39 Comments

Summary:

Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop, tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered. Don’t be too sure about that, though.

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Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop, tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered.

Well, maybe.

No Laptop Substitute for Serious Users

Or not. I really like the iPad. I want one, but it doesn’t come within a country mile of being even a halfway-adequate substitute for a real laptop, at least for folks who use their computers as serious work tools. Laptops are going to be around for a long time to come. However, with the iPad’s price of entry at $500, the netbook folks may have plenty to worry about.

Then again, Jobs probably has a point, at least in that while web workers and other power or semi-power users who require multitasking capability, flexible input options, graphics and video editing power, and so forth will be buying laptops (and desktops) for many years to come, for the average consumer shopping at Best Buy or Wal-Mart, their laptop or netbook money may now be spent on an iPad. And if these folks discover that the iPad is all they needed in the first place (plausible in many instances) they may never buy a laptop again, which is probably what Jobs and Apple imagine to be the harbinger of the laptop’s future.

PowerBook Duo Redivivus?

For me, the deal breaker would’ve been lack of support for a real, electromechanical keyboard — I detest and revile touchscreen keyboards — but happily Apple covered that base nicely with Bluetooth support and an optional iPad Dock for the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I’m a longtime fan of the old PowerBook Duo concept from the 90′s with its various dockable expansion options, and the iPad with dock seems to be a contemporary update of that motif. Reportedly, any Bluetooth keyboard will work — not just Apple’s — so those of us who don’t like living without a numerical keypad will be covered as well.

Pointing Device Driver Still a Question Mark

A remaining caveat is that unfortunately, as of yet there’s been no confirmation one way or the other as to whether there will be mouse driver support for Bluetooth external pointing devices. I’m inclined to think that the absence of mention in Apple’s tech specs means there likely isn’t, at least so far, which means there is no precision pointing device, and even when using an external keyboard with the iPad mounted on its dock, it will still be necessary to navigate and click using the touchscreen interface — really inconvenient for folks like myself who like to sit well back from the screen when working at a desktop with external keyboards and pointing devices.

Still Some Deficiencies

The lack of multitasking support is another major shortcoming, but scuttlebutt has it that iPhone OS 4.0 may add multitasking to its repertoire of features, so that may be addressed by the time the iPad ships.

Another deficiency of the iPad as a laptop replacement is its lack of provision for memory upgrades. Of course we’ve already gone through that with the MacBook Air, but at least it comes with 2GB of soldered-in RAM compared to the iPad’s 1GB.

The iPad a Work in Progress

Accentuating the positive, however, I prefer to look at the iPad as a work in progress, and hopefully some or all of these objections, plus the absence of Flash support, and tabbed browsing in the iPad version of Safari, HDMI or MiniDisplay Port output, an SD Card reader, and any sort of non-wireless data transfer connectivity, will be remedied in subsequent versions.

In the meantime, that surprisingly friendly $500 price of entry to the iPad club should make it a formidable force to be reckoned with in the marketplace right out of the blocks, although I’m personally inclined to keep my powder dry until the Revision B models hit the Apple Certified Refurbished channels in eight or 10 months time and any teething problems get ironed out.

How about you? Eager early adopter or content to wait? And can you envision the iPad ever replacing your laptop?

Related GigaOM Pro Research:

  1. What about printing? In my tech-support experience, the people for whom the iPad might be an adequate laptop replacement are the ones doing the most printing (discounting offices of course).

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    1. On the 4.2 update coming out late 2010 – early 2011 will include many things like:

      - Multitasking
      - AirPrint
      - AirPlay
      - Folders
      - Game Center

      all of these updates will hopefully fulfill our customers needs. As for the camera, a FaceTime camera will be included in the iPad 2nd Generation.

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  2. I have no doubt the iPad will fill it’s role very, very well – it’s what Apple does. While I can see definite benefits of having one (if only for the simple, easy one-on-one presentations with clients, where it would be fantastic) I agree: There’s simply no substitute for a laptop. The main problems, I see, are the above-mentioned multitasking, as well as lack of a physical keyboard (yes, I realize you can get the dock). Virtual keyboards are great on cramped-real-estate devices, but for working they don’t work. Lack of tactile feel and interaction (“I push button, button makes me a letter”) is a big rift.

    And until they can develop a spell-checker that can actually read my mind, I’ll spend too much time double-checking as I type – making for a slow workflow.

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    1. ipad is a unique way to serve on internet.You can get a key board and a ouse speartly and it will be a mac in just a puch f button and it simple you can take it anywhere you want so small and slim.

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  3. Actually, I thought Steve made it pretty clear that the iPad’s role was not as a laptop replacement but as the device that fits in the middle of the iPhone and the MacBook. Good for the basic tasks that make up the majority of laptop uses, bigger than an iPhone so better for browsing and reading and movies, but not a replacement for either the laptop or the iPhone. And it’s not priced to have all the features of a laptop, so I’m not sure why people keep thinking it SHOULD have all of those features.

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  4. I’ve got a 24″ iMac for the serious stuff. The iPad will be perfect for everything else.

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  5. Charles, remember: “multitasking is overrated”.

    http://theappleblog.com/2010/02/03/multitasking-is-overrated/

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  6. This is perfect for those who have trouble using the track pad or a mouse (my 80+ year old mother comes to mind). A touch sensitive interface is perfect for the really young and the computer illiterate and older folks.

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  7. Steve Jobs did not say is was better than a laptop, he said it was better at some things. That is a huge difference.

    Without some major changes in the way we interact there is no way a pad such as this could replace my laptop, but it will probably compliment it.

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  8. The iPad is a perfect mobile computer, for ordinary tasks but not heavy duty production. That is why multi tasking is not so crucial on such a device, but the ability to surf the web, communicate, display multimedia, read newspaper or books and do some artistic work if one wants to is pretty slick.I already can see it as a traveling companion especially when Jobs finish talking with international G3 vendors. The data plan on iPhone is just too expensive when you leave the country. The other beauty about this new form of computing is that it is a perfect touch screen device, along with the iPod touch and smart phone. The screen real estate of the iPad is especially appealing to people with failing eyesight. Can you think baby boomers?

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    1. I don’t think that the iPad can replace the laptop/desktop machine as it will require a computer to synch with! Every Mac household will still require an iMac/Macbook to synch with for new software, iTunes libraries, Apple TV, etc. I am feeling that there is a redundancy here in requiring all of these different machines to access media. What single machine could provide even most of these?

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  9. There seem to be so many blog articles written by people who did not listen to what Jobs actually said… This is a device that sits squarely between the phone and the laptop. It is NOT a replacement for either device!.

    I’m sitting here in front of my dual monitor set up linked to a smokin MacPro because that’s what I need for business…. I don’t need to take it to my customer. I have the iPhone in it’s cradle ready to take a call or check email when I’m away from my office. I don’t have a MacBook simply because can’t justify it (although I’d have one in a shot if I could). But this device falls exactly between all of these stools. It won’t make any of them redundant.

    Journalists, please listen and read before you hoist your opinion on us. Life is too short to be wasting time.

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  10. The iPad and the NetBooks shouldn’t be thought of in the same context, since they serve different customers.

    What Apple is doing is enlarging the computing market to serve people who were uninterested in computers before. One of my corespondents on another topic compared the iPad to a toy.

    That is a proper context for the iPad, because,”Who is afraid of a toy?” No one. But many people in this world are afraid of computers, because they are too hard-to-use. You must give up many hours of pleasurable activities to learn how to use one. Hence, computers are difficult and boring to the non-geek. This is why half of the US still does not use one.

    People are often limited by what they can perceive. They think in terms of existing markets rather than emerging markets; they ask if the iPad will replace NetBooks, phones, computer tablets, e-readers and notebooks. The answer is, “Yes and no.”

    There are many areas where the iPad will replace the above devises, but that is not its intent. If a smart one year old can operate an iPhone, then she can do real functions with an iPad, too. This becomes her window into the virtual world. What a great learning tool the iPad will become. And it won’t be necessary to be a geek to run one.

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    1. I’m sorry, but the market you’re aiming for isn’t nearly as large as you think it is. In fact, where did you get that 1/2 of the US population figure? It’s just wrong.

      The latest census numbers I was able to find show that 61.7% of American households had both the internet and a computer at home. And that was in 2007. Those with just a computer may be up to 10% higher (based on previous years). Based on the trend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are closer to 80% computer in the home and 70% internet use at home. Maybe even higher.

      (See http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/computer/2007.html, Appendix Table A.)

      The number of people who use computers as part of home or work responsibilities almost certainly approaches 95%. It is highly unlikely that those luddites avoiding computers will be lining up for iPad. Like iPhone, it will be purchased by raving Apple fanboys and the technorati. Which, as has been pointed out, is the wrong target audience for the device.

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  11. what would really make a lot of sense is an iPad like software platform on a laptop like clamshell case with a real keyboard instead of the touch screen.

    the potential user i am thinking of are people who come several times a year into my used computer service shop to have virus removed or just have there laptops restored back to the factory condition. most of these user only care about the web and nothing else. but they are unable to perform the needed day to day updating, scanning, maintenance, etc. needed on a windows machine. they need something much simpler.

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  12. As several others have said, Jobs did not say the iPad was better than a laptop. This article is simply sensationalism, nothing more.

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  13. This is a replacement for the original concept of the Mac. It does not do away with workstations, but frankly the number of people who need such computers is rather limited. If you can add notes to a PDF access the iPad version of Excel (yes, Microsoft will have apps) and send emails, most are good.

    Multi-tasking will come when the UI is worked out. This is the beginning of tablet computing. Will they sell a couple million? Yep. The market will only grow.

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  14. [...] Will the iPad Kill the Laptop Star? Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop, tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered. Don’t be … Originally posted here: Will the iPad Kill the Laptop Star? [...]

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  15. If Apple had intended for the iPad to be a replacement for laptops they would have priced them much higher. This much should be obvious to you people by now.

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  16. You say here:

    “Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop, tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered. Well, maybe.”

    Yet you’re quoted on GigaOmIn (confirmed in your page source) as saying:

    “Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop, tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered. Don’t be so sure.”

    Before considering why you have two different texts, let’s examine the logic of your initial false premise upon which you base the entire article:

    1. “Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop.” He never did. Not once. Ever. Please provide a verifyable quote where he says this. If you can’t, then your entire article is just so much sound and fury, signifying nothing. Shame on AppleBlog for posting it.

    2. In the same sentence, you go on to conclude, (remember, it’s based on “your” false premise,) “tacitly implying that the notebook’s days are numbered.” Now, “if” Steve “did” say what “you” said he did, then this “might” be true. But even “if” Steve “did” say what “you” said he did, this would have been a highly subjective interpretation on your part.

    3. “Don’t be too sure about that, though.” This is your final strawman “pronouncement” based on your false premise, as appearing on GigaOm. While here, you use the infinitely wiggly, “Well, maybe.”

    That you base an entire article on a false statement that is so easily refutable and a headline merely intended to snag and inflame the ignorant, is a trick right out of the tabloid playbook. It is also telling that there are two different texts where one (appearing on GigaOm) is designed to hook and reel you here, while the one appearing here is designed to provide a more plausable out when you are proved wrong months from now. Obviously you’ve cynically bet on a short attention span and memory of the readers to connect the dots.

    The public is craving intelligent information and analysis about the iPad and a host of Apple-related issues. But if you, Charles, want to position yourself as a bottom feeder, relying on provocative headlines and airbag articles, then keep providing fictional works like this.

    Josh, you getting this?

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  17. You can’t blame journalists for comparing the iPad to netbooks, insofar as they occupy the same space. Steve Jobs himself made this comparison.

    Are people buying netbooks for home computing needs? If so, then one can quickly see how the iPad is better at doing basic home computing needs than a netbook. It’s a web browser, mail client, and much more — all done very well.

    Are people buying netbooks for mobile business computing needs? If so, then the comparison becomes much more difficult. (i.e. “you mean I have to carry a keyboard with me if I want to do serious writing on the road?)

    In his claim that netbooks fail, I can only guess that Steve Jobs was referring to the home computing space — since most of his demonstration was done while sitting on a couch. Nonetheless, he should have been more specific in his remarks.

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    1. No one is blaming journalists for comparing the iPad to a netbook. I’m saying that journalists are not listening to what is being said. Charles Moore draws his conclusions based on poor research or a bad memory. By all means discuss the future of technology, but please report the facts correctly. Blogs like his have us all arguing amongst ourselves for no reason!

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  18. It is the netbook that is the innovation of the decade, not an iPad. A netbook at $299 can run any program, video calls with Skype, and do things we only dreamed about a few years ago. It is precisely because of the low price that makes it that important. Making the decision to roll out netbooks is easy at the price. The iPad, at $499+, with a closed ecosystem, is not so easy to justify and it really doesn’t solve a problem.

    Long live the decade of the netbook.

    PS: As the price of commodity PC hardware keeps on falling, the value of an Apple product becomes more and more dubious. Where’s the value in spending twice as much for the same hardware? Hint: There isn’t any. I’d rather roll out $550 Dell Vostro notebooks than $1100 Macbooks all day long. With netbooks being $299, the Apple premium looks more absurd. If you look at their financial statements, it’s not going towards a better product, it’s going towards a higher margin. Yes, great for Apple and their shareholders, but not great for IT people that are compelled to save money.

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  19. Donald Townsend Thursday, February 4, 2010

    The iPad definitely won’t kill the laptop star because it is not as multifunctional and less powerful.

    There is nevertheless some problem with the positioning of the iPad as a separate class of device between the iPhone/ iPod Touch and notebook computers. To be member of a new and distinct class of its own it has to be better at a number of things.

    I for example use an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. On the iPhone I can do nearly everything I could do on the iPad. The major differences between iPhone and iPad are screen size and speed (and phone). Maybe the larger size virtual keyboard of the iPad allows for faster typing but would I want to compose long emails on it? I rarely do this on the iPhone. The iPhone is great for checking mail and short replies. For more I move over to the MacBook Pro.
    The iPad can run a special version of iWorks but would I do large spreadsheets on the iPad? I doubt it. Same with documents and presentations. A scenario like this seems more likely to me: I create a document on my notebook and access it via the cloud on the iPad, show it to someone and do perhaps some minor editing.

    My problem with the iPad is that there is too much overlap in functionality with the iPhone/ iPod touch and a MacBook or MacBook Pro. Most of the stuff I can do on the iPad I can also do on one of the other devices either sufficiently well enough for most purposes or even better.

    Steve Jobs stated that the iPad is great for surfing the web. It really seems to be good at it. Perhaps it’s more comfortable surfing the web from your couch on the iPad. But is that the only real advantage this device has to offer?

    The iPad is an ebook reader too, yes. Reading an ebook looks very similar to reading a real paper book. Book pages are the size of a real paper book page. Not so on the iPod. Here might be another advantage of the iPad when compared to a notebook. Few people read ebooks on their notebooks away from the desk, at least I don’t. But I read a lot on my MacBook Pro. Many folks state that e-ink is better for reading when reading for long periods of time. Backlit screens put to much strain on the eye. I can’t say because I’ve kept back from buying a Kindle yet (to wait for a color e-ink device or else).

    I’m in education and I’d want a tablet device to put all my textbooks on. Right now I’ve got all of them digitized as PDFs on my MacBook Pro. I can open several of them, switch between them and switch between these PDFs and my lesson notes saved as a Word document. I wouldn’t be able to do that with the iPad, not without multitasking or an app within which one could open several documents in tabs. For the iPhone there isn’t any such app (given that it wouldn’t make any sense making one for the iPhone). None of the PDF apps I know for the iPhone remembers the position within the PDF.

    I see opportunity in the iPad. The form factor is great, the design beautiful and I would like to have one because of it but what would be the benefit for me of owning one? There’s a big questionmark for me, a very big one.

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  20. The iPad is nothing but a toy IMHO. There is no way, from what I have heard, to connect a digital camera or camcorder to transfer pictures and videos which is a huge task for the type of people who might be able to get by with just an iPad. That and the lack of Flash support really decreases its usefulness as the only computing device for a casual user.

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    1. What you have heard is just plain wrong about not being able to transfer media data to the iPad:
      http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
      Look at the bottom of the page to see the dongles.

      Lack of Flash on the iPad will be somewhat of a problem for those that absolutely need Flash, but there are already 50 million iPhone and iPod Touch users who already get along quite well without Flash. As more Apple devices are sold there will be more sites that support alternate solutions to Flash. It will take time but the change absolutely will take place if advertisers want to take advantage of mobile traffic.

      Lack of Flash will not hinder iPad sales to any great degree. Most of the iPad buyers probably won’t even know it doesn’t support Flash until long after they’ve bought it and they probably wouldn’t return it for that reason.

      If the iPad is a toy, it will likely be one of the best-selling toys in computer history.

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  21. So far, not one iPad has been sold, so any claims of the iPad being more useful to users than a netbook is purely speculation. The iPad will probably not replace the netbook, but it really doesn’t matter. If Apple can push several million iPads to consumers every year at premium prices, then Apple is doing just fine. If companies want to continue to sell low-priced netbooks and lose money on each sale, that’s up to them. No matter how good a Rolls-Royce is, it will never outsell a Toyota Camry. There are far more people that can’t afford luxury items.

    Apple will just have to sell iPads to those that have the money to spend and that’s what advertisers, publishers and any companies that want to push media content are counting on. It’s not about the quantity, it’s all about who has the money.

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  22. The comment about being unable to add memory pales into insignificance alongside the question”can I live with a laptop with a 64 GB hard drive?”

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  23. Charles W. Moore Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Jason said:
    “Charles, remember: “multitasking is overrated”.
    http://theappleblog.com/2010/02/03/multitasking-is-overrated/

    Hi Jason;

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but I don’t think multitasking is overrated. I use it extensively.

    Fred said: ““Steve Jobs says the iPad is better than a laptop.” He never did. Not once. Ever. Please provide a verifyable quote where he says this.”

    Fred. Steve Jobs did say the iPad is, quote: “way better than a laptop, way better than a phone.” There are plenty of references I could cite.

    If you want to hear it from his own mouth, check out this video:
    http://www.pddnet.com/video-way-better-than-a-laptop-012710/

    CM

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    1. Charles, I happen to agree with you about multitasking. My previous comment was really just a failed attempt at sarcasm.

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    2. Better at certain tasks….! Please listen to everything he says, do not take a sentence out of context!

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  24. It’s important to remember that touch based interfaces have become wildly popular, with Apple alone peddling 75 million iGadgets and manufacturers falling all over themselves to duplicate this success. The weaknesses of touch based devices have been rehearsed ad nauseum by journalists who, understandably, assume that word processing is as central to other workers as it is for them. Not true. Some of the occupations that could use a tablet device as a primary tool are: doctors, nurses, sales people, designers, delivery people, project managers, artists, musicians, photographers, architects, etc. Of course, many of them type too, and they’ll either dock the iPad and use a keyboard or turn to a “real” computer for tasks that are better optimized for that platform.

    Unlike PC’s and iPhones, I imagine the iPad being shared between people regularly. It will be used to play board games or more active entertainments, sharing YouTube videos on the couch, browsing the family photo album together, shared calendar and address book, e-books and e-zines. Yes, it will be a personal thing to lug on the commute, but it will also live on coffee tables and kitchen counters as a communally shared resource.

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  25. I will probably buy the iPad and upgrade my Mac Mini to another desktop, either teh 21.5″ iMac or top spec mini depending on how much overtime I get in the next few months 8)
    For me, a laptop doesnt make sense unless it is ultra portable. My current laptop is a work provided 13″ HP tablet, and iPad will do nearly everything it does except for a proper serial or USB port. I need serial connction to switches and comms devices, hoever if the iPad does most of the general browsing, email and allows me to get my job notes, then the minscule 2 hr battery can be saved on my laptop/tablet for when I really need it.
    The biggest choice for me is wheter I need the 3G or not. I just teather my current laptop though my phone if I need anyhting other than mail or facebook form my phone.

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  26. Well, how could the iPad kill laptops, since it needs one to sync with!?

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  27. I have to remember that the GigaOm group is becoming popular enough to acquire truly ignorant commenters! Though it drives me nuts not trying to sort each and every silly remark.

    Anyway, my wife is truly in need of a new portable computer, laptop or otherwise. The screen is dying on her iBook.

    My MacBook is running fine; but, I had been thinking of getting something newer. All rationales applied. :)

    What we’ve decided is that as her iBook croaks, she’ll have my laptop to use. That will allow us to bring in 1 iPad when they ship. We both can try it and see if it fits our needs.

    Since I no longer travel for work, my needs are much reduced. She has an adequate desktop machine at work. I have a satisfactory iMac in the study at home. So, all I need to do is move her iTunes account and info onto the iMac for her to Sync with – and we’re good to go.

    We’ll both have a chance to experiment with the iPad – and maybe we’ll end up with 2 of them.

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  28. I don’t know where you source your info from, but Steve Jobs never called iPad a laptop killer. he said “netbook killer”, and I believe that to be true.

    also, iPad 1GB RAM? where did that come from? iPad has 256 MB of RAM, just like iPhone 3GS…

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  29. i need to know abt differece between i pad and laptop,,,,
    im planning to take a lap top on next month , but some of my frnd told me abt this gadget which s creating the wonder all over world ,, so plz tell me which gadget is very suitble for me…………………

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  30. I’m in no way a heavy user or geek all I use a laptop for is to run a small company and manage my music,I’ve got an iPod and it’s great for web and watching movies/playing games on the move,but it’s no more a laptop replacement than it is a replacement for my ps3,as much as I love the pad it’s just not up to doing what a laptop can.

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  31. Sorry ment iPad not iPod,damn spell check

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