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Summary:

I have been using tablets to surf the web for years, and I can state with confidence that iPad owners are going to enjoy going online with the slate. There are 168 ways the iPad will be better at surfing the web than convertible netbooks

iPad thumb

In just a couple of weeks the iPads will start appearing in owner’s hands, ready to take on the world. Maybe take on the web, as that is one of the tasks the iPad is well suited to perform. I have been using tablets to surf the web for years, and I can state with confidence that iPad owners are going to thoroughly enjoy going online with the slate. I have also been testing quite a few slates and convertible netbooks, and based on that experience I believe the iPad will be a better web appliance. In fact, I find there are 168 ways the iPad will be better at surfing the web than convertible netbooks.

Don’t worry, you’re not going to wade through 168 ways in this post. Convertible netbooks have one feature in common, the touchscreen that swivels into a slate tablet configuration. Surfing the web in slate mode with the web page displayed in portrait orientation is what compares most directly with the iPad. These netbooks invariably have a screen resolution of 1024×600, while the iPad displays a slightly larger 1024×768. That means the iPad displays 168 pixels of extra page width in portrait orientation. That’s the 168 ways the iPad will be a better web appliance than convertible netbooks (like the IdeaPad S10-3t) that are getting popular.

The extra width doesn’t sound like much, as it is hard to visualize how much additional information can be conveyed in 168 pixels. The best way to demonstrate these 168 pixels of extra web page information is to show you.

 

Note that the 768 page widths were simulated on a tablet that is actually 800 pixels wide. The Windows scroll bars were set to 32 pixels wide to achieve the 768 pixel width. It is easy to see how much more of any web page is displayed with the slightly wider screen resolution of the iPad over that of the convertible netbook.

Another factor that will play a role in web surfing on the iPad is the mobile browser interface. Mobile Safari has been designed from the ground up to be run on a touch tablet with no wasted screen real estate. Videos of the iPad surfing the web show the optimizations that were first put in place on the iPhone have been carried over to the iPad. Pages display on the whole screen, without big browser controls at the top of the screen or big scroll bars on the edges. The browser has been designed to be run totally by touch on the screen, and this is a tremendous advantage over Windows-based slates.

So the iPad has the advantage of better screen resolution and a web browser designed for a slate device run by touch. There’s another advantage the iPad enjoys over convertible netbooks, and that is form factor. The iPad weighs only half what convertible tablets weigh, and since we’re discussing handheld web browsing, this is a tremendous advantage. Tablets that weigh over 3 pounds can get tiring to hold for very long.

Obviously, none of us has an iPad in hand to prove my theory. I do like Windows tablets, but web browsing is not as fluid as I believe it will be on the iPad. Plus it’s easy to see how much value is added by those 168 pixels. I predict that many new iPad owners will see right away what I’m saying, and wonder what took someone so long to produce a tablet like this.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. I certainly agree that the extra 168 pixels provides a great deal of usability to nearly any device. However, there are new netbooks coming out with even higher resolution screens. The ASUS Eee PC 1005PR for example packs 1366×768 pixels into a 10.1″ screen. I hope that this starts a trend away from the limiting resolution of 1024×600. This may not yet be a tablet but can be modded into one, and with its success will certainly come more such devices in a tablet form factor.

    I agree that the weight of these devices would be more than the iPad reducing some of their usage scenarios. However, one glaring whole in your argument is the lack of a physical keyboard on the iPad. I find it hard to fathom that typing on the iPad’s virtual keyboard could outdo a physical keyboard in speed for the average user (except for that one guy who can do 85 wpm on his iPhone… but we aren’t all virtual keyboard prodigies). This is the biggest problem for me as I use my netbook primarily for taking notes and sending emails, and typing up rather lengthy comments such as this one.

    I realize there is the (severely delayed) keyboard dock but this forces you into a vertical orientation and just seems to be a less than elegant solution to a major problem. As for the web interface, currently Android OS and early iterations of the Chrome OS can be implemented on netbooks and tablets to great effect. Admittedly being a Google/Android fanboy I will wait for these to take off before I settle on an Apple product. I give Apple credit, the iPad looks remarkably streamlined and well thought out with an amazingly simple and natural UI. The closed nature of the product and the lack of physical keyboard, however, deter me from accepting it as my next portable device.

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    1. I hear what you’re saying, but since the iPad is a slate device that’s what I was comparing. I think the lack of a keyboard on a “casual” device will be less limiting than many believe it will be.

      There are lots of netbooks with higher resolution screens as you point out, but they aren’t convertible devices as I am specifically comparing against the iPad. 1024×600 seems to be the resolution for touchscreens on netbooks.

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      1. I guess I am just still having trouble seeing where such a device will fit into my routine. Although, I am sure if I were to get one it would certainly find its place. I am also sure that the iPad would be one of the most fluid and easy to use of the upcoming slate launches. I would just prefer a more open platform that would allow me to mess around a little with its innards a bit, but that is not what the average consumer is looking for.

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      2. Toni Borgetto Thursday, March 18, 2010

        1024×600 seems to be on the way out (and good riddance!) – the Viliv S10 and Gigabyte T1000 are just 2 recent examples of 1366×768 touchscreen models, and more will follow.

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      3. No doubt you’re right but these touchscreens are more expensive to include, plus a lot rides on how well they are implemented.

        Windows just doesn’t do multitouch as well as phones do.

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      4. I think you should slightly rethink your wording in the post when you say that netbooks “invariably” have 1024×600 screens because as shown in these comments and by your own post on the Viliv S10 there are indeed touchscreen netbooks with higher resolutions than the iPad.

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  2. Apple always makes things to just work. I’m sure this was no accident to have to have that resolution. This is also why Apple keeps it simple. no multi tasking. With no multi tasking the iPad can run fast longer battery life etc… James you remember the Adam Notion Ink tablet at CES. If that was out, would you purchased one?

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    1. Personally I am quite excited for Notion Ink’s Adam. Again, for full disclosure I am a bit of an Android fanboy so some bias does exist. Beyond that, the Pixel Qi display is a fascinating technical feat that allows for a much broader set of use cases. The openness of the platform on top of the expandability of the device with an SD slot and several USB ports makes it my first choice in the slate market. Not to mention multi-tasking, flash playback, 1080p video and 16 hour battery life. Yes Apple will have more of a “Just Works” device, but with so many extra features it seems like a bit of a no brainer for the geekier among us. I would like to know Mr. Kendrick’s take on it though.

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    2. I’d have to play with one for a while to see. I am intrigued why many of these slate devices keep getting delayed for release. There must be something related to component availability or the like as we keep hearing these (and ereaders) keep getting delayed.

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      1. It may be components, my guess is that these companies simply rushed it a bit. With Apple’s device looming over they probably felt it was necessary to immediately show off their own, whether it was complete or not. Relying on people like me to hold off on an iPad purchase for the promise of something better. Hopefully these delays come to an end soon though because I am getting quite anxious to get my hands on a slate device… whether or not I have discovered exactly where I will be using it yet.

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  3. John in Norway Thursday, March 18, 2010

    By your reckoning my Toshiba m200 is light-years ahead of your fanboypad.

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    1. Until you try to remove the screen and just carry that around. :)

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      1. John in Norway Thursday, March 18, 2010

        You’ve no idea how many times I’ve wished I could do that!

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  4. Take out the flash components, and then we’ll have an accurate comparison ;)

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  5. Hmm… the P16X0 series from Fujitsu does 1280×768, so does that it make 256 reasons why they are better than the iPad? Plus you don’t have to pay extra for a keyboard add-on? Granted they only have resistive touch and not capacitive touch, but that is app and user specific. I do agree that a higher screen resolution is a factor that increases a user experience, but a 4:3 screen ratio is so lacking especially when movies are in a 16:9 format(most computer displays are at 16:10) it makes viewing HD content a little less than the full experience on other devices, if that is one of the reasons for purchasing an iPad. However it does save on storage of the video file size, which is important if you can’t expand your storage pool. I believe the iPad’s edge in functionality will be the integration of apps with its form factor that gives its advantage as a tool many will find useful for consuming media not really creating it.A convertable laptop is mainly designed to do both create and consume media, while remaining portable and some are at the same price point as the iPad and many a bit higher. Others see the iPad as another item to charge and carry, that their current laptop screen with touch can do and perform additional tasks as well. Again it depends one’s needs, preferences and wallet. When the iPad drops in price say $100 around the holiday season,I think you will see a higher adoption rate and that will be more of a reason why a person will purchase one, than screen resolution and pixels.

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    1. I hear you Steven. But, if you start stretching the limits of the devices that you compare the pure slate iPad to, then where do you stop?

      The 19-inch Aspire notebook I reviewed is better than the iPad in every respect, screen, keyboard to processing power. But it weights 10 lbs.

      Or the ThinkPad x200t is a great tablet/slate/convertible that beats the iPad hands down. But it’s twice as heavy and costs $2k.

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  6. There’s another piece to this puzzle missing in the conversation so far — the comparison so far is between a desktop browser and mobile browser. It’s not just about the pixels (although more helps) — mobile browsers fit the entire web page to the screen by default while desktop browsers typically don’t as shown in the example pictures.

    Put another way — a more accurate visual representation would be to take the desktop browser pics with the pages fitting the screen. In that context, I don’t see the iPod having a massive advantage due to more pixels.

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  7. Constable Odo Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Netbooks won’t go away. There are just so many people that do everything on the cheap. Initial low cost for a product will easily win out. As long as there are products that cost next to nothing, there will always be buyers. They’re not looking for quality and they’re not looking for customer support. Netbooks were primarily built for poverty-class users in third-world countries but it seems there are more buyers in the U.S. than nearly anywhere else in the world.

    I’m amazed that most U.S. Windows PC companies managed to survive these past couple of years. All their good products remain collecting dust on shelves while netbooks fly out the door. There is no point in trying to convince those that don’t want to spend money to buy an iPad. These people believe that netbooks are the best mobile computing device ever made even though they were designed to be low-priced, low-quality and low-performance computers. The single-core Atom processor is most likely Intel’s lowest-quality and worst-performing processor and yet netbook users seem to love it.

    The iPad is a nice product but it will likely never take the place of a netbook that is much cheaper. I’m almost certain that Windows PC companies will not be able to sell a tablet to netbook users because I doubt if even those companies can build a tablet that’s sells for for less than a netbook. How are they going to coax users to spend even $400 for a tablet if a netbook costs $300? Netbook users claim that tablets don’t have equal features and that losing their physical keyboards is too big a loss to netbook user.

    I’m not sure what type of consumer will buy an iPad but I doubt it will be netbook users. They’d rather carry those shoddily designed netbook convertibles that change from computer to tablet with a screen flip and swear it’s the best of both worlds when in fact it’s the worst of both worlds.

    I think Apple is counting on low-tech consumers to buy the iPad because they won’t be able to compare it to anything else and will just accept it at face value. Hopefully, Apple will find a market of millions of consumers that don’t care much for traditional computing due to its complexity and will be happy with some product that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Time will tell.

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  8. There are several reasons why an iPad is better than a netbook, however, I believe that the key is not only the 168 pixels, but it is a matter of the interface. Apple put a lot of effort always on the interface and the usability, on the other hand we have system integrators (laptop’s builders), none of them offer a complete experience for the user, and that’s something that really pmo.

    Why large companies doesn’t develop a user friendly enviroment for the tablets and convertible netbooks? they are still offering windows vista or windows 7, without any tweaks, the scroll bar still too narrow for any regular finger, buttons are also small and dificult to select with REGULAR FINGERS!!!

    The only partial answer is ANDROID, still not a competitor for the apple experience, but I think it is on its way.

    Again it is not a matter of hardware but it is a software and experience matter. New player on the market will be the linux solution for the Lenovo U1, but according to the videos that I saw, I think it still in an early stage, still slow, not fluent motion, some uttones still small and of course the scroll bar :(

    Hope Asus, Lenovo and Google (not stupid HP) can listen to the user and be able to understand that apple customers are loyal not because of the brand, but because of the user interface, usability, and what this means to the complete brand of an apple product. (by the way I’m not an apple fan, however I have to accept quality on the usability and the trade offs)

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    1. The other factor here, I think, is application software. Microsoft can tweak Windows for touch input all it wants – and by most accounts, Win7 is far better than their previous attempts – but it’s up to third-party developers to provide software that properly leverages a multitouch interface, and they won’t do that as long as their primary target devices are keyboard-and-mouse computers. This, to me, is the strength of the iPad’s use of the iPhone OS: it assumes multitouch as the basic input mechanism, and everything is designed around making the most of that functionality.

      Android is the obvious competitor in that particular software space, but as I’ve said before, Android tablets will be seriously crippled unless and until Google decides that it’s going to allow larger non-phone devices to use the Android Market. I had some hope in that respect when I was told that the Dell Streak will have Market access, but it’s also got phone capability (although that’s hardly its primary use case), so it doesn’t break Google’s “smartphones only” policy. I’ve also heard rumors that Google is not interested in opening the Market for screens bigger than 7″ or so, which would present serious problems for the eDGe, the Adam, and other current and future Android tablets.

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    2. Scrolling through a webpage can be a frustrating experience on the iPhone using a finger due to inadvertant hits on links and buttons. It’s mainly a function of the small screen and hopefully one that’s reduced on the iPad. I would definitely want to play with one in-store first before committing to purchase one.

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  9. by the way, does any know if the screen of the iPad is capacitive or resistive?

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    1. Most definitely capacitive.

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  10. The fact that the iPad costs the same as a Net book and will provide a better experience all around = SUCCESS!

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    1. I guess that all depends on how you define “a better experience”. And for the record, the iPad
      costs more than many netbooks.

      –Ken

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