Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Why Apple is Already the #1 PC Manufacturer

If tablets are PCs and phones have the same specs as tablets, how is Apple not the leading PC manufacturer in the world?

  • November 29, 2011

If – and for some, this is a big if – the iPad is a PC, then Apple is about to overtake HP as the world’s leading manufacturer of PCs, reports industry research firm Canalys. But the the truth is that Apple has already taken this title.

On what planet is this not a PC?
cc mrbps

First, let’s address the issue of whether or not a tablet is a personal computer. (Just spelling out “personal computer” makes the whole debate seem absurd.) iPads are more powerful than laptops were even a few years ago. Sure, they’re running ARM chips, but now that ARM chips are running, oh I don’t know, servers, it hardly seems to matter what hardware you’ve got under the hood as long as it gets the job done.

More importantly, once you attach a keyboard to an iPad, the “this isn’t a PC” line doesn’t pass the sniff test. As I can attest from hundreds of hours of personal experience, an iPad nestled in a Zagg keyboard case running web apps in Safari is indistinguishable from a laptop, and certainly more versatile than Google’s Chromebook.

Granted, it’s annoying that some of the handiest keyboard controls (for tab and application switching, for example) don’t work. Which just illustrates the point that it hardly matters whether or not the iPad is a particularly good PC. In confusing “this is a PC” with “this is a laptop replacement,” technology pundits continue to miss the forest for the trees, which is that what people want out of a PC turns out to not really be what companies thought they wanted.

There’s no reason an iPad couldn’t multitask to a greater extent than it currently does. If it wanted to, Apple could enable greater keyboard control and faster application switching.

Some apps, like Blogsy, already allow a degree of multitasking most people think would be impossible on an iPad. (For one, Blogsy allows you to browse the web and image libraries while writing posts in a split screen mode, effectively allowing you to have an HTML editor, web browser and image editor all open at the same time.)

Which brings us full circle on the status of Apple as PC manufacturer. The iPad is hardly a post-PC device – that’s marketing speak. It’s a PC in a form factor that’s the natural evolution of the ongoing press for ever smaller and lighter devices. If you hack it, you can do just about anything you like with it.

The real question is not, “is the iPad a PC?” The real question is, “at what point do we start defining devices like the iPhone 4S, which has the same CPU as the iPad and the same screen resolution, as PCs?” (Not to mention devices like the Motorola Atrix / “lapdock” combo.)

In which case, Apple is, bar none, the world’s largest PC manufacturer.

The AI revolution is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.