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iPad and the Mobile Computer: Will the iPad Boost Desktop Sales?

Apple told us yesterday that the iPad is not meant to be a replacement for either your iPhone or your Mac, but rather to fill a niche in between them. One result of this placement may be a resurgence in desktop Mac sales.

For a long time now desktops have been in decline, both in the overall computer industry and for Apple. Laptops have become much more powerful and have dropped in price significantly over the past few years. Combined with a laptop’s convenience in terms of mobility, this has driven laptops to the forefront of the computing industry. In fact it is clear that small size combined with small price is a sweet spot for many consumers, which explains the explosion in sales of netbooks.

What Apple has done with the iPad is create a product that is going to compete in large part with netbooks, but will fall short of giving you a complete computing experience. As such Apple expects us to continue buying Macs, while buying an iPad to complement them. If this strategy works, the result in terms of buying strategy for Mac users might change significantly for the laptop versus desktop question.

Let’s take the situation before today. If you were looking to buy a new Mac, the $1,200 MacBook Pro was probably your sweet spot in terms of portability, price and power. Starting yesterday, however, the math could look very different. The best choice from Apple for a mobile device may now be an iPad given it’s light weight and user experience. By itself it won’t match the capabilities of an entry-level MacBook Pro, but if you combine it with a Mac Mini, for example, you suddenly have two devices that probably match the capabilities of a MacBook Pro. And the price? Well, $500 for the iPad plus $600 for the Mac Mini is actually less expensive than a Macbook Pro.

This works as you move further up the market as well, would you rather have a $2,000 MacBook Pro or a $600 iPad combined with a $1500 iMac? The iMac gives you a more powerful and expandable computing platform, while the iPad might be able to fill your mobile computing needs. I don’t think the decision is cut and dry — there is value in having a singe device for all your computing needs — but it is certainly worth thinking about. I know that I’ll be considering the iPad plus Desktop route when the time comes to upgrade my Mac.

27 Responses to “iPad and the Mobile Computer: Will the iPad Boost Desktop Sales?”

  1. I was considering the 24″ iMac along with the Macbook Air, but then opted for the 15″ MacBook Pro with the External 24″ display which is a great setup. The big thing about the iPad is the sheer portability. MacBook is quite heavy and cumbersome in comparison. With all the apps and loads more to come, I’m sure it will do 99% of what people need. The only thing people could complain about is the keyboard – but worst case scenario the bluetooth keyboard would be fine to bring with you for longer typing/work tasks. But popping down to Starbucks, on a Plane, passenger in a car, meeting to show a few things, reading books, surfing… this is really going to show huge advantages over a laptop.

  2. I think this point is spot on. I’ve always liked the iMacs, but recently switched to a MacBook Air for portability. Now with the option of the iPad I’ll switch back to an iMac and enjoy a much bigger screen at home.

  3. Plus if you want to use the 3g you have to get a mobile contract for data. So its another £10 a month.So stupid. Designed for people with more cash then brains.

  4. I just cant see the use of the IPad. It looks like a giant iPhone. Cant imagine slapping one outin a class or a meeting. It would look so dorkey and stupid. Plus a touch screen keyboard just does not work. And if i wanted to buy an iPad to be able to watch movies then Id rather buy 3 flat screen tvs for the same price and put one in each room. Silliest gadget apple ever cam up with but sure some idiots will buy it.

  5. Agree absolutely. I have a feeling that the Apple tablet (hope they lose the suit with Fujitsu over the iPad name) should target students and professionals-on-the-go. I think that when I replace my white Macbook next year, I’ll opt for a Mac mini or an iMac + iPad for law/grad school.

  6. I was think much along the same lines, particularly with the light weight, quick boot, and easy setup. But there is a major hitch. For many people, that iPad would need to run Mac-level applications rather than out-sized iPhone ones. Until those are available, it’s a non-starter.

    That’s probably why Apple ported iWork to the iPad, but will those who lack Apple’s resources will be able to port their applications to it? And that hinges on what’ll be in OS 4.0.

  7. Share holders will love this angle, I can hear the drums a’callin’…

    Does make me consider why I haul this backbreaking MBP to my every destination when the only time I ever ‘really’ work is at home connected to a 21″ display and stuck to a nice seat.

    I’d put my bets on that it’s a slightly premature winner, gen nº2 will entice more no doubt.

  8. Funny you should mention that… I’m a die-hard laptop guy, can’t stand desktops. But, I’ve recently been looking at a new macbook and have been very very torn on the portability vs screen size & power issue. The long and short of it is that while I was leaning towards a 13″ MBP before this, now I’m looking at a 17″ plus an iPad. Instead of getting $1200-$1300 out of me, apple is likely to get over $3,000…

    It’s like reverse sales cannibalization.

  9. As I sit here writing this on my iPhone in a boring physical chemistry lecture, it makes me wish I still had my unibody 15inch MacBook Pro I sold in November. The only reason I sold it is because I wanted the quad-core iMac so I bought it being the Apple fangirl that I am. I didn’t feel the need to have two fast computers so I thought I would wait until 2010 to get a newly revised Macbook Air or wait for the announcement of the tablet. A Macbook Air on it’s own wasn’t good enough for me (owned one for a month when they came out before upgrading) but a big iMac and a small portable device made sense to me. I’m on the go A LOT but I always hated toting around a 5 lb laptop everywhere I went and that is why the iPad is perfect for me. It is the perfect companion to my quad-core iMac. I can create doc, xls, ppt and really, away from home, that’s all I need. I can fit it in my purse and it
    doesn’t way much. I thought the Air was light so I know I’ll love this. As I sit here watching people on their laptops in class, all I see them doing is looking at powerpoints and playing games. So, if you take a look at your productivity on a portable computer, maybe you’ll come to realize that a big-screened desktop, iPhone, and iPad is just the combination you need. I’ll be opting for the 64gb 3g version when it arrives. I think it will be worth the wait and will turn out to be an amazing device.

  10. I use a desktop (imac core duo) and a macbook air, precisely for this reason – I prefer the desktop computing when I’m home, but need something thin and light for when I (previously, frequently) traveled for work. However, I’m not sure the iPad could replace the AIR for a variety of reasons, most importantly being that when working, It was a document-drafting intensive job, requiring both a keyboard and the ability to use software like microsoft office (for mac), not to mention needing the ability to remotely log into my law firm’s protected network servers. I see none of this capability (at least yet) on the iPad. And buying a separate keyboard (wireless or docking station) for the typing portion eliminates any space/weight savings I’d get over continuing to carry a true laptop, or even a netbook.

    But, I’m looking at about 2 years before I’m scheduled (on my own timeline) to replace both my nook and my AIR, at which point I might revisit whatever improved device has replaced this first-generation iteration. As one of my friends said, a macbook air with a swivel monitor (to turn it into a tablet when necessary) and 3G would be just about the perfect device for us.

  11. ive always had 2 computers. one desktop and one laptop. my desktop (mac pro) is the mothership of the house. its everything. it does most of the heavy tasks. my laptop is for the road whether, its work, school, or travel / vacation. however when i purchased my mac book pro. the 13″ was not available. so i ended up with 15″ (big) although its not near powerful as the mac pro its still capable. and thats what i love about it. since portability + flexibility is an issue the tablet thing really got me excited! but my excitement went down the drain. its a giant ipod touch / i phone. its cool but i was expecting something that ran the actual mac os x and gave users the freedom to do anything. (camera, usb, mini display port, etc would’ve been wonderful!!! – maybe they’ll make a dock with all that) i feel like someone out there will figure out how to get osx to run on it :D
    i still like my mac pro and macbook pro. | netbook. / ipad not yet.

  12. Yeah, I like the idea of the iPad replacing the MBP in some cases. It’s getting harder and harder to travel with MBP, especially with security at airports and I see the iPad being easier. But your math doesn’t add up on the iPad + Mac mini. You forgot about the monitor, keyboard, and mouse that you need for a mini – adding anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand if you go with an Apple display.

    I’m still struggling to see the place for the iPad, especially in my line up (old G5 – for home computer and media storage/server, MBP – for work, and an iPhone – for work and personal). If the wife wants an e-reader for her birthday in April (although she usually gets books the old fashioned way – through the library), I’ll look harder at it. But its platform and functionality seem too limited to me and I’m struggling to find its niche.

  13. If it can save me from hauling my MBP with me everywhere, well that is one of the big reasons I’m likely going to get one of these. My shoulders will thank me greatly. I love the idea of using a purse again instead of the backpack I’ve needed for a few years (wasn’t I supposed to get to stop with that after college!) because the MBP was just too heavy to walk with for a couple miles on one shoulder. Plus a MBP isn’t great for in transit use, pulling it out on the bus while possible is just uncomfortable.

  14. mike2078

    Fair point!!

    I was thinking the same. iMac + MacBook was always out of question.. it was always either one of those. I chose the MacBook Pro. The problem always was the syncing of two almost similar devices. And the price. Of course there’s mobileMe – but this doesn’t cut it for media. yet.
    So a big screen at home and a little, always-in-sync device on the road – this sounds absolutely great!!

  15. This is the most compelling argument for an iPad that I have seen. Especially if I can use a VNC app (like I do on my iPhone) to access my desktop from the couch in order to add something to the iTunes server or re-sync Apple TV, I’d be set.

  16. The iPad is perfect. I found myself all the time needing a laptop for email , internet and movies, games on the go. So I got an iPhone 3G when they came out. I love it. But it still is “good in a pinch”. I can’t spend all day on it surfing the web. An email is OK, but again. I find myself answering emails with quick replies, or “I’ll answer that when I get home.” The iPad solves that problem. I’d love a MacBook, but I can’t see myself, or justify dropping $1299 so that I can answer emails. And, for these simple on the go tasks, a laptop all of a sudden becomes overkill.

  17. Thank you!!! This is EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking. Right now, as a full time grad student, I need full productivity on the go; hence, I have a MacBook Pro. However, once I graduate, will I need that kind of portable productivity? I can’t say yet, but if not, then the iPad/iMac combo makes a lot of sense. Add my iPhone in on top of it all, and I’m good to go either way.

  18. I agree. I’m going to be in the market to buy a new Mac in the next year, and I’ve gone back and forth between desktop or laptop. I’ve leaned toward getting more power for my buck with the desktop, but I’ve been hesitant to give up portability. I do use an iPhone but I can’t imagine living without a laptop. I considered going for an iMac AND a MacBook (for almost the same cost as the more powerful MacBookPro), but I think the iPad could potentially fill my need for a laptop and be cheaper to boot.