I couldn’t resist and I had to sneak in a bit of what my thoughts are about the iPad. I’m just going to run down the specs and see what’s different between Apple’s over-sized iPod Touch and our beloved netbooks. By the way, the specs I’m using are the lowest end model, the US$499 iPad 16GB WiFi only one since most netbooks fall into the same price range. I’m using current entry level netbooks for comparison.
- Disk space: 16GB vs 2.5″ HDD. No doubt if you need a lot of disk space, you’re leaning towards a netbook. It has enough space for your movie AND music collection, with a few thousand photos thrown in for good measure. It also goes in favor of netbooks that you can easily swap the hard drive and RAM as well, with only a bit of elbow grease needed.
- Processor: 1GHz A4 vs 1.66GHz Atom. It’s a toss up since the operating system is the clincher when it comes to the final user experience. So while there are more horses under Atom’s hood, the Windows 7 OS kind of cramps its style, though only a little bit.
- Screen: 9.7″ display vs 10.1″ and above. The smaller display might be handier but you might find it a bit wanting when watching videos, especially since it can’t do widescreen very well.
- OS: iPhone OS 3.2 vs Windows 7. With Apple tweaking their OS to mesh well with the hardware they have, I see that as a leg up over Windows 7 which Microsoft made to be compatible primarily with laptops and desktops. There are other operating system options for netbooks I know but most would just opt for what’s in the box, commonly a Windows 7 variant. The lack of multitasking is a big downside though which would have been nice since they beefed up the processor already.
- Ports: Dock connector vs USB, VGA and everything else. Personally, I cry over the fact that they still didn’t put in USB ports in the new iPad but I guess that’s because it’s a battery sucking beast. It’s crazy though that you need to buy extra connectors to plug into universal standards like VGA but that’s how Apple works I guess.
- Keyboard: external/touchscreen vs built-in 98%. Having a keyboard is better than none at all for me. Sure there’s one on the screen and you can use the keyboard dock or a Bluetooth one but that takes away both the portability of the device and eats up more cash from your pocket.
- Navigation: multitouch vs trackpad. Apple wins in this case since their implementation is pretty snappy unlike those in netbooks. Trackpads can only do so much and touchscreen are much better for consuming content.
- Weight: 0.63kg vs 1.1kg and up. Together with the sleek design, the iPad trumps netbooks hands down. Using netbooks while walking around is nearly impossible not because of the weight but because of the design.
- Apps: Appstore vs Installers. Most software you get for netbooks are full versions meant for faster, bigger machines. Those from the Appstore are focused on the device itself and get to play well with all of its hardware features. On the other hand, I like that being able to install my own software and tweaking it is much more rewarding to my modding sensibilities. They also offer way more functionality and can work with other apps, not like the sandboxed apps in the Appstore.
- Battery: 10 hours vs 11 hours. Okay, there nothing much to fight on here since they both pretty much eat the same amount of energy.
I’ve put in bold what I think was the winner in each category with the iPad specs at the left and the netbook specs at the right. As you can see, I’m more towards the netbooks side even though I really do want to get an iPad too. It’s the same argument with the iPhone vs other smartphones. Content consumption and passive usage does well with the iPad but netbooks shine when you actively create those content (like I do!) and want more control over your device configuration. To be clear, Apple does let you upgrade but they will cost you and there are limited options. I’m sure you can only connect on device to the iPad’s dock connector so adding in an external display AND external power AND a keyboard dock would be a feat in itself.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the iPad. While market analysts saying the niche where the iPad will be selling, the area between notebooks and mobile phones, is not yet established, I say that netbooks are occupying that spot pretty comfortably but there can still be room for improvement for both devices.
iPad = consume content = fun
Netbook = make content = work