have been showcases for new PC products, are increasingly dominated by announcements about non-PC devices.

What's happening is the Internet. And it is indeed leading to profound changes in the world of personal computing. Rather than an end in itself, the PC is seen more and more as just one of a number of Internet access devices.

Internet appliances such as the i-opener (http://www.netpliance.com) are easier to set up and use than a PC, and less expensive too. Handheld computers such as the Palm VII (http://www.palm.com) are portable, popular, chic and increasingly connected.

For business use, network computers, which haven't been as popular as predicted by companies such as Sun Microsystems and Oracle, are quietly encroaching upon the office. A recent survey by Computerworld magazine found that 35 percent of businesses are using network computers or other "thin clients," including PCs that run Microsoft Windows but don't have hard, floppy and CD-ROM drives.

Network computers such as the Sun Ray (http://www.sun.com/sunray) cost less to buy -- and more importantly, to maintain -- than PCs because programs are accessed and upgraded from a central server computer instead of individual hard disks.

Then there are "set-top boxes" that access the Internet through your TV such as Microsoft's WebTV (http://www.webtv.com) and Web phones such as the Sprint PCS Touchpoint (http://www.sprintpcs.com/wireless).

Finally, with "voice portals" such as Tellme, (http://www.tellme.com) you can access over the Internet for free snippets of information such as stock quotes and weather forecasts using a plain old telephone.

It might seem that, like the mainframe computer before it, the PC is about to be supplanted by newer and simpler technologies. Even Microsoft, which has a vested interest in consumers buying as many PCs as possible, is hedging and planning to adapt its software to the Internet. …

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