iPad leads in 'Post-PC world', BBC iPlayer boss confirms

By Jonny Evans

The iPad-led Post-PC age isn't just an Apple [AAPL] marketing trick, it's real, and tablet usage has grown 2,500 percent in the last year, according to the BBC's director of future media, Ralph Rivera.


Up, up and away

Rivera claims that while computers remain the most common way to access the BBC's popular iPlayer programming, tablet usage has climbed incredibly fast.

"The computer version may still have the majority - but if you look at the growth, it's in the device segment. The tablet is essentially becoming the second television in the home," he told Pocket-Lint.

The BBC is expected to launch iPlayer in the US this year. When it does, US audiences can look forward to new levels of access to content from the UK broadcaster -- and in future can expect their iPads to offer even deeper access to such content, including the ability to navigate to related content.

[ABOVE: iPad gets everywhere, here's the latest (slightly marketingy) glimpse at the work of the iPad DJ.]

"If you have an iPad, and you're watching BBC programming and it recognizes that, then the iPad becomes a complimentary device to what is showing on your big screen and might give you abilities to navigate to related content," he explained.

Admittedly, the figures reveal there's plenty of life in the PC. iPlayer is accessed by 2 million desktops and 6.1 million notebooks, while 0.4 million smartphones and 0.2 million tablets access iPlayer shows. Tellingly, both the last categories are illustrated by Apple products in the corporation's own slides.

Can an Apple TV TV be far behind?

Games industry insiders now recognize the iPad as the biggest threat to consoles. Ian Baverstock, co-founder of Tenshi Ventures says: "You will see tablets running at 80 per cent power, graphically, as the big consoles in the next few years." He thinks iPads are reducing the cost barrier for entry into the gaming space.

It is interesting to note that the Apple A5 ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor inside the iPad 2 is already comparable with the PS3 for graphics performance. Apple is thought to be plotting an HD iPad, the iPad 3, set for introduction perhaps as soon as the end of this year.

Look at the evidence

HP, Acer and others have revealed a drop in PC shipments in recent months, even while Apple's tablet and computer sales continue climbing. Sales of HPs PCs in total fell by 5 percent, but for consumer PCs the figure was 23 percent.

The trend in favor of Post-PC computing is even visible on eBay, which recently told us that it sold 18,308 tablets and eReaders compared with just 13,155 desktops in May this year.

Explaining Apple's focus on tablets during the iCloud launch event, company CEO Steve Jobs recently explained:

"About 10 years ago, we had one of our most important insights. The PC was going to be the digital hub for your digital life...That's where you were going to put your digital photos, your digital video...your music," Jobs said.

Introducing iCloud, he added, "We're going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. We're going to move the digital hub into the cloud. For those people who want to be completely PC free, [there is] wireless backup to the cloud," he said.

Commenting on the news, Giles Cottle, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media at WWDC said: "Apple's tight control of its device ecosystem means that iCloud is much more likely to, as Steve Jobs puts it, "just work". Apple's total control of the device and content ecosystem has been heavily criticized in the past, but, if iCloud works as well in practice as it did in today's demo, it's a stunning validation of the power of closed ecosystems."

What do we do?

Ultimately, these new environments are defined by the way users handle them. In the past we'd use computers for document creation and exploration: these days we use them as filters for huge quantities of information.

"Today, people are consuming information that is streamed to them constantly. Now, it's about how to filter that information, comment on it, recombine it, and stream it back out again," said VMWare CEO, Paul Maritz. "We've moving not only to the post-PC era, but the post-document era. It's not that documents are going to go away -- they'll still be important, but they'll no longer be the center of the universe."


A recent consumer survey by Canalys revealed some interesting detail on how tablets are used.

Web browsing, email/messaging, social networking predominate, with "At least 10% of Western European pad owners surveyed by Canalys claimed to use over 24 different application categories, spread across communications, entertainment, leisure/lifestyle and financial/business."

Take a look at this interesting CIO photo report on 15 ways the iPad's already used at work.

"This broad usage pattern reinforces the pad's role as a general-purpose computing device, and much more than just a consumption device," said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. "The pad represents a real threat to PC and consumer electronics vendors, as it is capable of replacing devices in a range of other categories."

Minority Report computing is antique

Forrester analyst, Sarah Rotman, predicts that the way we control post-PC devices is set for change. She thinks touch, voice, facial recognition and more will define what she articulates as "context-aware sensors" for these new post-PC devices. In future we'll also see the appearance of more powerful and sophisticated wearable devices.

This suggests a future in which "Luke" will be connected to a server-based system which enables him to access all the functions of a PC via a local device and a server. Luke will walk into a meeting and will be able to say "Computer, please send me the presentation and direct it to the closest networked display to my current location."

At that point the presentation will appear on whichever device he chooses that's close to hand, be that a monitor, wireless picture frame, connected television, handheld device or video projection system.

It will also be possible to edit data, create new data, and, as solutions become inevitably more powerful, most all applications we use a PC for today will be accessed in the cloud, controlled by a growing selection of connected mobile devices and synced across all a user's approved systems. Apple calls this, iCloud.

How do you see the Post-PC age evolving? Let us know in comments below. I'd also very much like to invite you to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when I post new reports here first on Computerworld.  

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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