Origami and the demise of the PC

CNN published today a faint-praise indictment of Microsoft’s Origami mini-Tablet PC initiative. I agree with the gist of the review – a half-decent Japanese keitai has all the functionality and ten times the battery life. And, purpose-made devices like iPod and digital camera are still superior in the early phase of adoption of new modalities of interaction with digital content. I think this will be true of e-Reading as well, which is why I’m bullish on devices like the upcoming Sony Reader.
But I can’t help feeling that there’s a bigger story here. To me, Origami is a signal that the PC’s time is passing: the desktop and notebook form factors that we in the U.S. have been familiar with for decades now are about to give way to devices that are truly portable. 90% of what I do day in and day out on a PC – including writing this post – could be done with a Blackberry, a keitai, or an Origami Tablet. That percentage would be higher if I were a typical consumer, rather than a geeky IT dude. Give Moore’s Law and Taiwanese/Chinese HW manufacturers another year or two and the price and battery life that cause CNN to slam Origami will be history. Or, thanks to embedded Linux, OpenOffice, and open email systems there are devices now that have the price and battery life issues fixed. Another answer would be a thumb drive that I lets me take my personal OS and data files to any computer but I tend to believe that the convergence of this with the phone is more compelling: one device in my pocket, always-on, always-connected.
Already in Japan and Korea the PC is viewed as only the “old people and salaryman’s computing device”. Down the street at Cafe Zoka the students all have notebook PCs open and are madly IM’ing and MySpace’ing. But in Tokyo and Seoul it’s another story. The mobile phone is the bread and butter computing platform and the PC is the occasional gadget.