Did Steve Jobs just kill the PC? (Spoiler alert: No)

Steve Jobs at Apple developer conference, June 6, 2011: The PC gets a "demotion." Getty Images

Steve Jobs at Apple developer conference, June 6, 2011: The PC gets a "demotion."
Getty Images

It wasn't headline from Monday's Apple developer conference announcing the iCloud service and iOS 5. But Steve Jobs didn't hide where he thinks the future is heading.

"We are going to demote the PC to just be a device," he said, adding that Apple intends to move "the center of your digital life, into the cloud. Another Apple exec, Scott the senior vice president of iOS software, sounded the same message when noted later said that "we are living in a post PC world...Now, if you want to cut the cord, you can."

The sub-theme: we're heading toward a computing transition where the cloud becomes a digital hub and users can bypass personal computers in favor of mobile devices that don't depend upon the dated concept of file-storage.

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This isn't an entirely original idea. In the 1990s, industry types used to gather at tech conferences to talk over the then-nascent concept of a "thin client." That was an idea for a slimmed-down computer, where most of the work got offloaded to a server network. The concept originally got pushed by Oracle and Sun Microsystems, who sought to promote sales of their technologies at the expense of Bill Gates and Microsoft by offering an alternative to Windows.

A couple of decades later, Apple is offering an updated variation on that theme where the "cloud" turns into a virtual server for a myriad number of services that will "work seamlessly" with applications users run the device of their choosing. That's already happening and Jobs' demotion of the PC to the status of "a device" isn't really the radical concept it might have been had he made that statement ten - or even five - years ago. Even Microsoft is finally hip to the potential represented by cloud computing.

Perhaps the bigger challenge for our geek masters in Silicon Valley is to figure out a way to make the products they're shoving down our throats more secure. I'm overstating the case - slightly - but it seems that there's news of another security breach or big phishing scam every other day. That's not going to derail the transition Jobs is pushing. But if the security questions remain unresolved - and this isn't something Apple alone can fix - the future might take a bit longer to arrive.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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