You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

Summary: Seriously using the iPad or a tablet computer of any sort right now will mean accommodating your needs to that of the technology.

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One thing that has struck me as missing from all the analysis of the iPad 2 launch, and the earlier initial iPad coverage, was a point that, in a couple decades of doing product reviews, was usually the key to understanding the products.  That point is what is known as "suitability to task."

With all the hoopla surrounding yesterday's announcement, I've already received a couple dozen emails and phone calls from clients and friends asking me if the time to buy an iPad is now. And to every one of them my initial response has been the same; what are you going to do with it?

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Around the holidays last year I wrote a piece on the process which led my fiancée to select the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the most practical tablet option for her needs.  The reasons for her haven't changed, but after spending a week at a trade show with her, her boss did ask me if he should standardize on tablets for their field sales people. He really appreciated the way she could use the tablet to quickly demo their website and run some of their promotional videos, all while talking with customers; not to mention the easy access to readable email, especially when compared to his Blackberry or her iPhone.  And he was interested in standardizing on the iPad.

But for him, the deal breaker turned out to be the need to use iTunes. My fiancée's process for prepping material for trade shows was to put together a package of all her necessary materials in a folder on her desktop, then simply mounting the Tab as an external drive and dropping that folder onto it. If she needs to have local vendor print additional handouts or any of those sorts of collateral material, she can either email them to the vendor or simply stop at the local print shop, which these days are used to pulling data from a USB stick, and plug in her Tab the same way.  When some of those files are multiple megabytes in size, this is sometimes the only realistic way to move the data.

This was just one of many issues which revolved primarily around easy connectivity and the availability of a microSD card. For his field staff, often in places with limited connectivity and with a need to move to the reps and the customers, the tethered nature of the iPad to iTunes, meant that the device was simply not suitable to the task. Given the number of tech people that hoped that a card slot would be available in the iPad 2, I don't think that this decision process is an uncommon one. To many people the response to the lack of that slot is ‘users can store their extra data on the cloud' (or some similar comment), which is true, but not practical for people who can't guarantee continuous, high-speed connectivity.

With many of my clients, they were looking at the iPad as a potential notebook replacement. About half of them had purchased at least one iPad to give a test run; none of them purchased more than that for this express purpose. They had different decision matrixes, but reached similar conclusions; that the iPad was less suitable than an ultra-light notebook for their business needs, and the additional cost of the notebook was justified by the greater productivity. Once again, the iPad failed their suitability to task test.

One group of users that surprised me was the college age user to whom technology is more of a second nature.  I really expected iPads to be much more prevalent than they were among the dozens of tech savvy college students I interact with through my children.  They all have the latest smartphones, primarily iPhones, are inveterate users of Twitter, Tumblr, and texting, and are, in the majority, owners of Apple notebooks or desktops.

What I found, after talking to them about the iPad, was upon reflection, not surprising.  Quite a few had iPads, but for most, they were special purpose items that they didn't use regularly like their iPhone or iPod.  But for those who were adamant in their support of the iPad there was a common thread; they were willing to change the way they worked, to accommodate the technology, rather than to pursue technology that fit their existing needs or work patterns.

Seriously using a tablet computer of any sort right now will mean accommodating your needs to that of the technology. To many users, they are able to make minimal changes that allow choices other than the iPad to fit their business needs. Some businesses will be implementing new processes that fit what the iPad can deliver.  But it is clear that despite the hype, the tablet market is still incredibly young and open for grabs. And that tablets, as exemplified by the iPad and current and forthcoming Android-based competitors, are still not an overall replacement for general purpose computing.

Topics: Tablets, Apple, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility

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  • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

    Absolutely great article! I agree with you on many points here. I have stuck with the laptop because it fits my needs better, I can do more with it, and be more productive than on a tablet. I find the whole tablet thing to be a lot more hype than actually useful.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

      @Loverock Davidson Agree, finally some common sense from ZDNet. Some of your journalists act like the second pad is the second coming.
      nicholas22
    • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

      @Loverock Davidson - definitely agree. I actually thought for a few moments about buying an iPad. I've used them a bit. I've set one up for my parents. I've read about them. In the end, I gave it a big no. It's simply not useful enough. Those people that used them to replace notebooks apparently never really needed a notebook computer for real work, but only for basic surfing, light productivity and email.

      If I do buy an Apple product it will be a iPod Touch. I would use it mostly as a PIM for calendar and contacts and it fits in my shirt pocket. For real computing, I'm sticking with notebooks for now.
      shawkins
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @shawkins

        iPad is designed to be a media consumption devices and it's much highly portable than a notebook

        However if u need PC like usability u can always plug-in a keyboard and use ThinServer to run Windows apps !

        http://www.aikotech.com/thinserver.htm
        bojanwojan
    • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

      @Loverock Davidson

      It's a toy, a diversion, an amusment, an expensive frippery. The only problem with buying one, is if you expect it to be a tool.
      tonymcs@...
  • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

    Finally someone with common sense in this place!!!!
    Rigel.628
    • Common sense??? What kind of vehicle do you own???

      @Rigel.628 <br><br>You may want a ferrari now, but do you need one?<br><br>You may want (insert absolutly anything here)now, but do you need one?<br><br>That's not common sense... It's not even remotely intelligent. In fact, it is bone head simple... And here we have a ton of people, mystified and amazed at what they think is genius logic... You dupes are pathetic. Ghandi lived life according to only what he needed... The rest of us live life according to what we want. <br><br>You people really need to grow some brain cells... Sheesh.. common sense... LOL
      i8thecat
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @i8thecat
        And that, my friend, is precisely the problem.
        paulmacdonald
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @i8thecat

        A Ferrari is a luxury toy and a status symbol. The few people who buy them know exactly why they're buying them: to drive for fun (e.g. one racecourses) and to say: 'Look at me! I've got so much money I can afford to waste it on a Ferrari!' In contrast, people who buy iPads often don't seem to know exactly what they're buying them for, apart from media hype.

        If Apple's vision for the iPad is a luxury toy and status symbol, they've set the price far too low. Moreover, statements from Steve Jobs and others suggest that Apple are promoting the iPad as the 'next wave' in devices, following devices like notebook PCs, mobile phones, etc. It's a vision more akin to that of the original Mac or the original Volkswagen than to that of Ferrari: in short, a product for the masses.

        I haven't bought an iPad because it looks to me like a compromise device somewhere between a netbook and a mobile phone, which can't do anything as well as the other two. The small MacBook Air isn't all that much bigger than the iPad, and it's much more useful. Couple it with an iPhone (the iPad is no substitute for a mobile) and what's the point of an iPad?
        WilErz
  • I don't know what to do with it, but I really want one

    Apple, just one more effort - give me a reason to buy it, please
    avsol@...
    • What are you looking for? What reason do you need?

      @avsol@... I can see several areas where I can use one, where it would be less clumsy than a laptop, but I don't view it as a replacement.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh That's wise, it isn't a replacement. Laptops are in no danger from the iPad.

        However, the iPad can do a host of things laptops can't (or rather do very badly). A laptop isn't good at being used while stood. It isn't great at "quick" stuff (like checking/making appointments). It isn't great for reading (though the iPad can't do that very well outside - fine inside).

        But you want to do lot's of text entry; laptop (though you can use an iPad with the keyboard dock - the ergonomics aren't great though - as Apple say touch wants to be horizontal).
        jeremychappell
  • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

    Jesus. Thank you, a level headed argument. <br><br>I've been bombarded with people since the announcement looking to rid themselves of the iPad1 for the iPad2, and I can't help but laugh; "OMGZ BUY MY IPAD1 PLZ SOMEONE BUY IT!!11! I NEED IPAD2!!!111". The iPad1 has suddenly become this freak show of a device no one wants to be caught dead with. <br>If the iPad2 is really burning that much of a hole in your pocket, just buy the frakkin thing and get it over with, so you can make yourself feel better. <br>But, at the end of the day, is the $600+ price tag worth it? What can it do that your first iPad can't? *Do* you *Really* *need* it? Or are you buying it because everyone else is and wanna look cool?

    <I>"I really expected iPads to be much more prevalent than they were among the dozens of tech savvy college students I interact with through my children. They all have the latest smartphones, primarily iPhones, are inveterate users of Twitter, Tumblr, and texting, and are, in the majority, owners of Apple notebooks or desktops."</I>

    I'm in college myself, and I can't use the iPad at all in my classes or on campus. Our online classes don't work with Safari, and I can't write at all on the damn thing to take notes, so I bought a Windows tablet, and couldn't be more happier. OneNote is an amazing application to use with ink, and I really wish Microsoft wouldn't have cancelled the courier. I would have bought one for use in this instance. But the Mac users on campus are forced to use Firefox which does work with our online campus.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • There are no Windoze tablets

      Dream on liar!
      @Cylon Centurion 0005
      GoPower
      • Microsoft Invented Tablets

        @GoPower
        Duh!
        dazzlingd
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @GoPower

        Uhhhh.... Yeah there are.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @GoPower <br>Dude, the term tablet originated as tablet pc, meaning that the first serious tablets were laptops with pen capability. These are still tablets, but not the ones you are used to in the ipad generation. You may know these now as slate top PCs
        KBot
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @GoPower Uh.. weird.... I have three from three different manufacturers.

        You may want to get out of the Apple orchard a bit more often.
        TheWerewolf
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        @GoPower Dumb A**
        mart5.1
      • RE: You may want an iPad now, but do you need one?

        Actually guys, he IS right.... There are no "Windoze tablets", only Windows tablets. ;)
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion