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back to article Apple iPad vs netbooks: fight not over yet

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was rather dismissive of the netbook at the iPad's launch last night. He needed to be: he was trying to win over journalists and analysts who've spent the last 18 months or so asking when his company will release just such a product - and telling readers why it really should. Jobs' criticisms were certainly …

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It's the software, stupid.

None of you iPad knockers are taking into account the one thing the iPad has that netbooks never will: the iPhone OS.

People aren't just buying iPhones because of the device and it's capabilities. They're buying it because of the software user experience. Many phones can do what the iPhone does (and some even better) but the reason it's carving out such a huge market share and scaring the bejesus out of RIM, Nokia, Palm etc. is because people get wrapped up in the user experience.

That's what'll happen with the iPad. That's why it'll sell millions and smash up the net book market. It's got heavily patented software that can only be mimicked to a certain degree. Apple crashed the mp3 market and took it over with ease of use software (although it's cool looking players haven't hurt), it did the same with the iPhone and there's no reason why it can't with the iPad.

And didn't I hear that the net book market was in decline even before the debut of the Jesus pad?

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Unhappy

iPad

When Apple came out with the Mac Air I understood that it's added value was more than just it's estethic form. With the iPad it is however alot more difficult to argue pro such value.

Fact of the matter is that many people without a PC will consider buying this but they will find that is a dumb thing to do because you need a PC to be able to use the iPad ! In other words, the iPad is a PEREPHIRAL to your PC and because of this fact it definatly DOES suck because with the wifi and the relatively fast processor it COULD and SHOULD have been AUTONOMOUS. It should be , in other words, a netbook in the for of a pad, and not 'yet' another extension that clearly intentionally is ment to expand the Apple market , through the iStore, the iBook store and the iApp store ! We deserve to be able to CHOOSE where we buy our music, our books and our apps but Apple is putting a noose around all it's FANBOIS and they don't even object, they in fact love it for the sake of the easy user experience !

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What is it good for?

I have both a netbook (great if I want a real computer that I can take with me), and an iPod touch (music and basic computer functions that fits in my pocket - Jail broken so I have the terminal ).

The iPad is too big for a pocket so I would not want to carry it around all the time, and it's not a full computer so it's not a replacement for the netbook.

What is good for? Watching movies in bed? If your going to make it that big at least add a SC card slot and a mini-usb port. Not the camera adapter dongle crap sticking out the bottom.

Now if they made a bigger iPod touch that would still fit in my pocket maybe 4.5 or 5" screen that would be more useful.

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Instant On

I think the biggest advantage, for me, will be the ability to switch it on instantly like the iPhone and not have to wait the time it takes for my laptop to wake up from sleep mode. Even at its most efficient my lappy takes quite a few seconds. If I then have to start Outlook, Chrome, etc it takes even longer.

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Stop

The pad is an easy point to miss

All of these posts that say "the iPad sucks because it's not a laptop" only succeed in showing how well they fail to understand the point.

Repeat after me: The iPad is Not a laptop. There, do we feel better now?

The iPad isn't a computer as we've cone to use the term, it's an alternative computing device. To say that the iPad is crap because it doesn't have laptop features is like saying a Helicopter is crap because it doesn't go as fast as an aeroplane - well duh, different tools for different jobs. It's an alternative style to get some of the same things done, and some other things that your laptop isn't built to do well.

There are things that both factors will do well. Are there situations where the iPad will be easier and more useful than a netbook - yes; and vice versa.

Now can we please stop critisibg the apple because you can't use it to make orange juice? (pun unintended).

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Happy

RE: The pad is an easy point to miss

Chad H. - you seem to be the only person around here talking any sense! Bravo!

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The market will decide

33 million netbook sales in 2009. Must be doing something right.

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Go

The article has it right, but...

Netbooks aren't going to go away; there's a need for small, cheap laptops. The iPad is a different product so they'll co-exist. The key point is that many people who currently use a netbook would be better off with something like an iPad because they don't author content. They don't even do enough email or note-taking. The on-screen virtual keyboard is good enough for entering search terms or renaming photos or whatever, and that's all they need. The iPad-like device is then better for them because it's simpler and lighter.

A smart phone won't do for them either because it doesn't have a big enough screen.

So this is a new product category, and seeing it as a netbook but worse, or a smart phone but worse, misses the point. It's not competing with either of those.

I say "iPad-like device" rather than iPad because I'm not sure they've quite nailed it. It's a bit heavy, and the aspect ratio is bizarre. You want 16:9 for widescreen films, and 9:16 would probably be better reading eBooks, too.

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my two penneth worth

Windows 7 Starter, which most people remove from their netbooks as soon as they get it home because its so hamstrung, can run 3 times as many programmes at the same time as the iPad :)

I bought my wife a MSI Wind U130 the other day, it cost me £215 (and her nothing!). Is that really going to be "much of a muchness" in terms of price with the iPad? Is $499 really going to become £307+VAT (£360) without a UK premium being slapped on it? Doesn't look like much of an even price comparison to me. Okay you can spend silly money on a netbook but frankly you're silly if you do. It's not for no reason we were conned into having them renamed netbooks from SCC's because the small and computer didn't change but the cheap sure as hell did for some manufacturers.

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You should've waited

Now show your wife the iPad and ask her which she would have preferred..... thought so.

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Flame

missing the point

The main advantage $generic netbook$ has over the iTab?

Price.

$500 will become £500 once it gets over here, which is enough to buy a couple of netbooks, or one really spiffy one.

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Headmaster

Can't really blame the people who bought netbooks as actual laptops

They're largely sold and marketed as such, there's no real publicity over the fact they were originally just supposed to be email and web 2.0 stations (heck, I myself thought the Eee was supposed to be a small & light typing mule for people who don't need anything past the basics required to run Office, Outlook and a browser, rather than explicitly email + "some" of the internet).

Even the IT dept at my mother's work got taken in by them. When the old 15" Toshibas came to the supposed end of their life (hers had easily another 2 years left in it for the tasks being run), they were weeched away and replaced with Piano Black, 10", WSVGA Acer somethingorothers. Just the thing for middle aged teachers with inevitably fading sight and joint flexibility who are called upon to produce reams of complex Word, Excel and Powerpoint docs throughout the year as well as their normal teaching duties. In ribbon-happy Office 2007 (when the old ones ran 2003), no less.

Agh, but I've digressed. Highly unsuitable for the task in hand, there, for sure. But otherwise "competent" (I know too much about them so the quotes are necessary) ITSers still saw the pricetag and the processor/ram/disk specs & thought - "yes!".

I wonder if that will now happen with the Slate. Yay for still being able to have email, office and an image editor open at the same time on the netbook and combine the elements of the former and latter into a word doc or PPT. I can see a lot of people having these things foisted upon them just because they're a cheap "computer" when really they're an oversized, underspecced PDA (I can't really say Smartphone because even WinMo and Symbian manage task switching...)

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Netbooks aren't better than anything?

They are you know. If you want a holiday / travel / occasional PC there's nothing better.

Low cost, doesn't matter too much if it gets nicked, fairly durable, if the case gets a few dings in it, who cares? and doesn't add much to your luggage. Run windows (yes, I know) and you can plug and play any other gadgets you've brought with you to recharge or download no problem.

iPads might be lovely but with that price and design (seriously, who wants the $499 one?) I'm going to have to be careful with it. Up a mountain, on a beach, slung in a suitcase with your shoes... netbook please.

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Badgers

Hmmm

The apparent market for the iPad is people who want to consume media on the move and do a little light surfing/emailing, but not so light that an iPhone will do. Travellers who need to change content (ie. do work) will be better off with a netbook. The first group could make do with a netbook, but "making do" is not what Apple customers are about.

I think the market has room for both devices, being differentiated by price and the simple presence of a keyboard. The iPad wrestles with a couple of contradictions though: it strives for elegance, but is too big to be truly elegant, and it is offers media on the move, but you can't move it without the help of a bag.

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RAM

It's not the small screen, slow processor or tiny keyboard that means I've pretty much given up on netbooks - it's that they're still shipping with Windows and 1Gb RAM. It's just not enough to make them useful over a long period of time.

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Happy

Great second "computer"

My girlfriend is always on my MacBook, while her similarly-aged Windows XP laptop sits there unused*. Quite often we'd both like to be using the Mac at the same time. Getting a second "proper" computer (which has been hinted at) would be expensive and overkill.

The iPad seems like an ideal second "computer". It'll do the majority of what we both use the MacBook for on a daily basis - checking email, reading the web, and even editing the odd document.

Because the iPad is not be a "proper" computer, and is designed to sync with your "main" computer, buying an iPad wouldn't create the annoyance of having to manually maintain and synchronise two separate computers (like a netbook would).

Tempting... and cheaper than buying her a MacBook...! :D

(* Windows XP laptop hated because it's treacle slow and irritatingly cluttered. Hibernate/sleep could be used to avoid the glacial "power-on-to-actually-useable" time, but doesn't seem to work reliably... I guess I need to take a look at it. It was a fresh install only a year ago.)

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Alert

It's NOT an either/or proposition, people!

@ DavCrav -- "A tablet cannot work for typing unless you want a back injury from leaning over. This resigns tablets to passive consumption of media, like books, films, music or the Internet. "

@ nichomach -- "No, I think they won't. They really won't, and I'll tell you for why; people who really use netbooks (for) creating and editing documents, emails, whatever, will not want to give up the keyboard for a number of reasons"

The point that a lot of people seem to be missing is that Apple. with the iPad has shown that it is possible to build a (relatively) economical tablet-format computing device. As has been noted, previous tablet-PCs have tended to be high-end, high-price-point products -- generally standard laptop chassis with extra stuff bolted on -- rather than something designed from the ground up to BE a tablet at a lower price-point.

Having now seen that it IS possible and seeing that (potentially) there IS a market for such a device -- and NONE of us will know whether that market is there until these actually become available to buyers; anything else is rankest guesswork and prejudiced thinking on both sides -- I would not be at all surprised to see Asus or someone else trying to build a low-cost tablet-PC. They won't do this to REPLACE their clamshell-format line, but to AUGMENT it. Reaching into a new market while ditching the costs associated with keyboards, hinges, and suchlike mechanical kludges will be attractive in a business with such narrow profit margins.

It seems to me that most of the people who say "But you NEED a physical keyboard," only say it because THEY need a physical keyboard and can't think beyond that.

Who would POSSIBLY find a tablet without a physical keyboard useful as a traveling tool, suitable for on-site preliminary to show a client, or work that is later downloaded to the "REAL" computer for the heavy lifting, or work that requires minimal alphanumeric data entry but frequent (if not continuous) updating with the home office...?

Hmmmm... How about --

CREATIVES:

Architects

Artists/Photographers/Graphic Designers/Web Designers

Interior Decorators

Landscape Designers

INDUSTRIES:

Civil/Traffic/Hydro Engineers

LAN or A/V Designers

Delivery Companies

Utility Companies

Insurance Companies

Hospitals

GOVERNMENTS:

Law Enforcement Agencies

Pollution Remediation Agencies

Planning/Inspections Departments

...and THOSE are just off the top of my head.

Now, many of these already HAVE bespoke tools that serve their functions. But these ARE bespoke tools, not off-the-rack tools with the cost-savings associated with OTR over bespoke.

And, sure, you can rightfully point out that these are all niches, but of many niches with similar needs an industry is made.

MY expectation is that, within a year, at most, you will see netbook manufacturers building and selling low-cost tablet-PCs alongside their traditional clamshell products and marketing them as BOTH media-consumption devices at Best Buy AND mobile productivity tools at OfficeMax (or local equivalents), and many of the software engineers that were writing industry-specific custom software for custom systems will be porting their software to these more generic platforms.

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Touchscreens are stupid

The iPad seems like a thoroughly inconvenient device. The fundamental issue with touchscreens is that to type on one of these things you must hold it with one hand, precariously balance it on your lap, put it on the table and suffer a horrible viewing angle, or give up and lug a stand, keyboard & mouse around.

As such I really don't see the iPad being suitable for anything except elementary user interaction since typing or running a finger over the whole screen will a huge pain in the butt. It just seems a like a rather badly thought out device. One which forces the paradigm of a touch screen while ignoring the severe usability issues it brings with it.

I'm sure it will sell well despite these inherent issues because hey it's Apple. It seems people don't care about the price, DRM, usability issues, sealed in battery etc. when it says Apple on the outside.

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I had a psion 5

Touch screen there was fine. That was a fine device, could do loads despite constrained resources. At its time, it was ... amazing albeit a bit heavy.

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DrXym

Simple solution if you want to type, you get one of the keyboards which they're making for the iPad. Duh.

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For how much

So you have to spend some stupid amount of money and haul around an extra piece of kit to make the device useful for typing?

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fail

Apple failed utterly. The hype and hopes of people and computing in general were dashed. Most middle of the road watchers have been left un-inspired.

The Apple Ipad could and should have been so much more. It should have had at least a 5-1 flash slot, replaceable battery, decent camera front and back, a network port, wifi and 3g, including phone, and full browser, not the no flash, no java cut down garbage being shovelled as 'web how it should be'.

In terms of media, its 2010, the content control on apple files is fine, I can live with that, but the pads inability to play other content (ie, the stuff you own and might like to put there) requires conversion or it won't work. Even the cheapest devices on market have at least part ability in this area.

It should also have had USB. In a limited device, often to make it usable you need an external mouse or keyboard. And no, being forced to pay $60 for the privilage is not good for me the consumer. It may be nice for Apple shareholders, but they are not the customer. I am.

You can top it off with a fail on multitasking - something Apple were the kings of in OS7,8,9 and you might ponder they may have remembered the lessons of those times.

This device would be over priced at $199. And even at that cost, its got so many limits and lock downs, and a lack of IO and so on that its not likeable. It just isn't.

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Coffee/keyboard

I hate marmite

But I rather enjoyed the crunchy cockroaches served on the streets of Bangkok.

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Happy

Missing the point

This is a consumer entertainment device, not a computer.

Most of the people who buy this would NEVER buy/need a netbook/laptop.

I could give an iPad to my 93-year old grandma, and not need to do daily support visits ...

Direct comparisons with netbooks are pointless, as the iPad is more a partial hybrid of the (xbox with netbook with PSP with iPod touch with ...).

In other words, an entirely new class of product...

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FAIL

Until...

....she calls to ask why youtube won't work, again.

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People don't understand netbooks

My view on netbooks was exactly echoed in Steve Jobs' words during the keynote. I don't know whether to be proud or worried about that fact.

What worries me here is how many people simply don't get netbooks. A NETBOOK ISN'T JUST A SMALL LAPTOP. Netbooks were designed to be simple, portable devices which you would use to browse the web, deal with your email and basically stay in touch in 2 scenarios:

1. Whilst travelling to avoid the baggage of a full sized laptop

2. For the less technology concious home user who wanted a simple cheap way to stay in touch and access the internet

The clue is in the name guys !

Early netbooks running various flavours of Linux gave us exactly that. The problem was that consumers kept pushing for more and more features and functionality in them because they thought that these devices were crippled. The manufacturers complied, putting either Windows XP or less crippled Linux distro's on them. These netbooks have effectively become mini-laptops. And this is Steve Jobs' point. As mini laptops they're fatally crippled by crappy tiny screens, not suitable for desktop style apps, and by ridiculous keyboard which are probably ok if you have fingers the size of a 5 year-old's.

All those consumers have done is ruined the netbook segment for people who really needed a netbook as it was intended to be. What those consumers really needed was a much more portable proper sized laptop. It's a shame that manufacturers haven't realised this and concetrated on thinning down their standard laptops and making them more portable whilst still powerful. (My Dell laptop is a brick). The form factor is irrelevant here. A 12-13" laptop would be no less portable than a netbook if it were made to a sensible weight/size target. Sadly for the Apple-haters, Steve Jobs' got this right too (Macbook Air). There are ultra-portable offerings out there too, not just Apple's.

So, the iPad. The iPad is not a fully functional PC. It's not intended to be so. What it is however is a personal computer providing all the functionality intended in the netbook segment, and a whole lot more. Take my mother for example. All she uses on her computer is e-mail, browser and the occasional typed document. This device, coupled with a bluetooth keyboard (not that 1970's looking dock combo) would be ideal.

I would label this device as "A netbook done properly"

It has flaws for sure, the ommission of a front facing camera for web chat is woeful, but Apple know how to make money, and I'd expect this to be on version 2 to ensure all of the early adopters end up paying double for their new toys. However, at that price it's hard to complain at what Apple have done. Show me anything that slick and powerful at that price.

This device along with the rest of Apple's line up just shows how the other manufacturers just don't understand the market place they're in. Sometimes listening to what customers are asking for is the wrong thing to do. You have to think past what they're asking for and realise what they really need.

I'm afraid Apple got it right again.

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You have to laugh

When you read comments like no sd slot, no replaceable battery, no Ethernet. What has Apple done in the last 5 years that gave you any impression they would give the iPad such things. Also, all te criticisms of the iPad are exactly the same as this that were made about the iPhone and iPod.

The people who comment on these boards have shown time and again that they know very little about what sells and why in the real world

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Badgers

Hm...

As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm starting to think the iPad might be at least reasonably successful. That conclusion comes from the reactions I've seen from a handful of people. Two artists/web designers, and a biologist who is not techie at all. They all drooled on the idea/demonstration of this thing. The biologist colleague already has a Touch, which she uses all the time. I mentioned "but the iPad is just a giant Touch", and she said "yeah, wouldn't that be great?". One of the artists mentioned the possibilities for graphical apps.

So, I guess only time will tell. I myself am a bit meh on this. Yeah, a large Touch would be fun (I don't have one), but for how long? Will people find uses for this thing to keep their attention for more than a week? You know, after the novelty wears off and they get tired of lugging a large media thing around, when their pocketable Touches and iPhones have about the same capabilities but are, well... pocketable. Now all that is needed is the killer app for the iPad, if Apple wants it to succeed as more than a $500 overgrown Touch.

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Screens

The iPad is 1024x768? sorry was this a boast?

That is as bad as the Gates man proudly claiming that some of their Win2K boxes had managed up times of 80 days.

My early netbook has a 1280x768 display, anything lest than 1920x1080 is officially classified these days as low res and can't do video.

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apples and oranges

You are comparing it to a netbook. It isn't.

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Paris Hilton

I suppose ...

... that the me-tooz might have a bit of an edge when W7 mobile (or whatever it becomes called, nomenclature and all that).

But I cannot imagine it to be swift nor sweet as a general OS has lots of stuff to consider as well as error correction.

Software on a chip on the other hand can focus its energies quite clearly without dilution but I guess you knew that anyway?

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Paris Hilton

Is content available outside US?

While everyone is arguing about esthetics, success of which will be determined by the market anyway, there is the glaring omission of the content questions. Content is what will make or break the iPad. While Apple has sewn up ebook and TV content in the US but it remains to be seen whether or not Apple can do so in other countries.

I'm in Canada and it looks tricky here. Our Esteemed Protectors of Culture will likely balk. It won't just be Apple and the publishers at the table. US TV online here is heavily censored or sparsely available at disparate cable websites. 75% of what cable and satellite provides is US programming although happily we get some UK programming too. Ok we're a small market so who cares but this may be repeated all over the place complicating the iPad's raison d'etre.

While the flash/browser issue is annoying it's not necessarily a deal breaker for me. But if I can't read my favourite books, or watch my TV shows then what use is a tablet over a netbook paradigm where I can attempt to do so with nonDRM content and technical workarounds.

Paris cause if I can't run flash porn on my iPad then I'll have to convert A Nite in Paris AVI into MP4 on my PC so I can watch it on my iPad.

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Too big ?

I don't get these moans that the device is too big. If you want to carry something like this around, use a folding netbook or an iPhone. What this says to me is armchair-pad : something a laptop with it's ungainly hinge just can't do right.

My only complaint is the app-store concept : as a developer, I can't conceive of buying a computing device that isn't user-programmable. I'm well aware that I'm in a minority, but very happy to let Apple stir the me-too manufacturers into making something that suits me better.

As for those who complain it's no good for business users .. I laugh at you. Neither is the Wii, the PSP, the Tivo-alike or the hot water bottle. All show healthy sales figures.

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I like my netbooks.

I have one that i run as a server. little acer aspire one, 1Gb Ram, runs Ubuntu, and acts as my home file server (it has a 2Tb drive attached), and a little web server for testing things out on. Cheaper than developing on Amazon, and means I can play my music collection from anywhere on the web.

My 11 year old daughter has a Asus Eee with 2Gb Ram, runs Win 7, and she uses it to do homework, watch movies, web etc and I've also installed Audacity on it, she has an outboard sound card/mixer, and uses it quite happily to make music. It doesn't struggle playing back up to 16 tracks simultansously (though it doesn't do much DSP). It attaches to a 19" external monitor for this.

Where Apple missed a trick with the iPad (but you'll see it in v2, no doubt) is adding front and rear cameras. The next huge revolution in computing is Augmented Reality; the iPad would be a GREAT device for this, but without the camera .it's a fail. Add that, and the apps to make the most of it, and this form factor may start being useful.

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FAIL

Why is the name always wrong ?

Set top boxes : always kept under the set.

Desktops : fit on a desk, but so much more convenient under it

Laptops : Only really any good on a desk. A real struggle to actually use on your lap.

Palmtops : Well, just about. But only if both palms and all fingers are free for use.

If you have no working surface, the only good tool is a book, or something with a book's formfactor and weight. Something you interact with only enough to control the flow of information. You don't write on a book (I hope), the nearest thing is a clipboard - and that's for scribbled notes, not essays.

Your lap just isn't the right place to work : too low and at the wrong angle to either look or write. The only people who should be working there are lap dancers.

Webpads were broken by manufacturers who were scared to let them compete with 'laptops', and kept them way too expensive, power hungry and big to find a natural market. More power to Apple for doing it right.

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Not missing the point at all

No, it's not a netbook, it's an "alternative computing device". We get that. Perfectly.

And, as much as I love my netbook, I'm excited by the idea of these altenative devices as well. Just not this one.

Leaving aside feature comparisons witth netbooks (since they're different devices intended for different purposes), let's see how it stacks up against the one other similar tablet-style, internet-connected multimedia device currently available, the $549 Archos 9 pctablet.

9" touch-enabled widescreen display, capable of true 1080p HD video with H.264

front-facing webcam for video chat

built-in USB port and SD card slot

60 GB storage

it's Windows, so full Flash player support

it's Windows, so you can install any apps you want (not just the ones Steve decides you can have)

and let's not forget true multi-tasking

So, it won't have "instant" on and the "touch" may not have quite the gee whiz factor of Apple's and the battery only lasts half as long ... hey, wot's this around the back? it looks like a removable battery! ... well, scratch that last one then.

It's not a case case of saying a heliocopter is crappy because it's not as fast as a plane, it's more a case of this particular heliocopter being crappy because it lacks basic features, like seats or landing gear, *any* aircraft should have.

And, of course, we all know exactly why the iPad doesn't do Flash.

"Hmm, do we let people watch tv shows for free on Hulu or make them to buy that cr*p from the iTunes store? Decisions, decisions."

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Probably not the best choice for comparison

"9" touch-enabled widescreen display, capable of true 1080p HD video with H.264"

Well, looking at the Archos site, this smaller screen 1024x600, making it lower resolution than the iPad. So while it supports playback of 1080p video it's pretty pointless and really just a waste of storage.

I'd also point out that the Archos has a resistive touch screen rather than the iPad's capacitive one and if you have ever used the two technologies you will probably know which one provides the better experience (hint: not the one on the Archos).

On top of all that, the last device I bought from Archos with hard drive storage had to go back to them twice in the first year with drive failures and now resides in my loft with it's third failure because it failed again out of warranty. And I can't replace it myself because they link the drive to the machine in some way that means a vanilla drive won't be recoginsed by the machine - I think it's an anti-piracy measure, but it's much more of a problem than any of Apple's foibles.

I was really tempted to get the Archos9 when it launched, but while Archos produce some nice functional products they have shown a tendancy in recent years to abandon them as soon as they produce the next device and promise additional functionality through firmware upgrades that never appear. I can't even swap power supplies between my various Archos devices because they use different connectors.

Whether or not you think people who like their products are mindless fanbois, you have to admit they do tend to launch what they announce and they are reasonably good at keeping an amount of backwards compatability.

Don't get me wrong, my Archos kit (that still works) does what it's supposed to do and does it well, but there's a whole lot of stuff that each product probably could do that was put in the next version and never made availble to my version and not because the hardware was significantly different, e.g. the new device had a larger drive.

But as with everything you pays your money and you takes your choice.

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