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Prosumption is a portmanteau term for production using the same tools that are used for consumption. It occurs when an enthusiast takes a more active role in production of goods or culture than a pure consumer. Such a prosumer both produces and consumes. Some products are marketed to prosumers, acting as a stepping stone taking the step between consuming and creating.

Other products are intentionally designed to discourage prosumption, creating a barrier between those who make things and those who use them. Some computing devices, for example are technically capable of being used for creating works of authorship, yet they're cryptographically locked down for use as "media consumption devices". Such devices can act as a roadblock for people who want to climb from consumption to creation. Some people will end up owning only "media consumption devices"; if they want to create, they'll have to either pony up for something else or just do without creating. And if the market for devices capable of creation shrinks, prices for such devices will likely rise due to loss of economies of scale. This has over time served to cement the advantage of established publishers over independent authors.

Prosumer as midrange

Some kinds of creation tools are divided into three tiers of price and features: "consumer" for casual users, "prosumer" for serious hobbyists and beginning professionals, and "professional" for people established in an industry. For example, prosumer cameras occupy a market niche between entry-level point-and-shoot cameras and cameras used by professional journalists.[1]

Prosumer friendly

A product or service marketed to the public is prosumer friendly if it can also be used for production. A prosumer friendly device allows its owner some headroom for upward mobility when the user's needs grow, should the owner decide to make the transition from viewing works created by others to creating works himself. Some argue on the other hand that most people's needs won't grow, and culture conspires to preserve the status quo of passive consumption: "Don't create, or produce, or discover -- just buy."[2]

For example, video game consoles are by and large not prosumer friendly. Sony and Nintendo do not allow individuals to develop on their video game consoles, apart from extremely limited environments such as LittleBigPlanet on PLAYSTATION 3 and WarioWare D.I.Y. on Nintendo DS. Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Apple's iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad allow individuals to make and run homemade applications or run applications that do not meet the criteria for the official curated app store, but this requires a substantial annual fee. Thus, a PC or an Android-powered device is more prosumer friendly than a video game console or an iDevice.

One common rationale for a manufacturer to intentionally damage a product's prosumer capabilities, such as not allowing the end user to use self-made, self-signed works with a product or charging the end user a substantial extra fee for the privilege of doing so, is as an entry barrier against competitors who would make complements for the product, locking end users into products where the manufacturer gets a cut of the sale price. On the other hand, designing a product for prosumers can have benefits for both sides. People entering the work force from academia or a hobby tend to be most comfortable in the same environments that they had used before. For example, fans making mods for a video game using the Source or Unreal engine will already be comfortable should they get hired by a video game studio that uses those engines, and they may even feel like starting a micro-studio themselves and buying a commercial license.

The death of the PC

Some analysts at IBM[3] and ZDNet[4] (who? look for Google such as death of the pc) have predicted the death of the personal computer in favor of appliances such as tablets, smartphones, and video game consoles. They conjecture that as appliances become more versatile, they will take market share away from PCs, and the PC will become seen as a specialty tool, abandoned by everyone except developers of computer programs, people animating or applying effects to high-definition video, mechanical engineers, those running large spreadsheets, and the like.

Some claim that this has already begun to happen, making graphs showing that the PC is close to its peak.[5] And by late 2015, about 25 percent of mobile web users in the United States were mobile-only, lacking regular access to a PC.[6] In 2018, Professor Yoshiaki Hashimoto at the University of Tokyo noticed that many children are nearing working age without knowing how to use a keyboard or mouse, having used only smartphones all their lives.[7] This is true of the United States as well, where children entering high school aren't taught pathnames and touch typing anymore.[8]

A lot of casual computer users don't need a computer more substantial than one that can do homework, browse Facebook,[9] and the like. These people view works far more than they create. But if the homework-and-Facebook set ends up abandoning PCs, the economies of scale might vanish, and PCs will become more expensive as a niche or luxury item. By 2017, PC component prices were already starting to rise.[10]

In the worst case, PCs will become unaffordable to authors and engineers in smaller businesses, especially those started in a home on a shoestring budget. Even computer science students may not have ready access to a personal computer on which to learn to program,[11][12] though a Raspberry Pi or second-hand computer will probably suffice,[13][14] and a parent in a sufficiently rich country might reasonably be expected to buy at least a beater laptop for a student who has a legitimate need for one[15] or at least allow the child to sell his iPad and buy a suitable laptop.[16] Even in developing countries with low exchange rates due to recent underparticipation in export markets, a second-hand dumpster-dived computer with a free operating system and free applications may work.[17][18] So may a sandboxed compiler running on Someone Else's Computer,[19] so long as the place where the student prepares homework has Internet access.[20][21][22][23] But if a divorced mom packs up a child's computer for a year because programming reminds her of her ex, this can damage a budding programmer's career prospects.[24]

Steve Jobs explained it like this:[25] Some people need to own a truck. More people can get away with owning only a car and occasionally using a truck, such as a couple times a year to take the lawn mower in to get it serviced. Like the Internet, iOS is not a truck. This leaves a problem of how to find a truck when you need one and how to afford the upgrade when one's needs grow from a car (a "securely" locked-down device) to a truck (a general-purpose device).

For example, video gaming has arguably headed down that path starting in 1985, when the NES was the first major console with a cryptographic lockout chip and strict criteria on who could become a developer with keys, unlike the Commodore 64 for which anyone with skills could develop software. That marked a significant point after which one couldn't become a "prosumer", or someone who creates a work using the same tools with which one passively views a work. In fact, some people have fallen under the defeatist impression that people who disagree with the closed nature of video game consoles should abandon the medium of video games altogether in favor of books and outdoor recreation.

Cory Doctorow has even described the market's shift toward locked-down appliances as a "war on general computation".[26]

And in fact, some companies have been cutting their PC lines in favor of tablets. Dell, for example, stopped making 10" laptops in 2011,[27] and by the end of 2012, ASUS and Acer had pulled out of the 10" segment,[28] leaving people to make do with used computers from pawn shops and eBay,[29][30] until late April 2013 when ASUS reintroduced a mini-notebook reengineered to cope with Windows 8.[31] This leaves a tablet with keyboard dock as the expected 10" device, and the typical window management policy on tablets is all maximized all the time because of short-sighted choices made when tablet operating systems were still just for phones, such as assuming window size won't change after install time. There are in fact a few affordable tablets with an included keyboard, such as the ASUS Transformer Book and Acer Aspire Switch, but they don't work so well with a free operating system. FlyHelicopters recommends a Dell Inspiron 11.6 inch convertible laptop as a replacement for netbooks, and Lenovo allegedly still makes netbooks that can run GNU/Linux.

All applications that end users run on an iPad tablet come from the App Store and must conform to the iOS "App Store Review Guidelines". These guidelines forbid realistic violence in video games, roulette (whether chat or Russian), satire of an identifiable organization, card counting apps, apps that let the user log locations of seen Wi-Fi hotspots, web browsers that implement HTML features that Apple has left out of Safari, launcher replacements, and more. Until mid-2017, the guidelines also had a blanket ban on apps that "download code in any way or form" such as a game maker. Some people claim to happily work around restrictions such as these by connecting to a remote computer through SSH, X11, VNC, RDP, or Apache Guacamole.[1] But this works only in a Wi-Fi coverage area unless one pays more than the price of an iPad per year for cellular data service. And I've found that Wi-Fi coverage is still not complete: several city bus systems and shopping centers still do not offer guest Wi-Fi. But if you carry a real computer that you control, your computer still works even when it's offline, even if a lot of people forget this.[32]

(Forum references about dropping netbook PCs in favor of tablet appliances: [2])

Reportedly, an iPad Pro can be turned into a general-purpose computer by connecting a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer to its USB C port. The iPad Pro powers the RPi and provides a network connection over which to run X11 or VNC.[33]

On the other hand, as with Mark Twain, the rumors of the PC's untimely death may have been exaggerated.[34][35][36][37]

"With a real computer you can make your OWN games."

-- Bram Stolk's father


  1. Anders Jacobsen. What is a 'prosumer' camera?. 2004-12-08. Accessed 2011-09-26.
  2. Matt Walsh. "If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem". The Huffington Post, 2013-11-20. Accessed 2014-02-06.
  3. John Brodkin. "After 30 years, IBM says PC going way of vacuum tube and typewriter". Network World. August 10, 2011. Accessed August 11, 2011.
  4. Lawrence Dignan, Zack Whittaker, and Jason Perlow. "The Great Debate: No post-PC era vs Pro post-PC era". ZDNet. 2011-09-12. Accessed 2011-09-16.
  5. Horace Dediu. The rise and fall of personal computing. 2012-01-17. Accessed 2012-02-10.
  6. "Mobile First Design: Why It’s Great and Why It Sucks". Code My Views, ca. 2015-10. Accessed 2016-02-28.
  7. Toshihiko Katsuda. "A new digital divide: Young people who can’t use keyboards". The Asahi Shimbun, 2018-03-29. Accessed 2018-07-22.
  8. Chris Wellons. "The Missing Computer Skills of High School Students". _Null Program_, 2018-10-31. Accessed 2018-11-01.
  9. "Frivolous Customers". Not Always Right, 2012-11. Accessed 2012-12-10.
  10. Andrew Silver. "PCs will get pricier and you're gonna like it, say Gartner market shamans". The Register, 2017-07-05. Accessed 2017-07-07.
  11. betterunixthanunix's comment
  12. Anonymous Coward's comment
  13. geekoid's comment
  14. Anonymous Coward's comment
  15. neminem's comment
  16. exomondo's comment
  17. [ Anonymous Coward's comment
  18. HornWumpus's comment
  19. Tweet by @FSFE
  20. exomondo's comment
  21. Anonymous Coward's comment
  22. Comments by perpenso and Plumpaquatsch
  23. Plumpaquatsch's comment
  24. Anonymous Coward
  25. Chris Dixon. "PCs are going to be like trucks". 2013-02-26. Accessed 2013-04-12.
  26. Cory Doctorow. "The Coming War on General Computation". Accessed 2012-01-01.
  27. Dell pulls back from netbook market. 2011-12-17. Accessed 2011-12-18.
  28. Charles Arthur. "Sayonara, netbooks: Asus (and the rest) won't make any more in 2013". The Guardian, 2012-12-31. Accessed 2012-12-31.
  29. damnbunni's comment
  30. RockDoctor's comment
  31. Jared Spurbeck. "Asus Launches New 10.1 Inch Netbook, but Calls it a 'Notebook' Instead". Yahoo! News, 2013-04-23. Accessed 2013-05-02.
  32. "Share This If You're Guilty". Not Always Working, 2012-05. Accessed 2012-11-28.
  33. DrYak on Slashdot
  34. Ixokai's comment
  35. Nicole Kobie. "Dell: death of the PC is 'complete nonsense'". 2011-09-19. Accessed 2011-09-21.
  36. gstrickler's comment
  37. Anonymous comment citing Toshiba NB505-N508BL 10.1-Inch Netbook on

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