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back to article Road test: putting the iPad to work

Can the iPad ever replace the netbook or notebook? There seemed only one way to find out: take the Apple tablet to Intel Developer Forum and leave the laptop at home. That's what I did, and after four days spent checking email, browsing the web, posting on Twitter, taking notes and writing up stories, I can say the iPad comes …

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Paris Hilton

A few questions...

That confirms what we already assumed, but as you say, facts are always better than assumptions.

A few questions though:

-you say you used an external keyboard and a stand most of the time. Didn't it feel like it killed the portability of the thing? I know I would probably hate to fumble through my carry-on bag to retrieve 3 items instead of one for example. Or am I mistaken?

-"And since the iPad is effectively just a screen, it was certainly easier to lug around and use while standing, for example.". I find that EXTREMELY hard to believe. I am well used to read and type text, prepare overhead presentations and even do some image editing on my Eeee 900 while standing in the (moving) metro or bus, and I really can't imagine how I would do to hold the thing one-handed while typing and clicking if not for the ~right-angled screen+keyboard configuration (not to mention the obvious absence of keyboard on the iPad in "standing" use). Or do I lack imagination?

The externally-powered USB only thing is a no-no for me, although the battery life would be a big plus. Having to find a power socket every 3 hours is annoying. Usually not difficult, but irritating.

Icon mostly for the question mark (although I'm quite sure that Paris does own an iPad).

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: A few questions...

Keyboard and stand were taken out of bag when I spent time at a desk or table, otherwise I didn't need.

I'm typing this sitting down, iPad balanced on my left thigh.

Standing up use is straightforward: hold tablet in left hand, tap with right. Just like using a clipboard, say.

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Stop

Battery life?

> Having to find a power socket every 3 hours is annoying. Usually not difficult, but irritating.

So get a netbook, my Tosh (Atom N450) lasts 10+ hours for lightweight tasks like the ipad's as well as some more heavyweight (such as programming in MonoDevelop) in the mix.

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Title

From where I'm standing, I am happy to give the tablet form a try, but:

1. Lack of proper and full usb host support, including for pen drives, 3g dongles, gps receivers, and any other adapters is an absolute deal breaker. I know some of this is already integrated - but I also need sometimes to test devices - I absolutely need this.

2. I didn't spot anything about printing support. Does the iPad support USB printing? If it doesn't - again, although I do less printing nowadays, I can't imagine working on a device/machine without straight forward access to printing.

3. Battery life - some netbooks (from Acer, Samsung and HP, or even MSI with 9 cell battery) already claim battery life in the region of 10-13 hours - so it seems close enough to me to not make much of a difference.

4. Operating system - at least for what I do - I need something that runs Linux. OpenVPN, Asterisk, ssh, ffmpeg, Navit, Thunderbird, OpenOffice. All the tools I know, love and use daily run on Linux. Some of them would run on OSX as well - but I believe far fewer will ever run on the iPad. I am not making a statement regarding the quality of OSX (or whatever the iPad is running) - merely stating the fact that Linux is a necessary environment for my work.

Yeah, so a Linux tablet, with full usb support, long battery life and decently low weight might just be an interesting option.

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Spot on

In order to use the iPad you have to fully change your application habits as well as the way you use the applications (cutting and pasting vs retyping, etc). For someone who actually uses the full power of his apps be them MSOffice, OpenOffice, Visiual Studio, Eclipse or Vim this nullifies most of the advantages of lugging less around.

That is besides the fact that lugging less does not look like the case here. In order to make the iPad useful Tony had to lug keyboard, adapters, WiFi hotspot, etc. While the full list may not take as much space in a bag as a netbook it comes pretty damn close.

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not a apple fan but

"3. Battery life - some netbooks (from Acer, Samsung and HP, or even MSI with 9 cell battery) already claim battery life in the region of 10-13 hours - so it seems close enough to me to not make much of a difference."

Claim is not dose and usuley assumes you do thjings like dim the screen to near black and turn off all conections and do not use host powered usb etc

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Just a note on hardware possibilities

My ipad's jbroken and with a nifty application called iFile i can mount any SD card or USB key on the device (with the help of the photo kit hardware).

Tho i do understand why something like that wouldn't be mentioned here -- imho the device should be able to do these tasks without having to be modified.

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Silver badge
Linux

Woohoo!

> My ipad's jbroken and with a nifty application called iFile

> i can mount any SD card or USB key on the device (with

> the help of the photo kit hardware).

You can do something similar with the Archos 5 and the battery dock but the UI is rather gruesome. Although the Archos benefits from having 30x more storage.

I was putting off getting the Apple dongle because I don't trust Apple. I want to maintain control of anything that I create. I want to be sure that it's not altered and that I can get at it with any tools or OS I want to.

>

> Tho i do understand why something like that wouldn't be

> mentioned here -- imho the device should be able to do

> these tasks without having to be modified.

My wife's "killer app" is from the Cydia repository.

Perhaps El Reg should mention these sorts of things...

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Paris Hilton

Also...

You didn't mention if your iPad was a 3G unit or not. This may or may not have some bearing on battery life?

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FAIL

It was mentioned...

From page 3: "I couldn't have used my Wi-Fi only iPad back at base."

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Thumb Up

I concur

Agree with almost everything said here - i got mine expressly for netbook replacement, and it mostly does the job. I haven't been back to the netbook, but I definitely missed some of the features.

However, its worth pointing out that a leather case (eg the snugg) and the 3G model overcome a few of the scenarios described here. The case especially makes it much easier to hold, type on and watch video.

But god, yes - Apple please give us cursor keys...also, put the shift/key combos back where they should be. Shift L should be a @, not via some other weird key combo. and if that means adding a row for numbers, so be it.

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Thumb Up

Lack of cursor keys

Spot on with that observation; it's amazing how useful cursor keys are and how annoying it is to use the point and magnify facility for typing. Doubly so if you're using a RDP emulator to connect to a server/whatever.

The lack of an an 'apostrophe' where God intended it to be by the return key is also annoying.

But, it has to be said that it's (yet another hit of the return key where the apostrophe should be) a great device for when you are travelling really light. I took mine on holiday just to do lightweight emailing & browsing; terrific for that.

I actually find typing - with the exception of the aforesaid apostrophe - really quite a good experience.

I reckon we need a keyboard application so we can customise the layouts or have special keyboards with four rows for editing.

Will be so much better with the forthcoming OS upgrade.

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Gold badge

Apostrophe

There is an easy way to get an apostrophe on the main keyboard, apologies if you've already discovered it...

Hold your finger on the comma key, and after 2 seconds a blue apostrophe appears above it, and you just slide your finger up onto it and let go. Same method as you use for getting accented letters.

I'm actually rather disappointed with Apple's whole text entry effort. I was quicker on the Vista handwriting recognition on my old HP tablet. I'm sure they could have easily added cursor keys, auto-complete and better number input. I must say I find the implementation of cut+paste horribly fiddly as well. Other than that, I miss Flash less than I expected and I'm a very happy user.

It's good for a light meeting, or mostly reading email. Serious text entry or even research from multiple websites is pretty damned painful.

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Pint

Surpised and impressed..

At the quality of the write-up, rather than the gadget. Genuinely fair and balanced- where there were problems, they were explained coolly, with sufficient context. It actually answers some niggling questions that I had, which I assumed I could only solve by buying one to see. The photo editing is particularly interesting to me, for various reasons- nice to see that you've not only had that problem, but hit the real world "no time to arse around with that" response.

So hats off, Tony. This is dangerously close to journalism. had Cade Metz or Andrew Orlowski delivered this article, it would have just been a partial, whiny exercise in breast beating. Cheers!

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Surpised and impressed..

The dig against Andrew and Cade is unfair - these journalists are doing different things which call for different treatments.

However, from time to time, Andrew turns his hands to reviews - he is perceptive and and gives generous praise where it is due. In my opinion he is as good a phone reviewer as they come, for instance.

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FAIL

Wrong Title For The Article

"Road test: putting the iPad to work

Can the Apple tablet hack it as a laptop substitute?"

Answer: It was never intended to so why bother subjecting it to the test?

What a crap article.

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JDX
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Thumb Up

Nice review

If the network/USB issue was address I reckon I'd seriously consider one. Certainly trying to use a full laptop while standing is very tiring and I reckon a notebook would be the same, proper keyboards are designed for 2-hands.

@xj25vm

If your work demands you have a Linux OS then clearly the pad isn't for you. But you're in a very small minority there, by which I don't mean Linux users, but Linux users who can't use anything _but_ Linux. I'm a Windows user but it doesn't mean I couldn't quite happily use a Mac or iPad at a conference or while travelling, with web-email and gdocs or any random note-taking app. I wouldn't be able to use it for development/programming but I wouldn't expect to in those situations... and I doubt I'd enjoy using a full OS on a netbook either for 'real work'

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A couple of points...

My first point is a tip: you can get around the non-powered USB adapter by carrying a powered USB hub with you. They come in very small sizes these days. Plug both the adapter and the flash drive into the powered hub and you're good to go. Now the only question is whether or not iOS will recognize external memory devices.

My next point is that iPads weren't designed to replace laptops or netbooks. It frustrates me when people try to force them into a function they weren't designed for. I always take a Windows 7 netbook and an iPad on the road now. The Netbook stays in the hotel and the iPad comes with me to meetings. Any significant text input (detailed reports, etc.,) or presentation creation/editing is done on the Netbook back at the hotel or on the plane. Note-taking, giving presentations, expense entering, etc., is done with the iPad – and it excels at these functions. Restaurant and Coffee-house meetings are far less clumsy with an iPad than with a laptop on the table. I also carry a portable WiMax hotspot with me in case local wifi is unavailable.

Tip #2: You can create your presentations using PowerPoint (if you prefer it to Keynote or if your company forces you to do so) and still give amazing presentations on the iPad by using MightyMeeting. MightMeeting is a free Cloud service with a great iPad app. You create your presentation using PowerPoint and then upload it to your MightyMeeting directory. Then you launch your iPad MightyMeeting app, open the presentation, press the slideshow button, and off you go.

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On text selection

I've found text selection to be a bit of a mixed bag. There's certainly something to be said for the precision of a pointer, but if you're accurate (a big 'if') it's nice to be able to place the cursor by simply moving your hand a couple inches up and tapping, rather than reaching a foot to the right for a mouse, moving the cursor to where you need it, and clicking.

Selecting a block of text is even easier. Just a two finger tap on the start and end point, then get on with manipulating your selection.

The place where I find it falls down is in fixing typos. Zeroing in on one or two false characters is tricky business, to the point where I think it might be easier to just select the word and replace the whole thing.

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Silver badge
Jobs Halo

Few things that annoyed me

When you've got the bluetooth keyboard hooked up, it doesn't recognise control keys like, well, control, escape, alt etc. This makes using a terminal emulator kind of tricky (makes vim almost impossible).

I find the on screen keyboard quite easy to type with, altho the lack of feedback can take a bit of getting used to (my other keyboards a model m).

Battery life on these are amazing. I took my 3G on a 3 day camping trip to Norfolk, and it saw a lot of use, used it rather than carry OS maps, used it for reading books for about 3-4 hours, watched a couple of hours of cricket over 3G and listened to music all the way there and about 50% of the way back before it ran out of charge.

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Terminator

thanks

Tony, a very good article.

I am going on hols in 3 weeks and plan on buying an iPad so i dont have to bring the laptop. Will be the second time in 13 years i will be able to go away without a laptop.

My main work uses will be in browsing, email, SIP via fring and ssh/vnc/rdp/teamviewer, all of which i do on the iphone already on the move, so think i should be covered, just having a bigger screen and bluetooth keyboard.

Thanks for the tip on ethernet in the hotel, i'll be packing my airport express just in case.

I'll let you know how I get on.

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Bronze badge
Badgers

...road test... which road?

And there was me thinking you meant driving an Austin Allegro (another useless slab of why did they bother) over it a few times and seeing if it worked afterwards... I'm disappointed...

Or you could have left it on the roof of a Morris Marina and dropped a piano on it...

Or theres always caravans and wrecking balls...

All in the pursuit of scientific curiosity of course...

I love the Stevepad... honest... really *sounds of scuffle, off camera gunshot*..... in other news...

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Text recognition

and pen input would be nice, negating the need for external keyboard maybe, but of all the upcoming tablets I'm hearing about, no one is touting the ipads battery life, best I'm hearing is 7 hours with wifi off - anyone running a jail broken ipad, what's the battery life like on those?

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h 6
WTF?

Touch interface

So why would you need a mouse and pointer?

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Thumb Up

Laptop replacement?

So, for the thing to work as required you needed:

A stand.

A case.

A wireless keyboard.

Various dock / dongle port adaptors, none of which can be used together.

A charger / PSU.

You said yourself had you been handed media in a number of formats you would have been stumped, you nearly couldn't use the hotel WiFi and switching focus between apps was "sub-optimal".

When I'm out on the road I have a laptop in a case with a 3G dongle and a MiFi for connectivity. OK, the laptop requires a power supply but it has everything else I need built in and there are never any further compromises. A laser mouse is about the only other thing I pack but that's because trying to do just about anything for an extended period requires one.

To say it doesn't come close is maybe leaving things unfinished. By the sound of things I'd say it doesn't come close to coming close.

I liked the article, though; it seemed like you made a genuine attempt to be fair and balanced. I, on the other hand, fuckig detest Apple and everything they stand for. They're the computing equivalent of University graduates writing job applications in text speak.

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Unhappy

curser[sic] keys

The lack of cursor keys wouldn't bother me in the slightest as (again, yes again) already got the method of effective text editing already in the portfolio. But Steve-erino would have to go back and look at the hated and maligned Newton to see how to make text editing with the virtual keyboard easy and fast...

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Jobs Horns

Netbooks

Methinks a 10 inch or so Netbook be best, at least for me.

Those inspiron duo things that dell may be introducing soon sound interesting but for the OS and that it is a dell (misplaced prejudice maybe but I've seen some really bad dells).

I would like something like that inspiron duo thing, with an instant on OS like an iPad, with a UI that is similar in terms of ease of use and performance.. UNLOCKED and more capable than Apple's iOS. With tons of battery life.

Here, Apple, if you're feeling threatened by that new dell thingie, do us all a favour and release a similar arm based thingie with, I dunno, ARM OS X with an iOS type gui for the touchscreen, with average or better netbook battery life. No locked down shit.

I can tell you for THAT I would sleep on the streets and queue for. iPAD. Nah...

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Nay, 'orses for courses

Sorry, but you've missed the point. An iPad isn't a replacement for a lappie, even a small one.

It's an entirely different device aimed at different uses. Reading in bed, on the bog, standing on the train, watching the telly. Sure you could use a lappie but it's not the same.

Take, for example, this morning. I checked my email on my iPhone whilst waiting for the train, realised I needed to write a few paragraph reply. I got on the train and pulled out the iPad to write the answer whilst listening to some music. Did so and sent the message as it's always on network is transparent to use. Then decided to do some paid work so as the train wasnt too full, I brought out the 17" Macbook Pro to update a course I wrote using PowerPoint, Word and various Windos virtual machines; you need a machine with real grunt for that along with a decent keyboard and mouse.

Why carry both? Simply that the client whose site I'm working at needs me to do some design work which isn't possible on their lousy machines. Hence the Mac. So I billed twice today because I used my time wisely.

Each computer is different and optimised accordingly.

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Sure it comes close but...

As a productivity device I can see how it overlaps with the usefulness of a netbook but I just can't help but think about the brick walls which without jailbreaking are out of the question. I recently tried a similar trick replacing my laptop for my netbook, to my real suprise I hardly noticed the change, the software I already use was available and worked well enough to be usable.

This is not true with the iPad, eclipse? No. Any kind of coding? Maybe HTML but not sure how you'd view anything given there is no concept of a file system on the iPad. That's a bit of rare example, most people aren't planning to write code on it but this is just one example of many where the iPad will most likely never be able to fulfil. Essentially I mean the walled garden approach that Apples whole business model is built on means that however useful the iPad is (or eventually will be) it will always have a failing in one area or another than means it simply can't be used by some.

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Thumb Down

I thought the article was poor

This is just ridiculous to use a stand and external keyboard for the ipad

How does that not make it a desktop computer with less functionality?

Your article was very poor, aside from leaving out any price comparisons and real features apple locks out, you also add a stand and keyboard, which makes it completely uncompetitive with a desktop or laptop computer as you've just recreated a more expensive one, which again is less portable because you can fold a laptop in half and pop it in the bag.

The ipad on the other hand has the stand and keyboard to carry around aswell.

So all in all i feel your article lacked a real comparison between the features everyday people will use, like editing pictures, music, sharing files with people, apps you don't find in the store.

My rating: 3/10

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FAIL

Wrong point?

This article wasn't supposed to be about it replacing your computer, it was about taking a portable device on the road for notes and emails. I don't know about you, but I don't tend to spend my time in and between meetings sharing files and playing music, I spend it reading reports and replying to emails - which is exactly what this article focused on.

Your reply: D-

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FAIL

Read the first line of the article NHS guy

The very first line is "Can the iPad ever replace the netbook or notebook?"

The answer is no, because it's made by apple

Your reply: F for Fail

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nice review

although not sure we really needed another one. Still your phrase "not impossible, just a little harder to achieve" said it all really. Call me a bum but I don't want a little harder, I want a little easier. I still reckon it will need a couple of generations to be anything but an "almost" piece of kit for me and at the pace things like low power displays seem to moving now by then there ought to be better alternatives still.

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What about price?

An interesting review - One thing I didn't see was the mention of price.

What's the cost of the iPad + accessories compared to the cost of your netbook/notebook?

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Jobs Halo

Unpowered USB only not strictly true

The USB port in the camera connection kit does work with at least some host-powered USB kit - I've plugged in an (Apple) keyboard and happily typed away on it. I dimly recall reading about being able to pull photos off a flash drive, but I might be misremembering - and I'm not aware of any software support for pulling generic files off one.

I've found the iPad to be an excellent replacement after my old G3 iBook finally died. To be fair, the laptop was only ever a secondary machine, mainly used for web browsing, email and photos - all things which the iPad handles at least as well (modulo entering/editing large amounts of text). On the flip side, I can see it being rather less useful for out-of-the-office work stuff - needing an ssh session or two alongside a web page or PDF, but I can borrow a work laptop for those rare occasions.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice review

Pretty much all the reasons I haven't bought one, plus I'd like to be able to run 'full apps'. I'm very much looking forward to the Meego WeTab which is expected soon http://wetab.mobi/en . I understand it's running on the same h/w as the ExoPc which runs Win7 but appears to be cheaper, at least for a European buyer.

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Take your choice of compromise

I've tried a similar experiment, leaving the macbook at home and living with the pocket-puter (Nokia N900) alone for an event like FOSDEM. Like your ipad, it's a compromise and makes some things much harder to do.

But sometimes it's also very liberating to know you can last the day without having to find a power outlet. And there are times - like when you find standing-room-only - that a laptop would be impractical and a handheld device is the only sane option.

Bottom line: I'll continue to leave the laptop at home for certain events. But only on a time-limited basis: sadly I don't think I could take a full week on the pocket-puter alone. At least, not without a proper keyboard and screen from which to access it!

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Headmaster

Great article ...

... but you forgot to mention some other things which the iPad has over a notebook such as:

Instant on - press the button and start using it. No waiting for the OS to load / shutdown

No Windows or Anti Virus updates needing shutdowns so the upgrade can be finished

Crashes / lock-ups / Service hangs don't happen on the iPad

No notebook / netbook is as sexy as an iPad and everyone wants to have a play ...

I have to admit being a huge hypocrit as when the iPad came out I was like the rest of the Anti-Apple brigade on here but once you get your hands on an iPad you dont want to give it up. For my family and I, it is the best gadget I've ever bought ... but I still wouldn't buy an iPhone!

Jimmy - because he needs to spank me for buying an Apple product and liking it.

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Thumb Up

Nice review

To me the ipad is heavy for prolonged holding and you can't sit at a desk (such as on a train) and stand it up, you have to be looking down at it, which after an hour puts a crick in your neck and back pain. I only used it for an hour to look over some photos and get a feel for it.

Not to mention the heat on your lap, where as the hinge approach from my netbook allows me to work sat comfortably. Uncomfortable on a long train journey.

It might be quirky and neat, but as a work tool it breaks Health and safety at work laws. :)

Sad you feel the need to carry a keyboard and mouse, defeats the whole point of a tablet, but Apple have never been one for practical day to day uses, like right clicking or cut and paste or cursor keys. They always seem to be an after thought for expansions, but fanbois still love them.

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Anonymous Coward

Do you even have an iPad?

1. In the last two weeks of using an iPad I've not noticed any heat from it.

2. "Apple not practical for day to day?" What are you on? We all want some! Magsafe on the MacBook power connectors, decent battery life on their laptops, Apple keyboards have been a joy to use since the 80s (remember the Extended ADB anyone?), and doesn't Apple hold the patent for touchpads on laptops?

Seriously, get real.

3. "cut and paste"??? Apple were doing cut and paste whilst PC users were staring at black DOS screens ffs.

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WTF?

How is an orange like a bicycle ?

Is another question that wouldn't require three pages to answer, although if you switch orange to apple you would of course still get a good number of page hits and a couple of dozen retarded comments. Mostly pointing out that they just knew apples weren't good bicycle replacements and that is precisely why they weren't ever going to buy one.

But now we know for sure that a thing that isn't meant to replace a laptop doesn't make a good replacement for a laptop, and all advancement of human knowledge is good. And there is a wider point to made, one which many reg commentards would do well to understand, and that is that quite simply that no tablet is EVER going to replace your laptop.

Not even a mythical Linux tablet powered by unicorn tears. Different form factors, different use cases. Period. Take me for instance, I'm venting this spleen using an iPad from the comfort of my bed (yes, it's nearly two pm, real programmers do it at night, only cube monkeys work bankers hours) a task for which it is well suited. Shortly I will get up and walk to my office where I will use a number of desktop and laptop form factor machines to do other stuff.

You don't have to chose just one form factor and worship it as your god, see ?

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Seems pointless

If you have to use a separate keyboard to even come close to the functionality of a laptop, doesn't this kind of defeat the object of having a nice slinky device like an ipad? Now you have to carry several items to do the job of one.

I am impressed with the battery life though.

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Paris Hilton

iPad usable if you don't have another computer?

My dad is after his first PC, I thought about getting him a MacBook but he fancies an iPad, but I'm thinking that without a computer to plug it into for updates, Apps via iTunes etc he's going to struggle.

Am I correct or have Apple catered for the stand alone user?

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Silver badge

Re: iPad usable if you don't have another computer

Oddly enough, that was one of the main reasons I didn't get an iPad for my mother. The form factor would have been ideal for her, but when I went into the store for a demo, the salesman started chatting away about iTunes and I said: "she doesn't have another computer" and his face pretty much told me everything I needed to know. He started talking about how I could register it under my name and do everything I needed at my place, but after asking some questions, it seemed that although it might be possible to get by without a computer, there would be many things that would make it difficult and it would be very annoying (disclaimer: I'm easily annoyed by needless limitations).

So someone who knows more about it might post some suggestions about resolving the issues, but it sadly seems that the iPad is not a replacement for your primary computer. I would look at a netbook if screen / keyboard size isn't an issue, a nice, low-end laptop if it is, or else wait for one of the iPad competitors to emerge and see what they're like. It wont be long now and my mother is able to use one of my old laptops with Ubuntu Netbook Remix on it in the meantime.

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JDX
Gold badge

Stand, keyboard

I can't see either of these adding much. I think it would be just as usable without either, which is good.

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Happy

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