In a post-PC world, which model works best?

If you’ve ever bought a computer you know there are two ways to go:

  1. the component model
  2. the end-to-end model.

In the component model you have a single platform (MS Windows) and you can buy hardware/software from anybody. On the other hand, you can go with the end-to-end model with Apple making the platform, the hardware and the software.

On one hand, the overall cost of the component model is lower because you have more choice; on the other hand, the end-to-end model is much easier to use right out of the box and long afterward. If you doubt that, consider this (for starters): there is no such thing as an IRQ on a Mac.

For years, the component model was dominant — we lived in a PC-dominant world. But now, some will say that we have shifted to an end-to-end model having broken free of the PC altogether.

Make no mistake — people still buy PCs but the growth in that market is pretty stagnant. The real growth is in products like music players, game consoles and smartphones. Each of these is a tightly focused product, bundling hardware, software and Web connectivity to perform a narrow set tasks in the easiest way possible (yeah, I know, smartphones come with everything except a corkscrew and a pair of scissors).

The iPod is the paradigm for this model. It doesn’t try to be everything to everybody like a desktop PC or a laptop. It does one thing — play music that you downloaded from the Net. It’s simple, compact and it works — a real No-Brainer. Sure, you can do the same thing with non-Apple hardware and software but if you’ve tried that, you know it’s a crap-shoot. Simple is better (if not cheaper). It’s a proven formula.

Some would say Apple is a closed system, but what do you want? It plays mp3’s mp4’s and even WAV files. Sounds pretty open to me.

In the smartphone world, Handspring’s Treo 650 is another example of an end-to-end device that is still the best in its class. This is somewhat odd because the Palm OS hasn’t changed in years. But it works and it’s simple.

The Xbox 360 is another example of the end-to-end model. This is the one end-to-end example that belongs to Microsoft. They built this device from the ground up, even using a new operating system. But they were smart enough to give it the capability to tie into a home network and get (and give) access to all the multi-media files on your PC.

Which model wins out in the end? Who knows — the pendulum might swing in either direction. But one thing is for sure — we’re living in a post-PC world with lots of choices.

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