October 17, 2006 6:39 AM PDT

Symbian forecasts the death of the PC

Related Stories

T-Mobile phone lineup gets smart

October 11, 2006

Confessions of a cell phone junkie

October 9, 2006

Streaming music for smart phones

September 25, 2006

Nokia takes a Snapfish dive

September 19, 2006

Used mobile devices share secrets

August 30, 2006
The PC will be on its last legs within five years, if executives from the mobile platform company Symbian are to be believed.

In his keynote speech at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London, the company's chief executive, Nigel Clifford, told delegates that the dawning era of the smart phone represents a shift "as profound as the Internet and PC were in the 1990s."

"Desktops PCs are effectively a flatlining commodity," Clifford said on Tuesday, while conceding that laptops were eliciting "perhaps a bit more" excitement.

Clifford suggested that the popularity of smart phones in the developed world and the "leapfrog economies" phenomenon in developing countries--in which expensive wired infrastructures are bypassed in favor of wireless--would create a situation where there was a "smart phone in every pocket."

Clifford cited the rates of technology adoption in India to back up his point. In India, the PC market is growing at 5 million units a year, while mobile phones were enjoying the same growth per month.

Symbian's head of propositions, John Forsyth, later argued that "in five years' time you'll wonder why you need a PC at all."

Speaking to ZDNet UK at the show, Forsyth said that "phones are beginning to eat into the space" that laptops were designed for.

"It will be a great relief to be liberated from the laptop," he added, citing poor laptop battery performance as a key reason.

Forsyth claimed the PC had stagnated and denied recent suggestions that phones would run out of new features over the next few years.

While conceding that there would be something of a shift from new hardware technology to new services, he pointed to "increased richness of both input and display technology" as an indicator of mobile technology's evolution.

"We see loads of keypad experimentation across vendors. That's a trend of innovation that will increase until people find solutions. It's clear that the numeric keypad has started to creak with the introduction of mobile e-mail," Forsyth said, describing the competition between various new input technologies--such as handwriting recognition and foldable keyboards--as "Darwinian."

In terms of screen capabilities, Forsyth noted that mobile phone screens were "going beyond just being personal" and were now considered by users to be suitable for sharing photos and content.

"The idea of sitting at a desk to view a Web page is inherently annoying. (Phone screens) are small but the size of the display relative to the phone size is growing and the resolution of screens is growing very rapidly," he added.

Another speaker at the event, Sony Ericsson's chief technology officer, Mats Lindoff, also predicted exciting advances in screen technology, and suggested that foldable or bendable displays would be available by 2012.

Lindoff pointed out that emerging devices contained memory equivalent to that of laptops seven years ago, and suggested that phones would in the future contain as much as 64GB of memory.

However, he acknowledged that, while Moore's Law would bring greater processing power for handheld devices, battery power would struggle to keep up. The solution, said Lindoff, would be to develop applications that are less power-hungry.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Symbian Inc., smart phone, India, London, mobile phone


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
he is morphing the issue
What happened in India wrt Mobile vs PC, is there was an underlying telecom demand in India which was suppressed by the Telecom Dept for decades because of its inability to meet the demand, added to it the affordability of mobile (Indians prefer Pay-Go price structure not subscription).

PC on the other hand is limited because of the high initial costs and till few years the internet infrastructure for home user was not robust(that is why Internet Cafes are preferred).

On a whole people using PC vs Mobiles in India is not 1 : 12 as indicated, but some where like 7:12, which is not bad and is not indication of PC is dead and PC is more a shared resource unlike a mobile, which is personal.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Did Laptop make Desktops obsolete?
This guys is stretching it too far. All these devices (PC and handhelds) have their own role to play and you can't substitute one for another...

Another potential problem it might face is low availability of software for symbion OS... just like Linux.
Posted by cary1 (924 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Linux distributions tend to suffer the other way
I'm unsure how apps for SymbionOS are but Linux has no shortage of applications; in that case, choosing between five to eight similar applications may intimidate new users.

Everything does have it's own use though. Cell phones will slowly get more fancy features and for those who just need a small access point, they may replace the desktop but for most users, the desktop is too general a computer to be replaced. For those with the latest greatest phone; it'll just do everything but there contact/calendar/task/voice call/email and text messaging.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
lets just...
wait 5 years. I wonder if he can tell me what lottery numbers are also coming out then...
Posted by alexgp87 (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pipe dream
We've been hearing this nonsense about handheld devices supplanting the PC since the heady days of The Bubble. Handhelds will do away with desktops as soon as the Big Mac does away with steak dinner.
Posted by converter42 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Very much a pipe dream
I agree that this is a pipe dream, there are things that you CANNOT do on mobile phones that you can do on PC's (heavy duty photo editings, playing complex games, etc.).
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Link Flag
I agree here...who out there reading this is saying, "Yes, that's right. I'd give up my laptop (or desktop) for a phone? I don't care how smart it is...64 gb's of storage in the future? Wow! That's just about sucky by today's standards for storage...never mind for future demands. Tell you what...I'll give you my phone for your laptop. Thank you.
Posted by dtglkg (1 comment )
Link Flag
All hype and wishful thinking.
"The idea of sitting at a desk to view a Web page is inherently annoying. (Phone screens) are small but the size of the display relative to the phone size is growing and the resolution of screens is growing very rapidly,"

Huh? Since when is viewing a web page on a 17 or 19 inch screen more annoying than viewing the same thing on a 6 inch or smaller screen?

The phone will never, never, never replace a computer with a large screen and ergonomic (ie. adult-sized) keyboard. It may complement it but not replace it.

Handwriting recognition, will never replace keyboards either because once one becomes even mildly proficient in typing, the keyboard will always be a faster and less tiring method of inputting text into a computer. Nobody seems to be aware of this simple fact.
Posted by tundraboy (494 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Could be....
"Handwriting recognition, will never replace keyboards either because once one becomes even mildly proficient in typing, the keyboard will always be a faster and less tiring method of inputting text into a computer. Nobody seems to be aware of this simple fact."

I don't think its the fact that "nobody seems to be aware of this simple fact"... I think its more that the manufacturers of the products in question seem to think convenience will override raw power, speed, and ease of use. I create Music Videos in my spare time, and there may come a day when that will be possible on a "mobile device"... however, when that IS possible, think of the advances made on the "less than portable" machines that will make them that much more powerful for the tasks at hand. Maybe some day, advances in mobile technology will make (for the casual user) desktops and high-powered laptops pointless... but 5 years from now is a little too far fetched.
Posted by ServerMonkey+FarmBoy (29 comments )
Link Flag
I agree&
Although handwriting recognition and the ability to sketch out
drawings directly on the screen are useful, they will never totally
replace keyboards. I am not by any means a proficient typer but I
can still type faster then I can write with a pencil, not to mention
you can always read my typing. And thats not always the case with
my handwriting ;-)
Posted by jones_8099 (177 comments )
Link Flag
I agree&
Although handwriting recognition and the ability to sketch out
drawings directly on the screen are useful, they will never totally
replace keyboards. I am not by any means a proficient typer but I
can still type faster then I can write with a pencil, not to mention
you can always read my typing. And thats not always the case with
my handwriting ;-)
Posted by jones_8099 (177 comments )
Link Flag
Unicycle manufacturers declare end of cars, planes and trains
This person is just trying to gain attention for his personal

Did it occur to him that computers are used for more than email,
word processing and web browsing.

When I can run Photoshop on my phone, have 2 TB of storage
space, and is as fast as my dual Xeon Mac Pro at work with 16
gigs of RAM, then I can live with just my phone.

At least until we have HUDs that are the equivalent of a 30"
display with full color, high contrast so I can color correct my
16.7 megapixel images, then this guy is simply full of hot air.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are these people on drugs!
I choked with laughter when reading this. I personally can't see playing World of Warcraft on a phone. Or blogging, reading news stories, emailing, and watching TV at the same time. I have a setup from Digital Tigers

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.digitaltigers.com/zenview-powertrio-ultrahd.shtml" target="_newWindow">http://www.digitaltigers.com/zenview-powertrio-ultrahd.shtml</a>

I am not willing to trade that for a phone with any size screen as they will be limited. I am already trying to keep from running out of space. Buying movie tickets or making a reservation while on the go is one thing. However a phone acting as a desktop replacement will never happen.
Posted by lormahoykyd2007 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's a pretty sweet setup.
Why not go all out and just spring for the "MasterPlex" -&gt; <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cinemassivedisplays.com/MasterPlex_30D.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.cinemassivedisplays.com/MasterPlex_30D.php</a>

That's a couple million more pixels than your "puny" zenview ;)
Posted by horchataman (2 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe, but it will be due more to Vista than phones
The high handed tactics MS has planned for Vista will definitely
have a lot of people looking for an alternative for their desktop

Some will upgrade to Macs or move to Linux. And yes, some will
move to smart phones (Symbian, Blackberry, etc.) for a lot of
their data needs.

The days of a fat client PC are definitely numbered, but IMO, it
will be replaced by portable devices and a thin client at your
home and/or office.

In any event, it won't be long until the average user won't have a
clue what OS he is running, and he won't care.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2. The proctologist called!...they found your head!
There is no need to add more.
Posted by jackrabbitslam (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Man I can't wait to do all my word processing, finances, taxes and
play high end mega-graphical games on my cell phone!
Posted by jabrecko (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Self serving crap
How does stuff like this get published as news?
Posted by veeblefetzer (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hlawed logic
The same argument could be made that since (unresearched) bottled water sales are increasing at an even higher rate, that the cell phone could be replace by Aquafina... At best, at least for the near future 10-20 years the cell phone may totally replace the palm pilot type devices... but replacing desktops/laptops? No. Once TV, Audio, and other multimedia all standardize on a common bluetooth-like interface.. the desktop may become a slightly different, more versitle animal...
Posted by densbtly (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Flawed logic
The same argument could be made that since (unresearched) bottled water sales are increasing at an even higher rate, that the cell phone could be replace by Aquafina... At best, at least for the near future 10-20 years the cell phone may totally replace the palm pilot type devices... but replacing desktops/laptops? No. Once TV, Audio, and other multimedia all standardize on a common bluetooth-like interface.. the desktop may become a slightly different, more versitle animal...
Posted by densbtly (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If only Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were that stupid??
Though the unprecedented rise of Symbain based phones and products cannot be belittled at any run of such a debate [me being from india, know about ir first hand] but to think that they can even come close to the replacing the PC [or more far fetched, to put it in the cold storage] is something really ridiculous.

A PC can never be replaced for any segment of the PC user; be it a normal home-maker checking recipes or an engineer at NASA tweaking the orbiter. Hell to make Symbian s/w one needs a PC. Infact the whole talk is more of an oxymoron.

In my views for the Symbian to exist and flourish, the only way to do so is to maintain and seek a "peaceful" relationship with the PC. It can be our next "on-the-fly" computing device but it never was,is or will be the Noahs Ark for future day computing.

Posted by ranjanabhb (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Bill Gates has Windows Mobile
So, he is not that stupid. Steve Jobs is still busy with gaining market share from Windows and it looks good for this moment. But it is not impossible, we will see Mac OS X Mobile in the near future. Hmm..
Posted by Gunady (191 comments )
Link Flag
Oh yeah, I can see myself composing a 12 page report on a cellphone--not!
Wishful thinking on Symbian's part. Smartphones are great for portability and convienence when you are away from your work or home PC. But that's it.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And you're all normal?
No one on this thread appears to be thinking. Most people don't write 12 page reports, most people don't run photoshop, most people play games on games consoles (not PC's), most people don't have dual processor PowerMacs. Most people write the odd email and browse the web or write memos. Everyone has been talking about voice recognition software for years - with little success. But when (as it surely will at some point) become viable, then why should you sit in front of a big screen with a panel of 100+ keys in front of you simply so that you can send an email? You'll rely on voice recognition and send the email from wherever you are. Likewise, you won't use PCs to play games - you'll use your games console. There will always be a need for someone somewhere to have a keyboard (the very few who need to use photoshop etc), but for the vast majority, a voice recognition system - and maybe a large (possibly foldable/rollable) screen is all you need to break the dependency on the legacy desktop/laptop
Posted by felix998 (6 comments )
Link Flag
Every 5 years there is some new lame pc killer "forecast"
Yet when these "predictions" never come to fruition, the predictor should be tarnished and hung out to dry!

Who the hell is going to write an essay on a cell phone keyboard? The keyboard is not going to go away anytime soon.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Obviously most of the negetive comments...`
...come from those who obviously never owned a Nokia NGage or
NGage QD. Symbian OS is by far the BEST mobil OS I have ever
developed for in this era.

J Gund
Tech01 Mobil
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nobody said Symbian products suck.
We're just saying phone-sized mobile devices will never replace desktops or laptops.
Posted by tundraboy (494 comments )
Link Flag
I've owned an N-Gage QD and disagree completely
Desptite the fact that the N-Gage / N-Gage QD were decent gaming devices, they utterly failed as phones. I used mine for about a year before I upgraded to Windows Mobile. It's amazing how much more you can do on a superior operating system and device. Symbian was slow, unreliable, prone to crashing, and it had terrible application selection.
Posted by Corrupt_Data (9 comments )
Link Flag
Symbian/Nokia relationship
Typical total self promotion under the disguise of a meaningful objective prediction. The article failed to mention that Symbian is more than 60% owned by Nokia. Other mobile phone companies who were also invested in Symbian sold off their interest in Symbian(acquired by Nokia). This "forecast" was nothing more than a public proclaimation of Symbian/Nokia's desire to replace PCs/Laptops by one of their Symbian shills. While I like Nokia's products it is no secret they have been working for years to replace the PC dominated Enterprise infrastructure with a fully mobile solution. Translation - Symbian's dream to replace Windows, Linux and Max OS when it grows up????
Posted by Shakingmy head (48 comments )
Link Flag
Obvisously it doesn't work
I use to work for a company that used handhelds with the Symbian OS and the number one complaint was that it always froze. The only thing we could tell people was to reset the handheld and reload the data. After the contract was up a year later the company keep the handheld, but changed to another OS.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
He's neglecting gamers
He's neglecting gamers, which is still a large segment of the market. Granted, there are systems the size of a cell phone (and some smaller) that play games extremely well. PSP, GBA, and DS all do what they do with amazing finesse, but the last cellular phone-like device that tried to get its foot in the door was the ChocoTac- erm, nGage. To say that it failed miserably is an understatement of epic proportions.

Further, the games library of Symbian devices, while ever growing, is simply pathetic. The dominating genres are card games, wallpaper and ringtone browsing, and awful ports of more successful games from other platforms - not the least of which is the supposedly "dying" PC. Case in point: if you liked The Sims 2, have you tried the mobile version? Here's a friendly tip: don't.

The bottom line is that I do more with my PC than I do with my phone. I use my phone to call people and as an alarm clock on business trips. Word processing on a 2 inch screen? Excel worksheets? Surfing the web? Playing games that could be played on a PC? None of that's even remotely possible. Until they clear those hurdles, Symbian devices won't replace the PC, and it's going to take a lot longer than 5 years to do it.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This man is a visonary
I see most derisive comments, but I suspect this is due to the
fact that most of the posters are Americans. Fact is that the
States are somehow 3 to 5 years behind Europe and Japan when
it comes to mobile telephony, maybe this can partly explain why
they don't understand.

I think the Symbian guy is right, maybe not so about the 5 years,
it will surely take a bit longer, but most of what he claims will

If someone would have told me in 1991 that almost everyone
will ever carry a device less than 100 gram enabling him/her to
communicate virtually with anyone in the world (I am again
relating to the situation in Europe), I would probably scoff at this
person. And this was only 15 years ago! We have the same
situation now.

Computers won't disappear, what will happen is that there will
be a clearer polarisation and solidification of the client/server
model. Only that computers will be mostly servers and phones
mostly clients (well, they will probably be called differently by
then) . It's a logical continuation of the computing model
spurred by the Internet. The applications will mostly run on the
servers, not on your client (i.e. phone).

The only problem as pointed by the Symbian guy is indeed the
input/output device, but I am sure that the developers will find a
better solution. Remember only the revolution that the mouse
determined in the computing world; something similar will
revolutionise the phones world.

In fact, the term "phone" must be losely taken: during the next
years there will be a heavy consolidation between phones, iPods,
small cameras, PDAs and so on, which will result in a sort of a
personal tool that everybody will carry (a la Star Trek).

That's so simple. I can see this coming.

Posted by lixpaulian (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He may be a visonary but&
he is claiming that his product will replace desktop and laptop
computers in 5 years time. Thats simply won't happen in that
short of time. Smart phones would have to all of a sudden gain
the power and memory capacity of desktop computers for that
to happen not to mention have some form of virtual screen to
make up for the small LCD screens on cell phones. I'm all for
more mobile computers such as a new variation of the tablet PC
but something as small as a phone would more inconvenient
then it would be convenient as a full time computer. Now with
that being said it could be possible for smart phones to take
over the iPod, PDA, small camera market in 5 years but not the
desktop/laptop market.
Posted by jones_8099 (177 comments )
Link Flag
You're ignoring that while your fancy smart phones get more intricate, the PC is advancing just as fast! You can now buy computers for $1200 that have multitouch, HD screens, are more portable than a tower and monitor, have 4-8gbs of RAM and can run most modern, multi-threading video games as well as CPU intensive tasks such as Illustrator and video editing, ie an all-in-one pc. In a little over sixty years the computer has gone from a command-line interface to Windows 7 and Mac OSX snow leapard. The games have changed from good ol pong to games like crysis, a three year old video game that is still being used to benchmark modern graphics cards.

Phones, in case and point, will NEVER replace PCs because by the time phones have evolved to the point that PCs are today, the PCs of the future will be controlling our houses and driving us to work. Oh, and the reason us Americans are objecting is because we're realists, not idealists. We don't convince ourselves that things are possible when they really aren't, I don't anyways. And by the way, there was at least one Indian that objected too, so get your facts straight.
Posted by GuardianAngel42 (302 comments )
Link Flag
Not in the hand of cellular operators
Cellular phones will never be as flexible as a PC, not because of their size, but because they are marketed by the big marketing companies, that would cripple them so they can sell you "additional features" a year later, and would charge a lot for access to anything higher than lowest common denominator features.

Though having email in my cellphone could have been great, using wap a few years ago proved a pain, when just having to reach a field that can take a URL meant browsing through several screens of my supplier's "content" (horoscopes etc.)
Theere were many other technicalities back then, but I trust my supplier to continue pushing their "content" in front of my nose, and I have never seen their marketing approach anything but the very lowest common denominator.

So count on those selling cellphones to cripple the capabilities. With a PC you can do anything you want: just get the software and install. Connect to the internet using standard protocols and do your thing. With a cellphone you'll always be limited so as to prevent you from easily freely accessing content that competes with your supplier's services ("freely" means paying only for the bandwidth you use).
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As if all we used computers for was internet...
why would the pc die? it wouldn't. it's one of the most useful devices to discover humanity.

(most of you know) computers perform several varieties of tasks, only a fraction of which could be performed on a phone. a phone, for christsake!!! editing autocad drawings, recording music, video editing?

that headline was just to get your attention, and i guess it worked...
Posted by useanalogue (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
bah: We've all heard this claim before
What stuff and nonsense. My use of the box transcends email. I don't like the calculator-style buttons on phones and certainly would not use such a thing as a general work platform.

Everybody gabs about these smart(sic)phones. Cel phone service is generally of poor quality. The companies offer all these pointless frills to distract you from that fact. The PC has become a pretty robust machine. Who wants to squint at some tiny lo-res screen? Bah Humbug!
Posted by ncmathsadist (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SmartPhone over a PC? PipeDream!
Stick the arguement of the web taking over the PC. I can see that one happening. If you look at the "smart phone" as a window to the web you might have something.

But it will only be good for some tasks, and fail miserably at others..

If my Treo650 is anything that the future holds... we've got a LOT of work ahead of us. Buggy bugggy buggyyyy......

- Bryan
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.BryanCFleming.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.BryanCFleming.com</a>
Posted by bfleming98 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
These people are on Crack!!!!
If there's going to be a PC Killer,this is not it. Killing the PC would require changing the way we do business interms of spread sheets, presentations, etc. I don't see it.
Posted by techisgood (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
and books will be killed off by the internet, no one will ever want their own personal computer, I've seen these redundant claims before by the dozen - always by someone with something new to sell.

The thing is, they would probably do a better job selling their gadgets if they didn't focus their marketing on stupid statements.

Sure one day the PC will be gone. It will be replaced by something new - but that something won't be some stupid little gadget with a 2" screen.

When something that replaces the monitor comes along that can produce something better looking than the high resolution, finely detailed graphics that computers and their monitors currently give - without sacrificing performance (e.g. not laptops, which by necessity have to sacrifice performance to prolong battery life) then we will lose the PC.

Until the user has something that beats the visual quality of large widescreen flat panel or even CRT monitors, something that makes current multi-core desktop processors look like dinosaurs, something significantly less complicated to use than modern PDAs or cell phones, something that costs no more than the everyday corporate PC - then we will wave goodbye to the desktop PC, and not before.

Glorified cellphones are never going to offer the audio and visual performance that a decent specced, modern PC offers - a laptop might one day, but never a cellphone or crackberry ripoff.

When you can walk out of a room saying "end program" after you've finished the latest holographic mmorpg perhaps.. or when battery technology is replaced by fuel cells in laptops light enough for my grandma to carry around, but sporting a large enough screen to enjoy movies.. but stupid little screens sported by MP3 players, PSPs, cellphones or PDAs - yeah right.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which reminds me, have you heard about the new paper batteries? They coat paper with metal of some sort and then give it a charge. Light as a feather and very condensible, I'm just saying.
Posted by GuardianAngel42 (302 comments )
Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.