But sometimes I look at her, and I have to wonder, what makes her so great. She’s awfully pretty but I’ve never really cared for these things. Just ask my sisters – they’ll tell you that my type is “not hot”. And I write, or type, quite a bit in my day-to-day, and it’s not uncommon for me to pull up Excel and spin some quick-and-dirty pivot tables on the fly. The iPad, she’s terrible at both long-form writing and data analysis. And its compatibility with my workflow tools (e.g. Microsoft Office, PC software) is limited, whatever opinion you might have of those tools. In truth, my laptop is in many ways a better long-term relationship fit. Both are screens but my laptop also has the extra benefit of a keyboard… so, it’s net better, right? And yet I keep getting lured back to my seductive iPad.
People will say it’s the apps. And it’s true, there are apps that are either better designed for the iPad or only available on that platform. But I only use a handful of apps on a regular basis and, in many cases, the functionality of the website is more robust than the app.
And so I come to the inevitable conclusion that the main appeal of the iPad, for me, is in the “instant-on.”
Over the years, I’ve complained infrequently but vociferously to friends, “I don’t understand why, with all the technological advances we’ve made, someone can’t just make a laptop that never crashes and turns on instantly.” And it turns out that Apple, in tackling some very sophisticated design challenges and creating an astounding ecosystem of software and hardware, also managed to solve some very basic mainstream needs that are not at all novel but have never been solved for the mass audience. (Almost) never crashes. Turns (everything) on instantly.
Those basic mainstream needs have become increasingly cogent. Time is becoming the scarce commodity. People have busier schedules, attention is at a premium, and time is currency. Assuming that we need a computing device and the substitute is a laptop, an investment in an iPad pays us back in our own time in myriad ways: (1) Not having to pull out the device from a laptop bag and sit down to use it; (2) Not having to flip open a laptop lid; (3) Not having to wait to boot up; (4) Reducing “search” for regularly used applications and websites; and (5) Near instant access to those same applications and websites. When I say "instant-on", I mean all these things, from the ease of finding the icon to pressing it and finding immediate responsiveness to the actual turning on of the hardware itself.
But in my head, I have to wonder why these problems couldn’t be solved for the laptop form factor. I mean, there are laptops with touchscreens. The main substantive difference between the two form factors is the addition (or subtraction) of a keyboard, right? A pantheon of Apple fanboys just gasped at the blasphemy, I know. But you have to understand that I drive a Honda Civic, I fly Southwest, and consider virtually every luxury brand to be fundamentally over-priced for my needs. Gorilla glass and Liquidmetal don't make a substantive difference in my everyday experience.
And if the only substantive difference is the keyboard, is there any reason why instant-on couldn’t be solved for the laptop? I think the answer is that it will be. It’s only a matter of time before the laptop and tablet (and maybe even phone) converge in the mass market, and people will own exactly one workflow device and laugh about the crazy olden days when we carried all these separate devices. The average <insert new hybrid device name here> will look not that dissimilar from the tablet today, with a beautifully integrated keyboard that converts as needed, and with the full analytical power and compatibility of a (sharp inhale) PC laptop. Windows 8 will undoubtedly be a player in the delivery of this vision. Every credible professional will have one. That’ll also be the day that we have an answer to the question, “When will corporations buy tablets for all their employees (i.e. not just the salesforce)?” The answer: When they can’t help it.
I can’t wait.