Blog Post

iPad: The Microwave Oven That Can’t Pop Corn

There’s a backlash in the tech community against Apple’s iPad (s aapl). Perhaps because the geeks and tech-heads are disappointed the iPad didn’t meet their every expectation. I wonder though if it isn’t just the result of a lack of imagination.

Techies moan endlessly about the iPad’s lack of a physical keyboard and how “no one can do real work on that.” I have to wonder what they mean when they say “real work?” Are they suggesting, for example, all computer users regularly commit themselves to Jessica Fletcher-esque writing marathons? Do the vast majority of us really write 10,000 word screeds every week? Of course not. Most everyday computing consists of a few minutes of light email and web surfing. If a 10,000 word essay is the goal, the iPad might not be the ideal platform (though I suspect we’ll see plenty of people doing very lengthy prose with the optional keyboard). However – not being ideal out-of-the-box for essay writing doesn’t invalidate the utility of the iPad. There are a great many other complaints about the iPad, and they all end this same way.

To those techies fond of finding fault with the iPad, I say this; the iPad is not for you. Instead, the iPad is designed for everyone else in the world, the colossal majority of non-techy folk who simply don’t care about cameras, physical keyboards or “closed” operating systems.

Imagine this scenario;

Meet Carol, a busy wife and mother. She just saw her eldest two kids off to bed and the baby is (finally!) asleep in her arms. This is a rare moment of blissful peace and quiet. Carol settles on the couch, baby in arms, and watches those episodes of Modern Family that have been sitting on the Tivo for three weeks. She giggles as Manny and Gloria bully Jay, and then suddenly remembers she must e-mail Mom about the kids’ soccer game this weekend.

A geek would put the baby aside, deploy the dedicated laptop table and boot-up their 17” unibody MacBook Pro. Carol is no geek. She has precisely zero passion for, or interest in, computers. And she definitely doesn’t have the free arm for laptop-deployment strategies.

Here, the iPad shines. Carol checks the baby is comfortable (yep, still sleeping!) and then with a single button-press the iPad is ready to go. She composes a new e-mail to Mom, pausing for a moment to chuckle at the TV (Cameron is flaming). While it’s on her mind, she adds a note to the family’s shared calendar.

The commercials are on, and while she’d normally skip through them, she takes advantage of those three minutes to follow the link cousin Linda sent a few days ago. It’s a photo gallery of her summer vacation. The iPad’s form factor makes it the ideal tool for this, it’s like she’s holding each photo in her hand. There’s even a short video, too, which reminds Carol she really should use her own camera more often…

The commercials are finished. Carol is done with her ‘computer’. At this point a geek would continue surfing (probably checking RSS feeds or leaving withering comments at the end of another infuriating diatribe from Liam “Doesn’t know what he’s talking about” Cassidy) …but not Carol. She switches it off, tosses it onto the nearest chair and forgets about it.

Carol, by the way, is exactly like all the other non-techy people in the world who could benefit enormously from the ease and simplicity baked into the iPad. The “computer as an appliance” solution is, for non-geeks everywhere, a welcome respite from the inherent complexities of more conventional computers.

Careless and Lazy

Tech-heads argue, “We do all those things with our laptops and smartphones already, so the iPad has no utility and is stupid, dumb and pointless and bah! to Apple and their overpriced toys!” Well, maybe so, but a smartphone is often too small and fiddly (particularly for those of us who are getting a bit long in the tooth), while a laptop is almost always overkill for common light tasks. (I haven’t forgotten the netbook; it remains, in my opinion, an exercise in compromise and frustration for anyone but the most patient geek or undemanding road-warrior.)

This backlash often accompanies new appliances. Consider the humble Microwave Oven; when it first appeared it was expensive and, for a great many people, seemingly-pointless; “But, we already have a real oven. Can a microwave oven brown? Can it roast? Can it grill? Can it warm plates and roast a turkey and heat my coffee at the same time? It can’t do even half the things my real oven does. It’s overpriced and unnecessary and I don’t need one. And no one else will, either.”

If you ask me, that’s a pretty careless – even lazy – conclusion. Yet, it’s precisely the same argument I’ve seen repeated in comments and articles all over the web.

Of course, the microwave oven isn’t criticized today because its utility has been proven. Indoor plumbing, gas central heating, automobiles and even the personal computer all were criticized for being unnecessary and, as the tired old phrase goes, ‘a solution in search of a problem’. Nor has the microwave oven replaced conventional ovens. In fact, most of us have both appliances in the same room of the house. Having one does not automatically relegate the other into obsolescence. They each have their place, and they each offer their own utility and value in a modern home.

And so it will be with the iPad. Only, you won’t be able to pop corn in it.

Related GigaOM Pro Research:

172 Responses to “iPad: The Microwave Oven That Can’t Pop Corn”

  1. Barnabé

    Thanks Liam for this simple and efficient analysis.

    Of course, there are still some “wanabee-clever” geeks that don’t seem to have yet understood what simplicity and accessibility mean.
    But I’m sure they’ll come back into real life one day…

    • Considering that the iPad’s and iPod touch’s OSes are practically identical, but the iPod touch is pocket sized and cheap, I’d say that the more simple and accessible option would be the iPod touch.

  2. I made the move too all Apple products starting 3 years ago (I bought my first Apple II in 1978, and went PC in ’83), and have not looked back. The iPad seems perfect for people like my sister, for whom I must replace her PC every few years and she needs little more than web access and email. But here is my question:

    Is the iPad meant to be a stand alone product – one that can link to a network to do its own printing, backup and storage; or will it be necessary to sync it with some sort of bigger desktop or notebook computer in order to manage its software and media libraries a la the iPhone? THIS to me will be the deciding factor as to whether or not this product can be considered a success. All of the little niceties that are currently missing – ports, multitasking, etc. – can all be fixed later in updates and changes. But if the iPad cannot manage itself in the real world on its own, if it is only designed as an appendage to a more complicated system, then it will seriously miss its market.

  3. I have my own consulting business and I switched from Windows machines to Macs in 2008. When I work at home, it’s on a 24″ iMac. On the road, I take my 15″ MacBook Pro. Last fall, I bought a MacBook Air so I’d have something light to take with me on a trip to Paris and Prague. I am a complete techie who started coding in Fortran in 1968.

    I WILL be standing in line waiting for the doors to open on the day the iPad goes on sale at my local Apple store. If the iPad had been available, I would have bought it instead of the MacBook Air. It’s lighter and it would have handled everything I did while in Europe (emails, web surfing, emailing photos back to friends and family, etc.).

    Liam, your post is spot on. For all of the whiners who will invariably call you a “fanboi,” they simply have to read some of your past posts where you don’t spare the lash when you think Apple deserves it. Keep up the good work.

    • I’m a sysadmin, and I’ll be in line for one the first day. However, I see a downside for the moms out there who don’t have another computer: How will they handle updates to the OS? Without an automatic over-the-air scheme, they’ll have to wait for their sons or daughters to handle the task — and then could lose the media they loaded or bought after synching with another computer’s iTunes. Let’s hope Apple addresses this somehow. Also, an Internet-based backup option seems like a win for MobileMe should Apple improve on it ever.

    • Anonymous

      I’m sorry to read that you converted your business IT from something only moderately crippled to something COMPLETELY crippled.

      You would have saved money and become more effective switching to Linux rather than throwing thousands of dollars away for PCs that offer you even less options.

      Macs suck at business. I feel sorry for your clients.

      Course, this being an Apple blog I’ll just be dismissed as a troll because I don’t blindly worship Apple products.

    • @Matt: the Notion Ink tablet looks very cool, but hardware isn’t everything. Android tablets are still hampered by Google’s unwillingness to open up their proprietary apps, including the Android Market, to non-phone devices. Android tablets also have to either run standard Android unskinned, which may or may not scale well for larger-than-smartphone screens, or add a device-specific UI on top, which complicates the OS upgrade path. All of these things, I think, will give the iPad a relative advantage in the general consumer market.

  4. Joe Anonymous

    “My biggest gripe with it, now? I can’t justify purchasing one. : )”

    That’s OK. I”m buying 3. That will make up for you not getting one.

    My biggest gripe is that I want it NOW, not in March.

  5. This is one of the better articles I’ve seen written about the forthcoming iPad. Thank you.

    In my opinion, the biggest problem with the iPad is that it didn’t lived up to the hype that was literally created by the tech bloggers. And because the iPad wasn’t created for _them_ (it was created for the average user), they’ve begun bashing it.

    Like Mike M. wrote above, the iPad is the perfect internet appliance for my mom. Or my aunt. Or my ex-father-in-law. It would be perfect for my brother. It’s not perfect for me because I’m a contract software developer and I need to take my laptop with me when I work on site.

    But Apple wasn’t thinking of me. They weren’t thinking of the power user crowd. They were thinking of the other 90% of the population. Which is exactly what they should be doing.


    • @Ed “In my opinion, the biggest problem with the iPad is that it didn’t lived up to the hype that was literally created by the tech bloggers.”

      Couldn’t agree more. Apple is no longer a pure computer company, and the days of general-purpose, do-everything, add-a-pci-card, swap-a-motherboard consumer appliance computers are on the way out. The iPad is only the newest of emerging technologies that some in the technical press unfortunately are continuing to view through the lens of 1990s computing.

    • Jason Harris

      You guys very favorably estimate the average user when it comes to new technology adoption. My friend has 2 iMacs at her house. The reason? She bought one for her mom to upgrade from her ancient Dell. Mom had already learned to use Windows and the Dell (as would 99% of anyone who, say, works in an office) and was perfectly fine with what she had and what she was used to. The iMac collected dust for a year until she sent it back to my friend.

      It’s not like computers were just launched into the world and there’s this throng of people who are still wondering if they can try out this “internet thing”. People are using the internet and computers already, and are looking for ways to do it more easily and better.

      I’d also love to see how many of your non-techie parents are hyped up about typing on a touch screen. I would bet money my dad would freaking hate it. Even the most novice of users can 2 fingered hunt and peck on a keyboard, which turns into 1 fingered hunt and peck with the iPad. A pain for typing much more than “”

    • Dave Brown

      I never quite got everybody saying: “it’ll just be a big iPhone, or iPod” — as if that was a bad thing? As to living up to the hype, I don’t know. Before the iPad came out I said the Kindles and one-function-tablet-readers are going to be D.O.N.E. Why? because that’s all they freakin’ do. If I could by a reader for $200 or an iPad for (what will be) $300 — I’d take the iPad and use its eReading software. As to the rest of the hype they maybe did-or-did-not deliver on — I can only think most were imaginging or hoping for was maybe a camera. Outside of that all the mock-ups had a keyboard, the apps, etc. I don’t know that Mac didn’t deliver on many of the features all the techies hoped or predicted it would have. I think they just dropped (temporarily) the camera — and delivered on the rest.

  6. Like Gary above said, at first I was disappointed in the iPad. I was hoping for . . . I don’t really know. Something more, somehow.

    However, after a few days of thinking (and reading) about it, I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is.

    My biggest gripe with it, now? I can’t justify purchasing one. : )
    I would love to have one, but can’t think of a situation where I would every use one. I’m not on the go enough to need one, and when I actually am, I don’t do enough heavy work that I can’t just use my iPhone.

    • Spot on, Sara! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shorter or better way of describing what the iPad is, and who it is for! You are SO right!

      And that target demographic is HUGE.

    • I have the image of some guy sowing a huge pocket to the front of his shirt for his iPad. It just seems like a less portable and more expensive iPod touch. Sure, the screen is bigger, but I have terrible eyes and have never had a visibility issue with my iPod touch.

    • Sorry, that got posted in the wrong place. But, no, the iPad is actually for the kind of people who say, “Oh, just let me do it… Oh, wait, you aren’t using an iPad? Never mind. Real computers are just too hard.”

  7. David McCormack

    The reaction from a lot of techies to the iPad is a bit nauseating. Those of us who are steeped in technology tend to forget that even in the West, tens of millions of people are still completely freaked out by keyboards and mice. As our societies move increasingly online, these people are increasingly left out in the cold. My mother-in-law can use SMS on her very low tech mobile phone but that’s about the limit of her technology comfort zone. She has never emailed, tweeted, facebooked, looked up Wikipedia, downloaded a song, etc. I’m absolutely convinced however that the iPad (and the multitude of Android tablets that will follow) will finally bring a very large percentage of this constituency into the 21st Century. And quite honestly, it will make no difference to them that it doesn’t do 1080p or have a camera or accept an SD card.

  8. Gordon Morris

    @Paul, Why would I spend another $500 on something more powerful than my smartphone when I can boot up my netbook in a minute? That’s a year’s worth of wine! Ok, I drink the cheap stuff, but the fact is that the iPad simply does nothing I can’t, don’t already do, and it’s just too much money for a toy.

    iPad has some nice features, but it’s niche. Will it be a failure? Probably not. Will it be a success? Probably not either.

    • Mike Manzano

      @gordon Why use a microwave when I can just heat up the oven? Seems like the geeks tend to pan on the most valuable feature of devices like the iPad: a better user experience. A well-designed UX isn’t a “nice to have” for the iPad’s target market. It isn’t just a shiny bauble to entice stupid consumers to part with their money. It’s not the icing on the cake. A differentiated UX is the point entirely. My mom would never use a netbook. She doesn’t understand things like booting, moving windows around, or even copy & paste. She has no idea what “saving” means. The great thing about the iPad (and her iPhone which she’s addicted to) is that she doesn’t have to understand any of that to operate it. Why is this point so hard to get?

    • Just because you don’t have to write 3000-word documents or do serious spreadsheet work doesn’t mean you won’t need to write up a letter or quickly pop open a doc from work now and then…

  9. The crux of your argument is that the iPad is a one-button device that is for the non-techie people of the world and I agree 100%.

    The people that argue about the iPad’s shortcomings are exactly the people who this device is not intended for.

    • Joe Anonymous


      So is your point that you’re incapable of reading and comprehending all the examples that have been given to you or that you’re simply too bigoted to see that anyone in the world might be different than you?

      I’ve already talked with people who plan to use the iPad as a front end (via Citrix and VPN) to some very high powered computing tasks. Similarly, I know some fairly competent computer geeks (build their own computers, run Linux routinely, write their own software) who find the iPad to be appealing.

      Then, of course, there are the people who are multilingual and like the ability to switch keyboards on the device.

      And a million others. The fact that you can’t see anything beyond your own narrow, bigoted view of the world is a serious problem. You should probably seek help.

  10. @Brett: You’ve exactly proved the point of the article (which I happen to think is spot on, by the way): you are not the person the iBook is targeted to.

    Brett wrote, “It is interesting to see that for almost $200 less you can get a netbook with better battery life than an ipad, larger screen, full functioning OS, more storage etc. and weighing only a little more than a pound more.” This is exactly right…but for the people I know who are in the iPad’s target market, none of these things is at all important. Only geeks care about a “full functioning OS”, for the most part — if all you use your device for is e-mail and Web, and the iPad does those things cleanly and easily, a “full functioning OS” and “more storage” are immaterial to you, especially if your e-mail is on Gmail or similar and your local storage needs are zero.

    On the other hand, the fact that the iPad isn’t a “full functioning OS” may actually be an advantage to those folks, because you don’t have to worry (as much) about viruses, malware, or the inevitable fiddling and tweaking that goes along with running a “full functioning OS”. The people I know who would benefit from the iPad would see a “full functioning OS” as a detriment, not a benefit.

    Look, I work as a paralegal for a group of lawyers who aren’t propeller-heads, who don’t WANT to have to mess with a “full functioning OS” and all the issues (and technical knowledge requirements) that go along with that. They live 90% of their day on the phone and in Gmail, reading (and usually composing short responses to) e-mail messages. If Pages on the iPod could generate legal pleading formatted-documents, an iPad would easily be an attractive option for them. (And, if it couldn’t, I suspect they’d use Pages to edit their pleadings anyway and then e-mail them to me for formatting.) Would “skinny, simple to use, light and fast and portable” be an attractive proposition for them? You betcha.

    The bottom line is simple, I think. If you need a keyboard and a bigger screen and lots of local storage and a full function OS, great – buy a Netbook, or a MacBook, or a Cray if that’s what you need. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone else in the world cares about any of those things just because you do. Apple’s not making that mistake, and I think (and hope) it’ll pay off for them.

    • I understand that the ipad has its use as a MID. However, the whole reason it doesn’t apply to me personally is primarily the reason you said it applies to you =P. ipad might be great for reading email and composing short responses and might be great for general internet surfing, but there is no way it is good for pleadings.

      As an associate in a law office, I cannot imagine doing my job on an ipad. In fact trying to type a pleading or edit a pleading without a keyboard would certainly outrage my clients due to the increase in billable hours. The best tool I have found for my job is a convertible tablet since it offers a keyboard along with the ability to handwrite and annotate drafts.

    • Brett, why wouldn’t you “convertible” the iPad by plugging it into the announced keyboard / charging dock? I hope we’ll eventually get bluetooth keyboard support as another solution for people who use them.

      Tammy, couldn’t agree more. There are people who are geeky enough to understand closed systems and actually want one for this type of device. And I believe there are many more people who want a closed system but just aren’t geeky enough to articulate this.

      Not having a finder on the iPhone has not been an issue for me, plus I think Apple can and will do a better job fleshing out alternatives. For example, MobileMe has huge potential for managing mobile device documents in the background, similarly to how iTunes manages music libraries, with the added advantage of unattended backups to the cloud.

      We’re seeing a big metaphor change in what a “computer” is supposed to be, and the iPad is just one early salvo.

  11. I totally agree with this. If you need to do something more heavy-duty than your smartphone easily allows for but you can’t be bothered firing up your laptop or wandering to your desktop PC, the iPad will fill a gap.

    If that’s not you, fine. But that doesn’t render it useless to the people for whom it *does* apply.

  12. I have this image of kicking back on the couch to flick through some websites that I tagged previously when I didn’t have the time to read them in depth, maybe check out my twitter feeds and browse the latest news. Or maybe I’ll read my latest e-book or read through the PDF manual that I’ve had for ages but just haven’t bothered reading on the laptop sitting at a desk. Maybe I just want some info fed to me so I watch some podcasts or pull some recorded video off my HTPC. Oh yeah, it’s time to call my mom overseas and have a quick chat with her, pass the iPad over to the kids and let her chat with them and see them on the video… oh wait there is no video camera. Can’t do that part of my digital life.

    Look, most of the time I’m not going to use a camera for the things I want to do on a day to day basis, but to me skype chat with video is at least a weekly ritual in our house and really is part of what I’d consider a modern digital life experience and I’d love to be able to do that from the iPad.

    A camera seems like such an itty bitty little thing to leave out. It’s not like it’d be expensive or that the technology is too cutting edge, it’s just that Apple figure they can sell a whole bunch more of iPad2 if they leave out bits from the first version. Many things I can live without or I reckon they’ll be software updates (eg. multitasking) if Apple decide to open up a bit, but hardware things are fixed. If you shell out money for an iPad the hardware you get for your $ is what you are stuck with for at least some time (if you want to get your money’s worth of use out of it). Surely something as simple and cheap as a camera should be included from the start.

    I can do most of my scenario on my iPhone, except the video part as the camera is on the wrong side of the phone, but the screen is just a bit too small to do it comfortably. I was really looking forward to the larger screen to do all those same things and to be able to skype video chat too. I thought it’d be a given that it’d come with a camera like the iSight camera in the Macbooks. I think I can only get one iPad past the home financial controller so my big dillema now is do I go for the v1 device I have been waiting for ages for or do I hang on for longer and wait for the v2 that hopefully has the last main component I’d want.

  13. There is a big difference between imagining possible uses versus putting your money on the table. I now consult for companies and a user as well. The tablet has had considerable resistance and that will not change because it has an Apple logo. I can look at all the above cited application and would advise most applications can be best satisfied by other devices. On a plane I want my netbook, tilt the screen for privacy, type and see what I am typing comfortably. Hospital setting, dictate notes and keyboards are at almost every station with scanners for issuing meds. Car salesman, you want your customers at your desk to close the deal. Large Tablets are a hard sell and apple should have considered a smaller form factor. Oh by the way the price point is higher and its integration with Enterprise systems non trivial.

    It will be interesting to look back a year from now when the story will be tablets fail to gain wide users acceptance.

    • “On a plane I want my netbook, tilt the screen for privacy, type and see what I am typing comfortably.”

      That’s actually interesting; you’ve cited one reason why inferior off-axis viewing may be an advantage.

      “Hospital setting… Car salesman… etc.”

      I expect that the iPad or any truly revolutionary device will begin to re-design the work. The iPad may appear incompatible at first but this could very quickly change and leave more people wandering why they ever did things the old way. I agree with you it will be interesting to look back a year from now, but I’m not so quick to predict failure of the product. This is based on my opinion that the iPad is not a tablet and therefore can’t be judged on the same merits.

  14. Joe Anonymous

    How about a few other examples:

    1. My sales people do a lot of presentations at trade shows. Doing so with a conventional laptop is extremely difficult. With the iPad, you just stand next to the customer and show them the presentation.

    2. I travel a lot and never even take my laptop out when sitting on a plane – it’s too big to work on the seatback and even if I had a small laptop, it’s hard to get a reasonable viewing angle – particularly if the person in front of you leans back.

    3. My mother can’t manage to keep track of photos on her computer. It’s just too much for her. She’d be able to handle the iPod, though.

    4. I would like to have access to all of my files and data with me when I travel, but I don’t want the weight of a laptop powerful enough to do that. Or perhaps I need to run a CPU-intensive program and, again, don’t want to carry a heavy computer to get the power I need. With Go to my PC or any of the other equivalent programs, ALL of my data and computing work can be done on one computer no matter where I am. None of the mess of synchronizing (although Mobile Me does a pretty good job, there are still times when things can get out of sync).

    5. I’m a doctor and want a simple portable pad to take patient notes and review files. If properly set up with Citrix or whatever the office uses, the iPad provides incredible access to data.

    6. I’m a survey-taker in the mall. I could carry a paper clipboard for my survey, or walk the customer over to a fixed computer, or try to hold a conventional laptop in my hand – or use an iPad which is far superior to any of those options.

    7. I’m a car salesman. Instead of having to take the customer to my office or a fixed computer kiosk, I carry my iPad and can show them all the options and features while standing next to them.

    There are an infinite number of applications. The ‘no one will ever buy an iPad’ group are simply suffering from lack of creativity. Consider the fact that the few countries that offered preorders have apparently stopped the orders because they’ve already exceeded expected supply.

    • Jason Harris

      I hope for your mom’s sake that Apple comes up with an app that lets you transfer your photos to the iPad from the camera. Maybe it could be included with the USB attachment that costs extra.

    • Joe Anonymous

      “I hope for your mom’s sake that Apple comes up with an app that lets you transfer your photos to the iPad from the camera.”

      Except my mother doesn’t use a digital camera. She’ll get her photos by email. Double click on the photo and it asks if you want to save it to iPhoto. Click on yes, and it’s there.

    • Dave Brown

      I could see that maybe Mac is forseeing the “cloud” to house all our files anyways. So wirelessly upload the files from the camera to the cloud, and view them on the iPad. — probably where the future is going anyways.

  15. I wouldn’t say there is exactly a ‘backlash’ against the device. I would term it a ‘luke-warm curiosity’. I think a lot of geeks will end up getting this device, especially with all the amazing 3rd party apps we will see.

    • Joe Anonymous

      “I think a lot of geeks will end up getting this device, especially with all the amazing 3rd party apps we will see”

      Actually, I can see geeks getting it for a different reason. I’m predicting that this will be the first Apple device being bought SPECIFICALLY to have Linux installed on it. A 1 Ghz dual core ARM processor should be fine for Linux and this would be a nice little Linux system for people who go for that.

      Of course, I expect that it will sell millions of units and the ‘buy it to install Linux’ will only be a very tiny number, but I think it will happen enough to get some notice.

    • @joe anonymous

      are you serious? linux? why? why would you buy an ipad and put linux on it?

      Im not saying its not possible (despite having read, seen, or heard nothing about the possibilities/desires/demand for it) but why?

    • Joe Anonymous

      I’m not saying that _I_ would put Linux on an iPad, but I believe it will be attractive to people who like that sort of thing. Heck, there were people who put Linux on an iPod, for pete’s sake.

      From a purely hardware perspective, it’s a nice device. There’s quiet a bit of computing power and features in a relatively small, inexpensive, high quality device.

      As I said – it won’t be millions, but I expect the Linux community will find it to be a nice device.

    • Full ACK. Very good & important point!!
      People don’t want to have hassle with installing stuff and keeping virus definitions uptodate etc etc.
      They just wanna USE the device – and have FUN.

  16. Overall I agree with your assessment here that the ipad is a niche device. Unfortunately I was disappointed by the ipad because it has no place in my typical computer usage.

    I bought a netbook a month ago and everything people say the ipad is for a netbook does just as well. Sure maybe without the touch screen it is not as “fun”, but then again I use laptops mainly for work so I need a keyboard. It is interesting to see that for almost $200 less you can get a netbook with better battery life than an ipad, larger screen, full functioning OS, more storage etc. and weighing only a little more than a pound more.

    Only time will tell how the ipad and the other tablets coming out this year compete with netbooks when it comes to sales and adoption.

    • Dave Brown

      This is a good point. I’m on my computer in my home office, then into the car, then on a computer all day at work. The only scenario (currently) I can imagine enjoying the iPad is if it’s right near me in the family room and I want to check email without running to the home office. I don’t use my iphone for email because there’s just too much of it. I also can imagine it by the bedside table….either reading a real book, or an ebook.

  17. It’s good to see that some in the tech community are understanding what the iPad is for. It’s a consumption device, on a scale that works for all of the media we use today.

  18. Liam, I totally echo your sentiments. As a self-confessed member of the geekerati, the iPad was initially a very disappointing anti-climax. However, after sleeping on it and chewing it over for a while, it started to dawn on me just how significant this device really is.

    I know the typical example is the Luddite Mom, but my dear mother actually TRIES to better understand the family PC – she’s taking a course in Office and it’s quite saddening to see how she struggles every single day to cope with the inherent complexities of the applications and operating system that I barely give a second thought to.

    All she uses the computer for is surfing, email, occasional IM and writing the odd letter in Word. She doesn’t use a web-cam, probably wouldn’t understand the concept of a “closed” operating system even if I explained it to her and is far less capable of (digital) multi-tasking than the PC is. So is a laptop overkill? Well, yes – because she has to learn, understand and memorise skills and routines that are far more taxing that should be required for the fundamentally simple tasks she wishes to execute.

    Would she fork out for an iPad? I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting 500 bucks that she’s going to love it.

  19. Nice analogy! To me the one great thing the iPad does is changing the way you’ll experience websites. You can now hold a web page in your hand. I didn’t understand why you would need a touch screen until after using an iPhone I absentmindedly tried to tap on my macbook screen. As with everything Apple does the iPad makes doing stuff more intuitive. It simply seems to be how you want to surf, by touching navigation elements with your fingers.
    I can’t wait to try one out. But that’s just me, I wanted to get a microwave oven the minute I saw one in use.

    • I can’t wait to try the iWork apps. Laying out presentations and one-sheets on a virtual light table sems so much more appealing than via the old keyboard+mouse. Wacom built a business on this, and their Cyntiq 12″ Pen Display by itself costs about $1000. With the right applications, the iPad is looking like a relative bargain.

    • Dave Brown

      Good point that most aren’t getting.
      a) having the web page in your hand is cool
      b) and this is a HUGE plus for me — I’m sick of using a “mouse” when not at a desk. I find the laptop mouse and trackpads too slow — this eliminates that — it’s on desk, or on my lap and I just touch and go.
      c) as mentioned — the stove/microwave analogy sums it up perfectly.

  20. Well said, Liam.

    The iPad looks like it’s going to appeal to a hugely wide audience. I’ll take light weight and portability for presentations thank you, while my elder sister will happily chop in her MacBook for one, as the spec matches her daily usage almost exactly – she doesn’t need or want the added computing power of a full-on laptop.

    As for the software keyboard, the naysayers said that about the iPhone – yet it’s the first mob I can be bothered to text on. So there!

  21. There’s also a few other things I’m not so comfortable with here… You could get a laptop at a MUCH cheaper price than an iPad and, given that you could use a laptop in any situation that you could use an iPad for (while the same cannot be said of using an iPad for everything we would use a laptop for), it seems ridiculous to even consider buying an iPad. How is a laptop “overkill”? The features of a laptop needn’t be used at the same time or to their fullest extent, but they’re there for when you MAY need them.
    I also doubt anyone that isn’t a “geek” would fork out for a gadget such as the iPad… surely a normal person would just spend the least they could for the basics they need it for?

    • Of all the things you could argue agains the iPad on, price is probably the most ridiculous.

      To say that you could get a laptop at a “MUCH” cheaper price than an iPad is sensationalist at best. As if a sub-$500 laptop is even remotely similar in terms of quality.

    • Sure, a normal person would spend the least they could for the basics they need. And for most normal people, the ‘basics’ are web, email, reading, entertainment, maybe photos. For all of these, the iPad may well be a better basic solution than a $500 laptop.

      Your argument that “The features of a laptop needn’t be used at the same time or to their fullest extent, but they’re there for when you MAY need them” can be extended. My desktop or 27″ iMac does more than I would use a laptop for, so why don’t I just drag it around in a road case for times when I need the extra capabilities?

      This is where Liam’s microwave comment is spot on. The six-burner dual-oven range does not trump the microwave because they’re two very different products.

      The iPad likewise will succeed to the extent that people understand it is its own product – neither a smartphone nor a laptop. I may already own both the latter, so my buying decision is not whether $500 is better spent on an iPad versus a laptop; I’ll need to decide if the iPad on its own merits offers something that is worth $500 to me. Given my interest in blogging and hyper-local journalism, the iPad may be exactly the tool I’ve been looking for.

      There’s an addage in the photography community that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. My iPhone is always with me but it’s not the best device for manipulating content. If the iPad is indispensible and convenient enough that it’s always with me, then it is a better device than either a laptop or netbook that I may sometimes choose to leave at home.

    • @Josh Pigford
      “To say that you could get a laptop at a “MUCH” cheaper price than an iPad is sensationalist at best.”

      No, it is simply true. Don’t know about you over there but here in Italy in brick and mortar stores, with offers and rebates, you ca find netbooks starting from a bit more than 150€; 15.4″ notebooks from a little less than 300€. (Don’t expect the iPad to be priced ay less than 499€ down here).
      That’s a MUCH cheaper price.

      Then the argument doesn’t hold water and the comparision is stretched, ok, but that’s another story.
      And don’t get mad about that, because when those people will “get” the tablet form factor, they’ll simply start posting that you can get a MUCH cheaper Android tablet with a lot more ports ;^D

    • @Hmmm… Did you even read the article. If so, your comprehension of the English language is sadly lacking as Liam’s points EXACTLY cover your arguments. Go back and read it again. IT’S NOT A COMPUTER SUBSTITUTE! Jeez…

    • @sky
      I am with you on this, the iPad is meant to compliment both a laptop/desktop and a smartphone not replace them. people just cannot seem to grasp the concept.

      Personally I am looking forward to it for school most of all. It is so hard to understand why people cannot grasp the concept of “compliment over replacement.”


    • Why would Carol watch a movie stored on Tivo on the iPad or the MacBook?
      Can’t she afford a TV. Do people actually watch TV and movies on laptops? (just because they can?) In the real world away from geek-land we watch TV on the TV. How silly is that!

    • As a mother who has had babies asleep numerous time in my arms, I became very adept holding a paperback book in the hand wrapped around the baby. I would turn pages with the free hand and put the book down when needing to deal with the baby or another child.

      I could do this with a heavier hardback book but it was definitely more awkward, if the book was much heavier or more bulky then it could not be done with one hand.

      So could I see an iPad being used in the same situation? Yes. A laptop or even a lighter netbook? No.

    • A Laptop you have to open (perhaps wait for it to boot up, then enter a password). You have to use a trackpad to launch a browser or mail application. iPad is much more finger friendly — it’s actually designed for use with one hand.It would require much fewer steps to access email on iPad, plus it is much more likely to be within reach of the typical busy mom (on the kitchen counter or coffee table).

      The author of this article is spot on — laptops are overkill for most common, light tasks.