Forrester Research (news, site) has released new research "What The Post-PC Era Really Means that explores the impact of technological innovation in personal computing devices and mobility on the traditional P.C. marketplace. So, what’s the verdict? Has the P.C. flat-lined? It’s still alive and kicking, but slightly less sexy.

First Social, Now Intimate Computing

Perhaps some of you have a closer relationship with your technology than I. I have become okay with social media, but I'm not sure I'll be embracing Forrester's new phrasing "intimate computing." It sounds a little late night ad for something that's sold after the Girls Gone Wild infomercial ends. I'm sure that's NOT what Forrester had in mind with its new research on how the world of personal computing is changing.

Recently, Microsoft purchased Skype and Google announced partnerships with Samsung and Acer for Chromebook -- a web centric laptop with everything on the cloud. These announcements add to the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets led by Apple's iPad. Apple has even stated that the majority of its revenue comes from non P.C devices like iPad, iPhones and iPads.

Do things then signify that the old PC that we know and love is on its way out the door? People keep saying this, but it hasn't happened and it's still not. Although, nobody comes to the office bragging about their new desktop or stands in line overnight to get the latest laptop, the venerable PC isn't going anywhere.

Although data projects that 82 million US consumers will own a tablet device by 2015, an impressive 140 million will have PC. PCs are just getting more company, not going away. I'm sure the Futurists might have something different to say.

However, the nature of computing is changing. According to the research report several trends are emerging. Computing is transitioning from:

  • Stationary to ubiquitous. People are constant connected. Have you looked around a line or movie theater prior to a movie? Everyone is clicking or touching something.
  • Formal to casual. In contrast to PC interactions with a formal start and finish time marked by booting up and shutting down, instant-on/always-on computing on smartphones and tablets fill in-between moments like standing in line or watching TV.
  • Arms-length to intimate. People aren't sitting at desks working. A new more casual society is connecting on couches, in their laps, in cars or where ever else they happen to be.  According to Forrester's research, the No. 1 place all three devices are used in the home is the living room, followed by an adult’s bedroom.
  • Abstracted to physical. Touch screens, data visualizations, devices like Kinect are changing the computing experience from one that is one level removed to something that is almost an extension of the human body. This will continue to advance as technology is embedded into items like glasses, clothing or even the human body.

A Drop in P.C. Sales Numbers

HP also released numbers showing a  drop in PC sales . The numbers aren't too much of a surprise given the recent performance by other PC manufacturers. HP has released a tablet device, TouchPad, in effort to enter the fast growing market. However, is this drop in sales correlated to the emergence of smartphones, tablets and other connected mobile devices? It might seem that way based on observation, but the quantitative data tells a different story.

According to Forrester,  34% of US online consumers report purchasing a PC in the past year, and 25% made a PC purchase the last one to two years. In a testament to staying power of the PC, tablet owners are more likely than other respondents to have purchased a PC lately: 44% in the past 12 months and 28% in the previous year. Perhaps that because tablet leader Apple still requires that pesky iTunes on a PC to update the iPad.

The more likely reason for the drop in sales is lack of an operating system upgrade from the boys in Seattle this year. Lots of people upgrade hardware when new operating systems like Windows 7 are released.

What do you think? Is the PC on its way to the happily ever after or will we be getting even more social and intimate with our PCs?