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IBM declares the end of the PC era

Are we living in a “post-PC” world? Steve Jobs thinks so, and he often refers to the iPad as a “post-PC” device.

Now an IBM executive has added fuel to the fire–its CTO for the Middle East and Africa region, Mark Dean, said the company did the right think in getting out of the PC business.

August 12th marked the 30th anniversary of the IBM 5150 PC, which was widely considered to be the beginning of the PC era. IBM, for years, lead the way in ensuring a PC in every home, a campaign which in turn spurred an industry that now sells hundreds of millions of units each year, the company believes.

Considering that Dean was on the team that helped shape IBM’s PC business, his commentary was stunning. He lauded the company for selling its computer business to Lenovo in 2005. “While many in the tech industry questioned IBM’s decision to exit the business at the time, it’s now clear that our company was in the vanguard of the post-PC era,” Dean said.

Whoa, did he really just say that? Yes he did, and he goes on to say that he himself has moved beyond the PC. Without disclosing which brand he’s using, Dean admits his primary computing device is now a tablet.

The PC is no longer at the leading edge of computing, and Dean argued that services — not another computing device — are leading the way.

His argument made sense: look at the rise of social networking. The service itself is key, not the hardware it’s running on. This is true across a range of other computer industry sectors as well.

Obviously everyone’s not going to agree. In a separate blog post, Microsoft Corporate Communications Chief Frank Shaw said he likes to think of the current state of computing as the “PC-plus” era. He adds that over 400 million PCs will be shipped in 2011 alone.

“We’ll continue to lead the industry forward in bringing technology to the next billion (or 2 billion or 6 billion) people on our planet,” Shaw wrote. “We’ll do that as we always have, by working with our partners to deliver amazing experiences to individuals and businesses.”

That certainly sounds to me like Microsoft thinks the PC as a platform will be around for a long, long time.

I happen to agree with Jobs — and now Dean’s — position. The PC as we know it is done. As our computing lives move onto the cloud, raw computing power is becoming less and less important. The intense computing is happening on the server side and not on your home computer.

This is indeed turning our computing world upside down. But in an ever-interconnected society, is it all that surprising?

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