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Netbook vs. iPad

(c) Bertrand Le Roy 2010 Troll bait!

Scott Watermasysk posted a piece this morning that to me sounds like another attempt to rationalize the act of buying one more overpriced shiny gadget from Apple: http://scottw.me/post/498411986/ipad-v-netbook.

It also seems like Scott is basing his opinion on the netbooks that were available two years ago. There are now amazingly powerful computers in this format, which makes for a great experience in the exact circumstances that the iPad is designed for. In other words, I think Scott’s post would have made some sense if Apple had shipped its tablet two years ago.

As Scott’s blog for some reason doesn’t have comments on, I thought I’d plagiarize him here :)

Another personal angle on the netbook vs. iPad thing.

The iPad is all about compromise. It is just like a normal iPhone except it’s a lot more expensive, you won’t get 3G unless you fork an additional hundred bucks and it won’t fit in your pocket. Just like its little brother, it doesn’t have a keyboard, it’s riddled with DRM (no app will make it if it isn’t approved by Apple on completely arbitrary criteria), it doesn’t support Flash or multitasking (so no streaming Pandora while reading e-mail), etc. If you were to build a dream laptop, there is absolutely nothing in an iPad you would want today.

The modern multitouch netbooks are about doing things well. They draw a line in the sand on what you should be able to do today. A notebook can talk and it could very well tell you:

There are no tasks I cannot complete. I am not going to force you to complete them in a half ass way. You’ll have a great, unconstrained experience that will leave you happy and satisfied. If this bothers you, please go and buy Apple’s crippled product. You will not be happier (it’s a freaking bunch of electronics, go out and meet people), but you might resent it in the morning when the excitement dies down and the RDF dissipates.

Kidding aside, modern notebooks represent a different take on both casual and temporary business computing. I love the experience and would rather see Apple try to do something bold and different than follow in the drab foot steps of the TabletPC and the iPod Touch.

But I work for Microsoft, so every thing I say is biased :)


Daniel said:

This kind of talk can only com from someone who has not used the iPhone a lot.

Talk to Chris Sells and see what he has to say.

The iPad will change everything, and I am surprised that you (who I consider a bright guy!) don't see it.

# April 5, 2010 3:57 PM

Saratoga Sam said:

An iPad is not a large iPhone, it is a large iPod Touch!

# April 5, 2010 6:10 PM

Dave said:

Troll bait indeed!  Most of the critique is about the iPhone and not specific to the iPad.  Also make sure the comparisons are valid:  You are complaining about size yet the iPad is roughly the same size as a netbook.  A good complaint about the iPad is the missing (front) camera which netbooks often come with - do I have to buy another device in a year to get that?  

# April 5, 2010 10:16 PM

Rick Strahl said:

I'm no Apple fan, but where are these fabled netbooks that are feature rich AND cheap that you're talking about? Most that are in the iPad's price range are still underpowered, barely able to handle video much less HD video (even the ones with newer non-integrated video cards). I would love to buy a small, lightweight Win7 machine under $500 that has decent video support and touch screen but there are not many options out there that I can find except a rare fire sale or boxes that are WAY more expensive...

# April 5, 2010 10:21 PM

Steve said:

I don't get how because 'you work for M$' that you have to take an anti-Apple stance

As someone in technology I welcome innovation.  How about you learn to judge on merit, useability, what people enjoy to use because it's innovated instead of some 'I work for M$' in some sort if drone like response?

Truthfully (and I like Microsoft), I have seen much 'copying' disguised as 'innovation' that lacks innovation - many clones coming from more innovated minds.

Again though, why take shots at companies taking chances and being innovative?

I personally hopes MS learns to take a page out of Apples playbook and make products that are positive user experiences for a change

# April 5, 2010 11:53 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Daniel: I appreciate that you'd consider me bright, but you're doing it in a way that seems to imply I'm suffering from some kind of mental illness here.

@Dave: I'm not complaining. Thanks for pointing out the lack of camera, I had somehow missed that one. Please realize that you do not have to buy anything, now or in  a year.

@Rick: straw man. If you read carefully you'll see I'm not claiming the good netbooks are cheaper than the iPad.

@Steve: it seems like you didn't understand the spirit of that post, and sadly I think I need to explain. Scott posted a very one-sided piece where he dissed netbooks but was willing to be very forgiving for the iPad's faults. That looked like double standards to me. So I facetiously took the systematic counterpoint to that, which should be clear from the fact that the text is almost a search and replace of Scott's text where iPad and netbook are swapped (I even used the word "plagiarize" to refer to it). The last sentence hammers that point by jokingly asserting that such an opinion is necessarily one-sided, which should not be surprising according to the cliché opinion that Microsoft employees are drones. Smiley face should have been an additional clue.

My real opinion is much different. I think the iPhone was a fantastic innovation that changed the game profoundly and shook a stagnant market into an entirely new phase. I also think Tablet PCs were a great idea that came too early. Kudos to Jobs for waiting and figuring out what the exact right time was, and double kudos for preparing the market to it through the iPhone. That is precisely what he is brilliant at. Finally, I think that Win7 did take a page of Apple's playbook and did focus on a positive user experience. And it worked. Expect to see more of that.

Now no matter how good I think the iPad or iPhone are (and I do think they are nice innovative gadgets), I do not like the mass hysteria surrounding them, I do not like to be told that I'm an idiot for not buying a product, and I know for sure that I do not need those products. I'm professionally interested by them and check them out, but I don't buy them because I have better uses for that money. I apologize for that.

# April 6, 2010 12:40 AM

Chandra said:

I couldn't agree more. I myself use iPhone, and have LOTS of disappointment during the first week of using it. Sometimes, I feel like to put back my SIM card to my 4 year old WM 5. Can't wait for Windows Phone 7, hope it can be a serious competitor to iPhone OS.

# April 6, 2010 12:57 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

Ah, forgot an important one: I'm quite puzzled that what they are trying to do by having arbitrary dictatorship over all app store content looks like your worst nightmares about Microsoft, but because it's Apple, nobody seems to care that much.

# April 6, 2010 3:01 AM

Daniel said:

Bert, Your last comment is indeed a good point. But not related to the iPad product itself.

As to what Rick also wonders; could you please point to any decent netbook that does things anything near as good the iPad does?

# April 6, 2010 3:22 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Daniel: I think it is. Whereas on the iPhone you could blame the phone operators for the lock-down and excessive control: it's business as usual coming from them, if the iPad is a computer, that excuse goes away. Please note that there are examples of app stores that do not suffer from such limitations.

I especially like the peer-review system of the Xbox indie store: nice, innovative and decentralized but still allows quality to float to the top.

It's clearly deliberate from Apple and their behavior towards Adobe and Google only confirms that they are after control and elimination of their competition with this tactic.

As for decent netbooks, http://tinyurl.com/yaxokq6. Personally, I liked the PDC laptop www.netbookreviews.net/.../aspire-1420p and friends who have it seem to like it too. I don't own one myself, because I'm more a full laptop guy myself. I like my screens and my keyboards large.

# April 6, 2010 3:51 AM

Marty McPadden said:

I have an Asus netbook I will be looking to unload as soon as my 3G iPad arrives. I am an Apple fan and own multiple Apple products including a 27" iMac, 15" MacBook Pro and iPhone. I'm also expecting a new AirPort Extreme Basestation to arrive today to replace my old NetGear 802.11g router. Although Apple does charge a premium for their products, it's money well spent, IMHO. The stuff just works. While I don't expect my iPad to replace my MacBook Pro, I do expect it to be able to handle about 80 to 90 percent of my routine mobile computer needs. I'd rather have something that works over something with every feature under the sun and works intermittently. The key to the iPad is apps and Apple does that part really well.

# April 6, 2010 11:48 AM

Mike S said:

With a little cash to play with, I looked at the iPad, the new Dell mutli-touch notebook, and the new HP Touchsmart laptop.  I've got to say - no USB and not being able to run more than one app were absolute iPad deal-breakers for me.  I ended up with the HP (which runs Win7) and am absolutely thrilled.  And, I still got it for under $1000.  I'm more than happy to pay extra for the 500GB hard drive, user accounts (it's a home machine), a robust chipset, and my 4GB of ram.

Disclaimer - I'm a .Net architect/developer by trade

# April 6, 2010 1:49 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Daniel: :)

@Marty: Wow, that is so impressive!

# April 6, 2010 1:58 PM

Alex Lowe said:

Bertrand - seriously, you are puzzled that people have a negative perception about Microsoft and not about Apple? Right or wrong, Microsoft has not done much for public perception in the last 10-15 years. I mean...anti-trust, security issues galore, sub par products like Windows ME, etc. I won't even go into the negative perception no one talks about (scorched earth policies on licensing in the enterprise circa late 90s/early 00s). As they say, perception is reality (even if it is outdated).

Microsoft could do the same thing (draconian app store) if it had the perception that Apple has.

# April 6, 2010 3:12 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Alex: uh? Err, no, I'm not puzzled by that. Amused yes, puzzled no: I quite understand how the manipulation works. What I am puzzled about is your comment, which looks like it justifies the following logical fallacies (but maybe I misunderstood you):

- Microsoft did it, so it is OK for Apple to do it too.

- because some shady acts from Microsoft have been exposed in past years, everything Microsoft does is suspect.

- they say "perception is reality" so it must be true.

- Microsoft could do the same thing if it had the perception that Apple has, so it follows that they would and that Apple is justified in doing it.

# April 6, 2010 3:48 PM

p.o.d. said:

I can see the truth in the topic above. I am iPhone user more than 1 year and completely satisfied with this gadget but if I want more than a phone, I don't think I'd move to iPad. Only for show off I think. Besides I'm crazy for touchscreen technology and like iphone's elder brother.

# April 7, 2010 2:50 AM

Alex Lowe said:

@Bertrand - You said

"Ah, forgot an important one: I'm quite puzzled that what they are trying to do by having arbitrary dictatorship over all app store content looks like your worst nightmares about Microsoft, but because it's Apple, nobody seems to care that much."

so I took that to mean exactly what you said. It sounds like you meant that you were amused from your response to my comment though.

I'm not saying this line of thinking is correct or ok. Perception is reality for many people though so right or wrong - it is. Perception doesn't justify anything but it definitely is a factor in how people respond to the action or inaction of an entity. I wouldn't want Microsoft to do what Apple is doing with regards to the AppStore nor would I think it is ok.

My whole comment was a reaction to you being puzzled by the fact that someone would treat two different entities differently based on how they behave. Sounds like you weren't puzzled but found it amusing so my comment is what now puzzles you. =)

# April 7, 2010 9:16 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Alex: yeah, you got me. :) No offense meant by the way, just being playful with this whole thing.

# April 7, 2010 12:39 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

Scott responded to my response:


His main argument is that an iPad is "simply an alternative to a compromised computing experience".

That is true, but more accurately it's a differently compromised alternative to a compromised experience.

Choose your compromise I guess. Again, this post was just meant to humorously provide the opposite point of view (which is not necessarily mine) to restore some balance.

# April 7, 2010 5:36 PM

Chance said:

While I seriously dislike the IPad for reasons related to both the device and the company behind it, I do not believe it is appropriate to compare slate computers to netbooks.

Having said that, Bertrand, please go tell the guys responsible for Microsoft Courier to hurry up so that they can dominate the IPad for creative and everyday users.

It, in my opinion, is a truly revolutionary device (way more so than a giant IPod Touch)

# April 11, 2010 12:40 PM

Dave said:

Didn't buy an Mac, Ipod, Iphone or any other Mac but I bought an Ipad and love it. Reads well in bed. Surfs the net quickly and no lock ups. Long battery life with a HD screen works for me and see less of my PC or laptop ever since. Apple has opened a new line of media consumption hardware and I gotta believe this is just the begging.

# April 14, 2010 2:44 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Chance: well, I think it's a very appropriate comparison, and eh, Scott is the one who did it first :)

# April 14, 2010 3:37 PM

Tom Karches said:

I find it humorous that people talk about all the great features that competing devices have, but Apple is making most of the money.

Remember all the talk about how stupid the iPod was?

I generally choose Apple devices because they find out what makes a device easy to use and eliminate everything else. If they made a device that included all the features that the "experts" considered essential, it would likely be unusable.

Having said that, I'm posting this from a Dell Mini 9 running Mac OSX :-). Which is awesome, BTW.

# June 15, 2010 4:12 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

Yeah, cause everything should be judged by how well it sells.

# June 15, 2010 4:19 PM