The last few days have been quite rough on PC-era titans Microsoft and HP. While my colleague Ted Schadler is correct in saying we're in a multi-device, "right tool for the job" era, the unfortunate truth for PC makers is that, for many consumers, the right tool for the job just so happens to be the mobile devices they carry with them, not the PC sitting in their bedroom or home office or wherever people keep them these days. In fact, 77% of mobile searches take place in the home or at work where a PC is readily available. Whether you call it lazy or convenient, the simple fact is smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the go-to computing devices for consumers.

This shift in ownership and use behavior marks the dawn of a new age in customer experience. As I discuss in my new report, Customer Experience in the Post-PC Era, as customers shift their attention to mobile devices, their expectations are fundamentally changing. In the post-PC era, customers expect companies to provide experiences aligned with their needs and abilities, in the right context, and at their moment of need. To deliver on this, customer experiences need to become:

  • Natural. In the PC era, access to content that was mediated through a host of peripherals, controls, menus, and navigation elements, forcing customers to adapt their abilities to those of the technology. Today, content is the interface and navigation is performed directly through gestures and voice commands. As a result, interactions are becoming multi-modal, engaging users through multiple senses.
  • Adaptive. As customer interactions fragment across devices, experiences must perform reliably across an expanding interface landscape that includes PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and, increasingly, TVs and cars. But just having a presence on these devices is not enough. Experiences must persist across these devices, letting us fluidly move our interactions from device to device without missing a beat. Further, they need to become polymorphic, taking advantage of the connected devices that surround us to deliver new multi-device experiences that were not possible before.
  • Anticipatory. As consumers adjust to post-PC realities, they expect companies to provide the right mix of content and functionality at the right time and right place. Successful next-generation experiences must reliably anticipate the customer’s changing context to deliver meaningfully relevant experiences. Moreover, experiences need to become proactive in addressing future needs.

But what does this mean? It means design and customer understanding, not technology, will rule the post-PC era. In a time when you can hire a handful of engineers to build just about anything you want, value shifts from what is possible to what is desirable. If you doubt this is true, just look at Google Glass. The technology was the easy part; turning it into an experience that mainstream customers want is turning out to be the hard part.

This is why we are seeing companies such as InstagramMailbox, and (just this morning) Pulse being acquired not for their technology but for their ability to create experiences that millions of users love. It's also why the next Bill Gates will be a UI designer.

I'll be speaking more on how customer experience is changing in the post-PC era at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East on June 25-26, 2013 in New York.

In the meantime, I'd live to hear your thoughts on how you think customer experiences are changing in the post-PC era.