iPad proving more useful than MacBook Air

Apple's iPad is surpassing the laptop--in my case a MacBook Air--in usability in an increasing number of ways. And iOS 4.2 makes this argument that much easier to make.

Apple's iPad can eclipse a laptop in usability and sheer number of hours used. And iOS 4.2 only makes this more probable.

As Apple adds more features to the iPad, the more it pulls me away from my MacBook Air.
As Apple adds more features to the iPad, the more it pulls me away from my MacBook Air. Apple

Though I've just begun to dig around inside of iOS 4.2 on my iPad 3G, it's already obvious that this upgrade is only going to increase the amount of time I spend on the iPad. This will happen at the expense of my MacBook Air, the only other computing device I use regularly.

A recent trip (pre iOS 4.2) serves as a good backdrop to reasons--listed below--for the iPad's slow-but-steady encroachment on the laptop. During a two-day visit to Silicon Valley last week, I barely used the Air at all. It was iPad-all-the-time: airport, plane, hotel, and on the road locally. Though certainly not the equivalent of the Air in productivity, it always trumps the Air in one crucial area: grab-and-go.

In short, the iPad is a sticky commodity. It's always there, always accessible when you need it: instant on, instant access to the Internet, thanks to 3G. And this pushes me to do more productivity--i.e., writing--on the iPad, despite the relative inefficiency vis-a-vis the Air. It may sound illogical, nevertheless that's the way it has evolved for me.

How the iPad encroaches upon/eclipses the laptop:

  • Browsing: Coincident with upgrading to iOS 4.2, I have added the Atomic Web browser, which let's me do tabbed browsing. And 4.2's multitasking has made it a breeze to jump between Atomic Web and the host of other apps I use.
  • Productivity: Granted, this is challenging on the iPad. But it's getting easier for me as I master the touch interface sans physical keyboard. And it's more laptop-like with the enhanced multitasking on 4.2. I would submit that as people become more used to the tablet interface, productivity will increase in tandem with familiarity. That's my case, certainly.
  • Content consumption: No brainer (for me, at least). Because of its "grabability," the iPad becomes the device of choice here. And background streaming of Internet multimedia adds to the allure.
  • Multifunction: The iPad--and tablet design in general--screams out for front and back cameras a la Samsung Galaxy Tab . With this, I would have yet another reason not to put down the iPad.
  • Future iPad/tablets: Upcoming 11.6-inch and 12.1-inch tablets will be even more powerful and laptop-like. In an interview today with Binay Bajaj, a product marketing manager at Atmel, which makes touch-screen controller chips for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and HTC Evo 4G (among other devices), he spelled out how future tablets due next year will be much more powerful and very different from the relatively primitive tablets sold today.

And as a postscript, on Tuesday, Dell announced sales of the Inspiron Duo hybrid tablet-Netbook. This product is obviously a nod to the encroachment of the iPad on the laptop. And the Atmel marketing manager made a valid point today when he said consumers may eventually demand a touch interface on all sorts of products, as touch becomes the de rigueur interface.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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