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With great fanfare Apple released its new iPad last week.
I want one. You probably want one. It broke some already impressive records for initial sales with more than 3 million sold in the first three days it was available.
Tablet computers are the latest high-tech, must-have items, and the iPad tops that list.
If you have plenty of extra money and you want one, it’s an easy decision. But most of us are on a limited budget. I have talked to several people who have had to decide whether to purchase or upgrade a laptop or to ditch those “ancient relics” and replace them with a tablet.
I have a first-generation iPad. I knew I wanted one before I purchased it, but I had no idea just how attached to it I would become. My old laptop, which had previously been a fixture on my coffee table, was almost literally tossed aside. Browsing the Web, viewing family photos, watching the whole Battlestar Galactica series through the Netflix app, doing the whole Facebook thing and reading my news subscriptions on a great RSS reader all became a new, more enjoyable experience.
It’s been nearly two years and my use of the device has slackened only a little.
In all that use, one thing has become clear – the iPad is great for consuming media.
But for producing, there is a learning curve and sacrifices when compared to working on a laptop.
There are some productivity apps I have tried that will work in a pinch. I have used the iPad’s word processing app Pages and their presentation app Keynote, which is similar to PowerPoint. Both apps are modeled after their desktop/laptop versions, but with fewer capabilities.
Despite the limits on their capabilities, the biggest handicap of these apps is simply screen real estate. With Pages, when typing, the keyboard takes up about half the screen. This can be mitigated somewhat with a Bluetooth keyboard, but the touch interface replacing a mouse still becomes a handicap that cuts down on efficiency when making edits. With Keynote, I find myself constantly zooming in to make precise placement of graphics and text for anything more than the most basic of slides.
Each of these apps are made by Apple and cost only $10. I don’t regret purchasing them and I use them occasionally. But as I type out this column on my laptop, my iPad is sitting beside me on my desk. This is a perfect illustration of the difference between the two tools. I prefer to type this column on my laptop, but when I read the final edited version online, I am going to read it on The News-Enterprise website on my iPad.
The same goes for photos or email. I tend to read my email on my iPad or iPhone. But unless it is the most cursory of messages, I tend to respond from a computer. And I can’t imagine trying to use only an iPad for photos. But I am a serious photographer, so that might be a poor comparison. Still, even casual photographers are going to have a hard time managing photos they want to save, as opposed to just posting them online.
There are a lot more examples. And there are a lot of apps out there that try, and a few that succeed, in making productivity possible on an iPad. But they all require some sort of sacrifice compared to their desktop/laptop alternatives.
That is not to say you should not buy one. But before you ditch your laptop, you should consider whether you are primarily a producer or a consumer.
Forrest Berkshire lives in Elizabethtown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.