Q: I need a new laptop for school and like what I’m hearing about Apple’s new iPad. What do you think? — Gina
A: I am amazed at how many times I have heard the perspective that Apple’s latest gadget could replace a laptop; it’s a clear testament to the power of the Steve Jobs hype machine.
The iPad is actually not ‘like’ anything that is currently on the market, so replacing something else as important as a laptop computer with this new device is not likely to be very feasible.
Envision an iPod Touch on steroids — that’s what the iPad really is...Steve Jobs is a really smart guy; he wouldn’t create a new device that makes his laptops irrelevant.
The iPad should be thought of as a device that is between a laptop and a smartphone (it’s like the Starbucks mantra of ‘a third place’).
Lots of reviews are comparing it to the ‘netbook’ category, but I disagree. Netbooks are more designed to focus on productivity and creation of information while the iPad is better suited for entertainment and consumption of information.
It’s entirely conceivable for lots of people to own a Netbook and an iPad because they really do things well in different areas.
The best way that I can think of positioning the iPad is for those that want an e-reader (like the Kindle or Nook), a video playback system (like a portable DVD player), a portable gaming system (like the PSP), a music system (like the iPod) and an amazing web browser/e-mail terminal that’s perfect for surfing while watching TV, all rolled into one device.
A laptop, on the other hand, is much more suited to word processing, spreadsheets and other productivity tasks and less suited to the entertainment side where the iPad shines.
Both can do what the other specializes in, but not very efficiently. For example, in order to perform simple word processing tasks on the iPad (an essential part of any educational use), you have to buy (and learn) a special word processing program and get used to typing with the on-screen keyboard.
You can buy an optional external keyboard, but now you’re eliminating some of the big advantages of the iPad (the form factor and multi-touch interface) and adding even more cost and more bulk to get it to do something it really wasn’t designed to do.
Conversely, lying around on the couch trying to check e-mail or surf the web with a laptop or Netbook isn’t nearly as elegant as it is with the iPad.
The iPad uses the same operating system as the iPhone, so you still can’t view flash content from Internet sites (big blank boxes will replace any flash video on a web page) or watch video from popular sites like Hulu or Netflix.
Additionally, the iPad also is not capable of multitasking, so you can only run one application at a time and there is no camera on the iPad, so webcam activities are also a no-go (you would have to believe that this is an option that will appear on future models)
The gaming experience on the iPad is substantially better than it is on a Netbook or even a laptop because of the light-weight design, the built in ‘accelerometer’ and the gaming apps that are (and will continue to be) developed for this platform.
I assure you that everyone would love to own an iPad because it’s so unique, but make sure you understand what it really does before you plunk down your cash.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at noon Saturdays on KTAR (92.3 FM) or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org