iPad vs. Netbook: Netbook FTW

I’m glad to see the iPad is announced. It looks like an interesting device, not quite a notebook, not quite an iPhone. I, however, don’t see how it’s anything beyond a portal to give Apple more money.

Please, if you see I’ve made an error here let me know in the comments. Thank you!

1. AT&T. Seriously, a “breakthrough” deal with AT&T is like being the fastest reader in remedial reading class. You’re still in remedial reading class.

2. No Flash. It’s astonishing how much stuff I watch in Flash on my laptop, and it being missing on this device is going to be a big hole. Lots of stuff is in YouTube, but not everything, and HTML5 isn’t going to solve this problem for quite a while, either.

3. You still need a desktop to dock this thing to, for anything beyond basic downloading or web browsing. Despite what some apps can do (including iWork), it really is just a standalone viewer of content.

4. The dock and keyboard setup is a kludge. It appears clunky, certainly not easily portable, and looks like it’ll fall over when you try to click on something by touching it. I’m skeptical. I think a netbook or cheap laptop will continue to smoke the iPad for anybody who needs to type anything. Heck, you can add an external USB keyboard and a mouse to a netbook.

5. E-books with DRM. There is no mention of being able to use anything but EPUB format books. I’d like to be able to read things from Project Gutenberg, for example, or anything that an independent party might like to push out. Furthermore, it looks as if EPUB doesn’t work well for technical books or books that need precision graphics placement (comic books, for example).

6. No user-replaceable batteries, though it’s not a huge deal because you can charge just about anywhere. If their battery life figures aren’t inflated it should be enough for a day’s use. Plus, with a tablet I’m anticipating third-party form-fitting add-ons that boost battery life. I worry about wear on the battery, though — after a year or so of daily charging batteries lose significant capacity.

7. It is still tied to the draconian App Store policies. Apple still controls who can put what on this device, and their policies are not consumer-friendly. Take Google Voice as an example. Maybe Apple should watch their first commercial, “1984,” and see what their message was then.

8. No multitasking. On a real computing device you can switch between apps and not lose your place. I understand the implications for battery life and whatnot, but I’d like the option to quickly switch between apps, like an SSH client and a web browser, and keep my sessions.

Looking at Apple’s list of things they think the iPad can do better:

Browsing: netbooks for the win. A netbook has Flash and can run any web browser, not just the Apple-prescribed browser and technologies.

Email: netbooks for the win. The external keyboard is a kludge, not portable, and I’m guessing they added it because typing on the screen sucks.

Photos: I’ve changed this based on new information in the comments. I didn’t realize that the iPad had a camera connector, so I’ll dub this a tie. Netbooks are more flexible and can run more software packages, but the display & interface on the iPad will likely smoke a netbook’s. What does remain to be seen is if iPhoto or something like it will be ported to Windows. If that happens it’s iPad FTW.

Video: netbooks for the win. Aside from the lack of Flash on the iPad, which disables most Internet video players, you are only able to watch video encoded with Apple-prescribed codecs.

Music: iPad. The iPod is the standard, and the iPad will draw on that heritage.

Games: iPad. The games for the iPhone and iPad are so-so, but netbooks really don’t have the ability or interface to play anything.

eBooks: libraries for the win. A paperback book doesn’t take any power, can be read in many differing conditions, isn’t made of toxic waste, isn’t locked to a carrier, doesn’t have a monthly fee (though one would argue your library has a fee in the form of taxes), can be loaned to your cousin, is available at millions of locations, has an easy-to-use interface, can be dropped on the floor or crushed in your luggage, and can be donated to or borrowed from a library or a book swap when you’re done with it.

I think, for now, I’ll stick with a netbook and a paperback.

18 thoughts on “iPad vs. Netbook: Netbook FTW”

  1. Read this:

    “With the unwitting help of its users, the generative Internet is on a path to a lockdown, ending its cycle of innovation—and facilitating unsettling new kinds of control.

    “IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos represent the first wave of Internet-centered products that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners.”

  2. Bill: This is not the beginning of the eBook by any stretch of the imagination! eBooks, thanks to Project Gutenberg, have been around since 1976 and in their light-plaintext format, can be read on a 386 and the most basic cellphone. What third-worlder or even American without $500+ in disposable income can afford a DRM-addled reader? And if the iPad is just a toy with which to browse, listen to music and read books, I can still do that on a smartphone. New technologies are supposed to make the internet experience more accessible, not heading towards lockdown, in reach of only a small percentage of the global population. (see link above)

  3. I look at it like this: Any new Apple line never hits its stride until a few revisions in.

    Remember the first iPod? It had the plastic disk wheel that actually spun? Then they figured out how to emulate that with a touch pad, and it got better. Then they started using flash chips so that your data didn’t go away when you dropped it. And now there’s the iPhone.

    If you look at the iPad like it’s the beginning of a new line of merch, it’s more hopeful. For every Mac book Air, there’s a Powerbook Wallstreet that isn’t quite there yet. Time will improve it, or it’ll go away.

  4. } 5. E-books with DRM

    There are already many apps in the appstore that allow you to access Project Gutenberg material. They probably didn’t mention this because it was implied when they said everything on the app store will work.

    The device also supports html, pdfs, and so on.

    } eBooks: libraries for the win

    Perhaps if you live in a big city/town this is a win. But if you live in middle of nowhere with a small library they will not have the kind of selection available through a Digital library.

  5. Great article and you nailed it in this sentence- “I, however, don’t see how it’s anything beyond a portal to give Apple more money.”
    Bang on.
    I honestly have no idea what this thing is meant to be, it seems to be filling a completely unneccessary gap, but i am sure the fanboys will lap it up, while the rest of us hang on till the 5th generation before we even think about it again.

  6. @Matt — I was thinking about the same thing last night. The iPhone 1.0 sucked, and with the iPad there is a lot more potential, given the bigger screen and CPU. Almost all of the improvements in the iPhone from 1.0 to now have been software.

    @Zoredache — If I have a library of other content I’d like to manage it and read it in the same manner as the rest of my content. I can do that now with music on the iPhone/iPod, where I easily take the music I had on CD and manage it seamlessly with the content I’ve purchased.

    Also, good call on the small town thing. I’ve spent a lot of time in small towns in my life but I’ve always brought content with me if I needed it (a book, etc.).

  7. Interpersonal communication is dependent on face to face contact…an evolutionary trait developed over millenia. In 3 sentences or less, please explain why I am NOT a Luddite for not caring about the iPad, if possible.

    IF I am a Luddite, please explain how I can learn to care, given that I still carry a 3-year-old “penny” phone.

  8. hi there wow 9.7 inch touch screen 1.5 pounds 1 ghz cpu 10 hour battery life and 16 32 or 64 gb solid state flash drive not hard drive will if this gets acepted we will get every thing touch screen touch screen imacs with 32 inch touch screen and macbook pros and macbook and touch screen macbook air i would like a touch screen imac with a 256 gb ssd for hard core gaming

  9. @Victor: You are not a luddite for not caring about the iPad because with the absence of low bandwidth visual communications (ie Flash based audio/video conferencing) the iPad is not an evolutionary step towards improved interpersonal communications and the reduction of global society to local society.

    One sentence?

  10. This announcement did get me motivated. I finally took home the Toshiba M400 we’ve not been using at work, loaded it up with 4GB of RAM, Windows 7 and Office 2010 (beta) just to see how it works and its a blast.

    A slightly faster processor, a little bit bigger hard-drive and upgrading to a .11g wifi would be nice changes, but so far the machine has cost me $97 (Cdn!) and it seems to be outperforming the iPad in everything except weight (~4 lbs) and battery life (4 cell ~ 2hrs)

    I can even write naturally and Win 7 gets it right scarily often.

  11. Reading e book on ipad?? After holding this thing for half an hour, then tell me your arms and shoulders are not sore.

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