What it is: After 20 years, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is finally shutting down.
At one time, everyone had to use a PC. When the Internet arrived, people used PCs to connect. Besides browsing websites, people discovered the ability to send text messages back and forth to each other in real-time. One of the earliest messaging standards was AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).
Because so many people used AOL, so many people also used AIM. That made AIM a standard and other companies fought to develop their own messaging standard in hopes of dominating the market. The key to AIM was that it was tied to PCs. As long as people relied on desktop and laptops, AIM dominated the text messaging world.
Then mobile computing appeared in the form of smartphones. Suddenly people could continue enjoying the text messaging features of AIM without actually using AIM. Even better, AIM users could only communicate with other AIM users, but smartphone text messaging let you send text messages to anyone as long as they had a smartphone. This made smartphone text messaging more versatile because it freed you from the limitations of both PCs and AIM’s limited number of users.
That spelled the end of AIM and other messaging services for the PC. The moment PCs lost their relevance, AIM also lost its relevance. AIM depended on PC users and with more people relying on mobile computing such as smartphones and tablets, AIM’s future pointed nowhere but down.
If AIM is gone because fewer people are using PCs, does anyone seriously think PCs will ever regain their dominance? More people rely on smartphones than PCs because smartphones are far more versatile. Ride-sharing services could never exist without smartphones because nobody would have lugged a laptop around as an alternative. As useful as PCs might be, their days are numbered and AIM’s demise is just one example of this slow descent into irrelevancy.
Remember at one time, minicomputers were popular and PCs were considered toys. Then PCs got more powerful while being much cheaper and more portable to the point where minicomputers are extinct. Smartphones are making PCs less important every day, and as tablets get more powerful, it’s only a matter of time before tablets replace PCs. Tablets already offer physical keyboards for typing and this 2-in-1 form factor will continue growing in popularity.
Microsoft is trying to keep Windows alive longer by torturing it into a tablet with their Microsoft Surface tablets. Apple is trying to make iPads more powerful by giving them features similar to PCs. Both are targeting the same goal of making tablets just as powerful as PCs. The big difference is that Microsoft is still relying on the past while Apple is trying to bring the future into the present.
In the short-term, a Microsoft Surface tablet is a better laptop than an iPad. In the long-term, an iPad will be a better laptop than a Microsoft Surface tablet.
AIM’s demise is more evidence than the era of the PC is over. PCs will still be around, but the future is mobile computing. AIM is history and that history foreshadows the eventual future of the PC as well.