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Preparing For Life After the PC 636

Posted by timothy
from the pieces-are-all-in-place dept.
New submitter Doctor_Jest links to a recent I, Cringely column, in which Cringely "is speculating how the world will look when the 'Post-PC' era is in full swing." He makes the case that in just a few upgrade cycles, extensible phones and other devices, coupled with remotely stored data, could replace most of today's conventional PCs — but also admits he thought this transition would have already happened.
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Preparing For Life After the PC

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  • by DL117 (2138600) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:27AM (#40581623) Homepage
    Remember what we can do with computers now, because if the industry has it's way, within a few years technology more capable than various sizes of smartphones will be unheard of.
  • Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:27AM (#40581625) Homepage

    Hmm, there is going to be a continuing and significnt need for a device that has a real keyboard for all the people who write a lot of text every day; substantial local CPU power and storage for people that do stuff like development, modeling and simulations; good screens and specialized input devices for people that do graphical design CAD and the like.

    Now, that device might not be an X86 box that runs Windows, so in that sense it may well be "Post PC". But to all intents and purposes it will look and act very much like the laptop and desktop machines i have today.

  • Dirt cheap? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:32AM (#40581639)
    I don't see how this vision ever becomes a reality in a world where putting significant computing power on my desk and fully under my control is dirt cheap. Comparatively a tablet or phone has a klunky and imprecise interface, poor processing power and needs more external support. Also the value of having a powerful processor in the box greatly speeds compute operations in many cases.
  • Meh ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:35AM (#40581647)

    Wake me up once one of those toys can compete with an actual 3D graphics workstation.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:36AM (#40581655)
    The "post-PC" world will look very much like the "post-book" world looks right now. *glances towards the large bookshelf to the right*
  • the pc will remain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:36AM (#40581657)

    I don't see people coding on devices with inferior screen(sizes), cpu power and input devices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#40581735)

    In TFA Cringely states: "Radio was invented with the original idea that it would replace telephones and give us wireless communication. That implies two-way communication, yet how many of us own radio transmitters?"

    He is apparently unaware that cellphones, tablets, etc. use radio transmitters (technically transceivers) to communicate with cell towers, WiFi access points, Bluetooth headsets, etc.

  • by wet-socks (635030) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:53AM (#40581745)

    What becomes of media creators? Do we have to buy more and more dedicated gadgets?

    The media creators will still have their toys, but this is all about the media consumers. Big money hates that every joe can create content and IP without them getting a cut, so they're pushing for a (licenced) media delivery only internet and killing the tools end users have for being creative.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dupple (1016592) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:54AM (#40581753)

    It will come, perhaps not the way we expect it to though. And, it will come right after the paperless office

  • by Analog Penguin (550933) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @09:54AM (#40581757)

    Whenever I see people saying this, I wonder how many people actually use their computer to do real work.

    I work as a recording engineer. You can buy non-PC devices to do the actual recording if you want, but even in that case mixing and post-processing really does require a computer with vast amounts of local CPU power and storage, in addition to some highly specialised equipment (such as external audio interfaces that connect via Firewire or even PCI cards). You can't record ten simultaneous tracks of uncompressed 24-bit, 48 khz audio to the cloud. I'm sure the same is true of many other fields like video and graphics production, software development, and scientific number crunching.

    Sure, grandma probably doesn't need a full-blown PC to look at emailed pictures of her family, and maybe the "post-PC" era will benefit her. But I do worry what will happen to the PC world if major manufacturers keep taking their focus away from people who really do require serious equipment. (Hello, Apple, selling 2010 Mac Pros for 2014 prices, with an operating system that's leading the charge towards turning your desktop computer into an iPad!)

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:04AM (#40581793) Homepage

    You still need some kind of development platform for the mobile devices, so the PC will still be around. And a lot of work done in reality still requires a PC.

    Of course - you may argue that you will use the cloud, but the cloud isn't always accessible.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:05AM (#40581795)

    The problem with such predictions is that they rely on the smartphone being a full replacement for a PC. And that's just not the case.

    There's the obvious problems - typing large amounts of text, or doing things that require more processing power than a smartphone will have in the foreseeable future. These have been covered to death already; I won't bother reiterating them.

    But then there's the lesser obstacles. Let me bring in some anecdotal evidence. I was feeling nostalgic, and wanted to play some of my old Game Boy Color games. I figured I should do so on my phone, rather than try to drag yet another bulky piece of electronics around. Finding an emulator was easy enough (finding one that didn't display ads was tougher, but doable). And I easily found a ROM file (just in case you're spying on me, MAFIAA, yes, I still have those games on cartridge, so bugger off).

    But, every time I tried to download it, it prompted me for what program to open it in. And it only listed the ones that had registered themselves as being able to open .ZIP filesl the emulator was not among them. There was no option for "save the file locally, I'll handle opening it". None at all.

    So in order to actually get it to work, I had to hook it up to my computer and copy the file over. Such a simple task, but it couldn't do it.

    There are many other times I've tried to do something on my phone, but been unable to without using a PC. Here's a big one - development. You can code for Linux, on Linux. You can code for Windows, on Windows. I've even coded for freaking TI calculators, *on* the calculator. But you can't code for Android on an Android device, nor can you code for iPhone on an iPhone.

    The running theme of it seems to be that smartphones and tablets are designed as consumers of data, not producers. But, given how essential producing data is to modern society, that means they will never replace the PC until that fundamental design concept is thrown out. Sure, for some, even many, uses, they're adequate, or at least capable of doing the task (if slower and more awkwardly). But so many common things remain impossible.

    The more paranoid among you are probably preparing a rant about how this is $BIG_EVIL_CONGLOMERATE's wet dream, and something something 1984 something something DRM something from my cold dead hands. But that's not the case. Even *if* you posit a dystopian future where the $BEC controls everything, there will *still* be PCs, because *someone* will still have to produce data. They may become much less common, but a PC, or a PC-functional device, *will* be necessary.

    Now, it could be possible that smartphones will change to have this type of functionality, and would be able, in theory, to replace PCs. But *that* seems unlikely, because the form factor itself, as well as limitations of technology, makes them very poor PC replacements.

    [1] Note that, throughout, I use the term "PC" for "workstation, desktop or notebook". OS does not matter - your Mac is a PC; your Linux desktop is a PC; even that one guy still running CP/M is using a PC.

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:08AM (#40581807)

    What’s keeping us using desktops and even notebook, then, are corporate buying policies, hardware replacement cycles, and inertia.

    While I actually agree with the assertion that laptops are on the way out, I don't ever see a day I *won't* want to have my own dedicated box. And what's going to keep me buying (or, rather, building) desktop computers is customizability and control. I don't want Google, Amazon, HTC, Apple or anyone else telling me what my computer should be. I don't want an internet outage to prevent me from using my machine, I don't want to be told what software I can or cannot install on my machine, and I don't want to be a slave to a company's repair center whenever I need to do a simple replacement. It's in the name: Personal Computer.

    I'm not saying that thin clients don't have their place, and I don't doubt that their popularity will rise, but I don't think the PC is going anywhere.

  • "Trucks and cars" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RetiredMidn (441788) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:08AM (#40581809) Homepage
    Steve Jobs used the analogy of trucks and cars; some of us need trucks for heavy lifting and special tasks, but most of us don't. The PC running Solitaire on a receptionist's desk will probably go away; the engineer's workstation will not.
  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:09AM (#40581815) Homepage

    Give me a call when you can easily develop for the iPad on the iPad. Or when you can develop complex server applications on a Galaxy S3. PCs are going away in the consumer world (to the detriment of anyone who wants to create anything outside work without forking out a fortune), but PCs are going nowhere in the office where you need a large screen or two to efficiently do your job and a decent keyboard to do accurate typing.

    We are not whiny buggy whip holders, we are the people that work in real organisations, where the needs are more complex than Facebook access and where legacy applications abound. When you futurists can come up with a decent device for doing complex work that is a realistic alternative to the PC then you can criticise those of us who actually know something. Until then get the fuck off my lawn.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:09AM (#40581817)

    Come on guy's, this is happening all over the place, my parents do 90% of their computer stuff on a tablet and when I am not at work as a storage guy I use my ipad for almost all my stuff together with a synology nas.
    I see almost all my none tech friends moving to tablets after the move drom the desktop to the laptop, an ipad or android tablet can be found in most my my friends livingroom and it seems to be the perfect device for almost all tasks.

    I have a 4 year old pc that will do all the video editing i can't do on on my tablet but what other tasks would I need a pc for, i can't think of any.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesTRexx (675890) <m DOT nystrom AT mbitz DOT nl> on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:09AM (#40581819) Homepage Journal
    As I see it there will indeed still be a need for the current form of computing, but I expect there will be two major sides. One, the consumer side which will be smartphones and tablets combined with storage on the internet (through high speed wireless networks of course), The other the business side with the "traditional" laptops and PC's with local (network) storage.

    So, actually not much different from the current options, just more refined.


    And why did they put Slackware into the email address? I'm more of a Debian guy. o.O
  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:11AM (#40581833)

    Because it's a huge counterpoint to these idiots who constantly declare the end of the PC year after year yet it's demise has yet to materialize.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:11AM (#40581837)

    The "post-PC" world will look very much like the "post-book" world looks right now. *glances towards the large bookshelf to the right*

    You grew up in the book era and take books for granted. The next generation might think of bookshelves as something that their grandparents have.

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:15AM (#40581851)

    Of course. Plus, I'm sure they would shit their pants with glee if the average person was out there replacing their computer as often as they're replacing their phone.

    One can't ignore the benefit to the industry of throwaway electronics. When your PC breaks, you can take it to a shop and have someone attempt to repair it. When your phone breaks, you go to your carrier, get a replacement (either out of pocket, or via insurance, but either way they're getting paid), and the broken one gets sent back to be refurbished (and sold AGAIN at a profit) or ends up in a landfill.

    Also, from a software standpoint, what's going to happen in this glorious "post-PC era" when half the devices out there are locked down to the point where they can only run "approved" software? We're going to have to hack our shit just to get back the ability to install and run whatever the fuck we want on our devices? Come on....

    They can have my PC when they pry it from my cold, dead hands...

  • by Turboglh (816701) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:17AM (#40581865)
    It's not about resistance to change, it's about need. I've got a much more capable device sitting in my computer room than I do in my pocket or on my nightstand. Why utilize an inferior piece of hardware when a twenty second walk will put me in front of my pc. I think it's more about convenience of use. We've got two smart phones, a touchpad and a kindle in the house. For casual forum reading, the phones or the tablet will suffice, For even something as simple as searching for information on a new topic, I much prefer he utility of a keyboard, mouse and multiple screens. People of future generations will utilize the best tools available to them, including dedicated pc's if available.
  • by ubrgeek (679399) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:20AM (#40581879)
    100 percent true. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to do coding on a tablet's keyboard. And as soon as I start carrying a keyboard around (and a mouse, assuming the keyboard doesn't have a trackpad. It's not ergonomically feasible to have a keyboard but still use the tablet's screen as a mouse) then it's a PC. And if I need to use a Wacom tablet-like device? Will I also be drawing on the tablet that I'm supposed to be looking at? It's no different than the Newton (or even the Microsoft web-TV thing) - They kept saying you could add peripherals like a keyboard and hard drive, etc. At that point it's a PC, no matter what you call it.
  • by JMJimmy (2036122) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:21AM (#40581891)

    lol - I love how ridiculous this articles are. Desktop PCs are not going anywhere. Laptops are great, phones & pdas are great in a pinch but nothing compares to a triple monitor beast to mess around with. If anything I see PCs becoming more relevant with wireless display tech. 1 computer, multiple users, multiple displays. No need to sync because it's all on one system. The cloud will be based out of the home and you access it from anywhere.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:29AM (#40581949)

    Until the power goes out and they can't recharge their Kindle...then they're going to be right back to the books. Let's ask all those people living in those areas of the U.S. that have been without power for the last 3-4 days how well their eBooks are working out for them now...

    I'll believe that eBooks are going to kill off paper books when the automobile succeeds in killing off the bicycle. I mean, it's only been a century or so, but I'm sure it's gonna happen eventually...

    We all grew up with electricity, and those magic outlets have been ubiquitous for a century, but all it takes is one extended period without power for people to realize that they need a fucking back-up plan, and until we come up with portable cold-fusion reactors for every home, that's not likely to change.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:29AM (#40581955)

    All these arguments here over input devices and 3D capable workstations and "powerful" processors vs. "weak" tablets and smartphones. Give me a break.

    We're talking about the FUTURE here. Rewind 10 years and tell me you EVER thought you would be sitting around with 3 terabytes and 32GB of RAM inside your "personal" computer at home for less than $1000. Now go ahead and TRY and predict what kind of computing power we're going to be literally holding in the palm of our hands in another 10 years as you complain about 3D capability and resolution (ironically while you hold your 2048 x 1536 iPad in your hand) .

    As far as keyboards go, we're only beginning to see what interfaces like Siri can do. Yes, I love my keyboard and can type with speed. But it is still no match for my voice, and I would much rather use THE most efficient method of input. The average person can speak MUCH faster than they can type (250 - 300WPM), and as long as that statistic rings true (along with increasing levels of car accidents due to texting instead of looking at the damn road), we WILL have many reasons to move away from a box of keys.

    Sorry, but considering what computing power has done in the last 10 - 20 years, I've given up on trying to predict the wonders of tomorrow, but I'm sure not going to simply dismiss them based on archaic mentality.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:42AM (#40582037)

    Thats why diablo 3 might sell 4 or 5 million copies but angry birds selling 100 million.

    Because the fact that Diablo III costs $59.99 and Angry Birds goes for a whopping $0.99 has nothing to do with it...

    People are coming to realise, why should I go out and spend 300 bucks on a shitty computer when I can spend 200 bucks on a google nexus 7 that will do what I want and I can carry around or just upgrade my smartphone I already have.

    The $300 shitty computer can run pretty much anything you want to put on it. How many tablets and smartphones out there will even allow you to put any software you want on your device? Cheering on the post-PC era, with all the locked bootloaders and apps being pulled and features being removed after the device has already been sold via mandatory updates, seems a little short-sighted to me. I'll welcome the post-PC era when all the tablet and smartphone manufacturers aren't raping consumers for every penny they possibly can while deliberately degrading the experience of their previous devices to force users to throw their device into a drawer and buy a new one just to run the newest Angry Birds.

    We're finally at that point with PC's where you don't have to run out and upgrade half the components in your build every 6-months to play new games and use new software, and you guys are eager to jump right on the platform that you can't even upgrade (nor repair, usually) and thus have to replace the entire fucking device to do so? What are y'all smoking?

  • by santosh.k83 (2442182) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:44AM (#40582053)

    I guess the bigger issue is not the form factor of future computers, but their capabilities. Will I be able to easily install an OS of my choice? Will I be able to develop for it without too many restrictions? Will I be able to modify it's bootloader and/or firmware? Will I be able to connect together diverse peripherals from many different manufacturers for the functionality I desire? Can I retain most of the functionality of the system even without an Internet connection?

    Currently you can do all these with today's PCs. But will it remain so in the future?

  • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @10:55AM (#40582115)

    Seeing how we already have Cyanogenmod (and quite a few others), initiatives like the Raspberry Pi and people are running Android on iPhones, yes, I think we'll still be able to do that for quite some time. It will probably be about as popular as Linux on the desktop is today, though.

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:01AM (#40582167)

    The "post-PC" meme is a false one, so you're safe. Yeah, a lot of stuff will change and morph, but consumers will swallow almost any false meme with a little ketchup or hot sauce.

    The fact is: all of these items are personal computers. Some of your stuff will be on other people's computers, a/k/a "the cloud". The cloud offers some cool storage (albeit not very reliable and often highly proprietary in accessibility) and some great apps, single-user and group.

    Spit the bait out of your mouth and continue to watch neat stuff appear in the market place. PCs come in lots of form factors from Raspberry Pis, smartstuff, clothing, iGoo, and will continue to morph. If you want to buy and use a traditional tower PC with discrete monitor, etc., do it. Or choose from a wide variety of, yes, PCs.

  • Re:Post PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Post-O-Matron (1273882) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:02AM (#40582169)

    The Kindle's battery lasts for a month. I think if the power is out for a whole month there would be much bigger things that we'll be worried about than charging our Kindles...

  • Re:Post PC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:15AM (#40582247) Homepage Journal

    Why are people posting about their very specific needs, and overstating the impact those needs have for everyone else? Your vertical market is the minority.

    Because there is an awful lot of specific needs. The sum of the minorities makes for a huge market for general purpose machines that can do all this and more - including things we haven't thought of yet.

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday July 08, 2012 @11:51AM (#40582523) Homepage

    You could have bothered to even skim TFA.

    The argument being made is that the PC is going to be replaced with a mobile device, that can connect wirelessly to any keyboard, mouse, screen(s) at hand. This makes perfect sense. If I can essentially carry a PC in my pocket and wield all that power both while on the move (on the device itself) and through wireless docking, why not?

    Granted, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. But I don't have a need for a huge box under my desk if it fits in my pocket and does the same thing.

  • by Surt (22457) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @12:07PM (#40582643) Homepage Journal

    There are apps (cloud or device driven) for mobiles to make internet selling easy. I would have argued that's a perfect example of someone who doesn't need a pc rather than someone who does.

    And you're wrong on gaming too. Mobile gaming is now higher volume than pc/console combined. It's only lower in cash volume because the price point fixed lower early on. Both Sony and MS have big worries about whether or not their next platforms can turn a profit given the direction the market is heading (because they initially sell the hardware at a large loss, they need to sell a lot of expensive games to make up the difference).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 08, 2012 @12:30PM (#40582829)

    And a lot of work done in reality still requires a PC.

    I wish Slashdot would make up its mind. "Smartphones are general-purpose computers," but "they're really no good for anything, you still need a PC."

    You can already use a keyboard and a mouse and other devices to smartphones. They already have docking solutions (Atrix). They're just starting to push a new connector that will allow you to connect a large number of high-bandwidth devices over one port (Thunderbolt). There is very little already that you can do with a PC that I couldn't do with an Android/iOS device equipped with a few well-designed accessories.

    Tablets and smartphones will eventually provide ALL of the functions that that tower sitting under your desk does, but they'll be undockable so you can carry the "guts" with you, and slot those guts into any other compatible docking solution and be working immediately. They'll also largely preserve their state off in the cloud, meaning if you lose/destroy the device, you'll simply remote wipe the lost device, and restore most of its data and configuration it to a new piece of hardware with a few clicks and a bit of download time.

    It won't replace ALL uses of dedicated computing devices, but it will replace MANY of them.

  • by datavirtue (1104259) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @12:44PM (#40582923)

    Your analogous equation of a VCR to a PC is ridiculously faulty. We expect much more out of a PC than we do a VCR. There are enough similarities to make a spurious comparison and blatantly fool ourselves given a shallow analysis.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @02:07PM (#40583587)
    Trusted computing didn't die - it just fell behind schedule.
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday July 08, 2012 @02:29PM (#40583741) Journal

    We're not gonna lose squat because the "industry" has done this dance before and been full of shit then and is full of shit now. Anybody remember "We are all gonna use thin clients hooked to the net! No more bugs, no more upgrades!" remember that? Right before the dotbomb blew up I swear every pundit was cranking out those articles. if Cringely was writing then i wouldn't be surprised if he was doing the thin client shuffle too.

    Now y'all listen to old Hairy, I've been down here in the trenches since the days of Win 3.x so I know what is what and here is the scoop: Those people with the smartphones and tablets? Yeah well guess what? They all have PCs as well and in fact many of them have multiple. Most have a desktop AND a laptop or netbook.

    So why the big slowdown in sales? because there IS NO SLOWDOWN the only "slowdown" is in the minds of the OEMs and MSFT who got spoiled rotten by the "MHz Wars" and people chunking PCs every 2 years. The simple fact is those circa 2006 Phenom Is and Athlon X2 and Core duos simply have more cycles than the users need and when the price of triples and quads dropped in 2008 computers went from "good enough" to "insanely overpowered" because the users simply don't have enough useful work to stress these monsters. Hell once we got the P4 Mobiles out of the channel folks aren't even stressing the Core Duo and Turion laptops so unless they drop them they ain't dying either, because as we all know its heat that kills and what they are doing simply isn't pushing them hard enough.

    So while we'll probably see an uptick as XP reaches EOL the simple fact is the PC is NOT GOING AWAY but instead has become a mature commodity item, simple as that. I have YET to meet anyone who has thrown out their PC for a smartphone, and the clueless like Cringely don't even take into account how truly shitty the networks are in most of the USA or the fact that those with smartphones and tablets already have PCs and laptops, they are simply hanging onto what they have until it breaks. We WILL see the same thing in ARM in a couple of years, there is already talk of "dark silicon" because ARM will have more transistors than battery to feed them and when it can't continue the MHz War just like X86 things will settle back down and folks won't replace until they die.

    So don't listen to Bob, it's the same crap they tried selling us during the dotbomb because it makes the corps a LOT of money to be able to sell constantly replaced hardware and have control of everybody's data. Instead listen to Hairy who is down here in the trenches and I can tell you I haven't seen a single person toss their PC for a phone, not one. Folks simply see no need to act like the days of the MHz wars because even that low end Athlon triple can game and do anything your average person wants to do. Its just the market maturing folks, no need to panic.

  • by Vairon (17314) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @04:49PM (#40585081)

    If Apple's app store started banning users with jailbroken phones that would push even more people to Google's Android based phones. Alternatively jailbroken iPhone users could point their phones to alternate IOS app stores which would be sure to pop up should Apple start behaving like you describe.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @08:28PM (#40586743) Homepage

    The P in PC stands for personal. That means that it's in your control. These new devices are basically following the old mainframe model and the corporate managed IT model. They aren't PCs. They're PCs trying to pretend to be appliances.

    The best comparison is to a Tivo.

    Whether or not a piece of kit has a keyboard or monitor is really the least relevant thing. If you've got root, it's a PC. If you don't have root, then it's not a PC.

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