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The mainframe isn't dead, and neither is the PC

Rob Enderle | April 14, 2014
The mainframe was supposed to go extinct decades ago, but it's abundant in many habitats. Same goes for the PC, which seems to have adapted for survival better than once thought. Both the mainframe and the PC offer evolutionary advantages that newer, more sophisticated species still struggle to match.

To that end, a lot of folks scream that the PC is dead. If it doesn't evolve, it will die. But it is evolving. This week, AMD is saying desktop sales are surging while tablet and smartphone sales appear to be stalling.

There are two reasons for this: Desktop PCs are evolving into smaller, appliance-like products, and tablet and smartphone users are finding they need a desktop, not a notebook, when they get back to the office. They just want an all-in-one device or small form factor appliance, not the obsolete PC tower.

Why not a laptop? These devices are attempting to evolve, but the display hampers its capability to defend against the encroachment of tablets. What's fascinating is that we pretty much declared the Windows Tablet a failed experiment a decade ago; even Steve Jobs thought tablets were stupid, and he's the guy responsible for the current tablet wave.

It's also fascinating that a lot of the folks I know, adamant that the tablet would replace the laptop, have shifted to using iPad Mini tablets and MacBook Airs for getting work done without admitting that replacing a laptop with a tablet was a stupid idea in the first place.

Conservation Efforts Saved Mainframe, Can Save PC

Yes, many technologies that have gone extinct over the last five decades were incredibly popular in their day: Wang Computers, the bulletin boards, modems and Network Operating Systems (Netware). Each died because it didn't evolve - PDA vendors could have made smartphone, bulletin boards could have become content and social networking sites, and modems could have been network cards.

The non-death of the mainframe showcases that even the most archaic of platforms can evolve and remain relevant if the folks who manage the platform act to evolve it. Here's to all the mainframe supporters who stepped up and assured the future of the mainframe. And here's to never forgetting an important lesson: Evolve or die.


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