“PC Free” in iOS 5 Doesn’t Mean “Free from PCs” (or Macs)

There’s a new feature in iOS 5 that’s called “PC Free”.  While the definition is very specific, it conjures up a lot of images I would guess, specifically getting rid of the PC and Mac. So exactly what parts of the PC and Mac is it removing? “PC Free” is about removing the PC for a few tasks that are frankly awful parts of the iOS experience and primarily administrative. Here is how it’s described on the iOS 5 landing page: “Independence for all iOS devices. With iOS 5, you no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box. Download free iOS software updates directly on your device. Do more with your apps — like editing your photos or adding new email folders — on your device, without the need for a Mac or PC. And back up and restore your device automatically using iCloud”. It sounds promising, the promise of getting rid of that nasty horrible PC or Mac. Can you really dump your Mac or Windows PC? I asked a few people in my family and at work what they liked doing on their PC and didn’t do on their tablet.  Here’s why they said they couldn’t ditch their PC or Mac to (UPDATED):
  • Text chat with someone on Google Chat at the same time as you are looking at FaceBook.
  • Quickly create a somewhat complex spreadsheet or presentation.  You really need a mouse to do this productively and iOS doesn’t support mice with Keynote or Numbers.
  • Download a file from multiple web sites in the background as you do something in the foreground.  There are a few exceptions with some apps, but certainly cannot be done in the iOS browser.
  • Compress a big file and email it.  Zipping or Rarring a file, attaching it, then emailing it.
  • Watch 1080p video. iPad has “768P” display for lack of a better term.  Yes, a user can watch 1080P on the iPad 2 on an extra display like an HDTV.
  • Importing HD video into the iPad that wasn’t taken on an iPhone or another iPad.  I am not aware of HD source video that’s shot to iOS specs.  I’ve had to reconvert gobs of videos on my PC to play on the iPhone or iPad.
  • Storing all your pictures. I am talking the multiple gigabytes of years and years of pictures. Alternatively you can rent iCloud space.
  • Store your entire music collection beyond iPads storage.
  • Store lots of personal videos.
  • “Perfect” personal video you’ve downloaded or shot with a camcorder that’s shaky, dark, etc.  Things that software like VReveal can do.
  • Face tagging. You’ll need iPhoto, Picasa, or Windows Live Photo Gallery for this.
  • Display different content on one display and different display on another.  There are a few exceptions, very few.
  • Any web site that uses Flash for navigation, like my local Mexican restaurant.
  • Print. I know, iOS says it can print. Have you gotten it to reliably print?  I didn’t think so. You think people don’t need printers anymore?  Tell my teenagers science and English teacher that.
OK, so you get the point here.  PC Free means you don’t need a PC to do some very basic and fundamental things. If you do need to do something the very basics, you will still need a PC or Mac.
Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.