Dude, it’s a laptop you want, not an iPad

If you do an image search for ‘iPad case’, what you will find will be very similar to what’s shown in the image below

Basically, people want cases that (a) prop the screen up and (b) have a keyboard. The thing is, we already have a gadget that does these two things. It’s called a laptop.

I originally bought an iPad, and after holding the screen for a long time, I bought a stand to hold it up for me during long sessions. Then, I found that I could connect my bluetooth keyboard to it, and so I set it up so that my iPad was held upright in the stand and I was typing using my wireless keyboard.

From the abundance of iPad cases that do one or both of the above, I can see that many others see the need for this functionality.

And then it dawned on me: why was I using this limited device (in terms of what programs I can run on it, and in terms of what websites I can watch and interact with) which didn’t hold up the screen for me when using it for extended periods of time, and whose built-in keyboard was far sub-par compared to a hardware keyboard, when I already have a MacBook Pro, which is much more powerful, can hold up its own screen, has a real keyboard, can browse all the websites, and allows me to install any program I want (and even, gasp, compile my own programs to run on it)?

So, I returned the iPad.

Granted, the iPad is a beautiful device, its responsiveness when zooming in and out and when scrolling is impressive, and it has many apps that are fun and/or useful. Also, for certain things, like scrolling through a photo album by sliding you finger feels much more pleasant/”real” than doing so by clicking a mouse button.

But, most of the things I do on a daily basis are email, web browsing, and document creation/editing. For those things, laptops excel.

Ideally, what I would like (and I think most people would like) is something of the form factor of a MacBook Air (thin and light), that has a detachable touch-screen that can run apps written for iOS or Android, and when the screen is connected to the main body, acts like a fully-functioning laptop.

I think some devices like this are beginning to appear, but so far none of them are compelling. It might take Apple to show them how it’s done, again.

Originally posted February 26, 2012

Original responses:

  • Sharon responded: I use an iPad with stand and keyboard when I’m on holiday / not officially working and don’t want to take the laptop - cheaper to replace if it gets stolen or broken (holiday insurance rarely covers true cost of a laptop). I’m not intending on doing much typing but if I do need to, the keyboard and stand is more convenient and light enough to carry. But mostly I use the iPad for what it was intended - reading/responding rather than creating content, usually in places where it is more comfortable or convenient to use than a laptop (sofa, public transport, meals if dining alone).
  • epsori (Twitter) liked this post.
  • Joe’s Pferde Spiele responded: That is exactly the reason why I am not buying an iPad.
  • RafD123 responded: The reason I’m holding out for Windows 8.
  • fisherman responded: Yeah, this article pretty much sums up my family. Three of my family members got iPads for Christmas. Two have now been returned. They just aren’t practical for sessions that last more than a few minutes. It absolutely destroys my neck when trying to use the iPad on my lap because there is no easy way to prop up the display. My arm gets dead tired having to hold it up as I tap, tap, tap the screen. The screen gets very greasy and has to be cleaned every few minutes. As soon as I realized that I would have to buy a Crux case or some other case just to get back a fraction of the productivity I had with my $250 netbook, I decided to return the iPad and put the money towards an Ultrabook. I’m going to give windows 8 a try at the same time. I don’t like being limited in what apps, browser, browser plugins, web sites or full blown programs I can use.
  • LCDq8 (Twitter) responded: “Ideally, what I would like (and I think most people would like) is something of the form factor of a MacBook Air (thin and light), that has a detachable touch-screen that can run apps written for iOS or Android, and when the screen is connected to the main body, acts like a fully-functioning laptop.” Have u ever considered Asus transformer series?
  • RichB responded: So I did an image search for ‘ipad case’ on google & bing. And very little looked like a laptop.
  • akumar (Twitter) responded: It’s the multi-modal capability that’s the most interesting. Sometimes you want to ‘play’ - touch, view, read; sometimes you want to ‘work’ - type, email, plan. Adding the ‘sometimes’ bluetooth keyboard lets you do both, without having to lug two devices. For frequent international coach travelers like me, this combo works exceedingly well in cramped conditions: http://b.akumar.me/2011/09/07/ipad-bluetooth-keyword-best-computing-rig-for-e… Amit | lexity.com
  • Academia de locucion y oratoria responded: It is almost perfect, only with the detail that kills the neck by the way you have to hold it. And the arm to a liquid to be doing what tokes.
  • Nesta responded: First, it is a well known fact that the majority of Windows laptops are extremely weak in the multi-touch department. The trackpads are, more often than not, lacking. So, unless you’re buying a Macbook, the iPad offers something that can’t be easily had in a laptop. (There’s a reason why so many graphic designers prefer Macs.) now, if these stand/keyboard combos offered a mouse and/or trackpad (most of them offer neither, then, yes, it would seem a bit odd. Perhaps, with Windows 8, more Windows machines will offer improved trackpads, but, until then, this argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Second, the apps are an undeniable attraction. Of course, not everybody likes apps and thats okay. Nonetheless, it is a rather looming reason why the iPad is so successful. Third, one isn’t forced to carry all that extra weight - they can, and likely do, utilize the iPad as is. To suggest that purchasing a stand and keyboard means one never uses the iPad as a stand-alone is an odd assumption. Finally, a $499 iPad plus, say a $100 stand/keyboard combo is a pretty good deal. A $599 laptop, probably a netbook, is not going to be of as high a quality no matter what anyone argues. I work on all types of computers and OSes - iOS, OS X, Windows, Linux, repairing, tutoring, troubleshooting - and $599 gets you one year of plastic crap. On the other hand, the first gen iPad still works beautifully for the people I know who own one.
  • labelStudios (Twitter) responded: Missing-user-35 I bought an Asus Transformer in November and it serves very well inexactly the way you describe…with one exception. The screen @ ten inches is to small for me. I find extended periods of interaction with the device propped up a couple feet from my face to be a little to eye strain inducing. I went back to a laptop with a 17” display. I still use the Transformer, but now the keyboard dock is only a battery extender and in most cases is used primarily as a charging dock for the tablet. I use it as an e-reader, as I like portrait mode for reading over what you get on a laptop. And the wife and kids use it a lot for games. If I’m mobile and browsing it’s back to my Phone, and if I’m mobile and working it’s the 10 pound laptop. For now.
  • Bob Foster responded: Dude, it’s an iPad I want. I hate laptops. I even passed on the AirBook, which is a lovely laptop, because I realized I hate laptops. Sometimes I want to write something longer than a blog comment. Then I want a keyboard. Otherwise, I don’t.
  • Bob Foster responded: Ok, MacBook Air. When I don’t like something, I can’t remember its name.
  • Stavros141 (Twitter) responded: Thats because you guys are using it for what it was not intended. it was intended to be something mobile yet fast not like a mobile phone.
  • dzhiurgis responded: I think you touched fundamental issue with laptops - the ergonomics just sucks. You are allways in this weird positions, having to duck you head down, while in conventional desktop you work much much more comfortably. So do with the iPad + external keyboard.
  • dotjinks responded: I love showing up to meetings with an iPad, a moleskin and pen. Oh, and my Android phone in my pocket. My Laptop has become my desktop and the last big desktop I built is now used as a home server and entertainment system. I don’t even have an external keyboard for my iPad. The external mobile device keyboard I use is for ‘Unbutop’ on my Motorola Photon. The chuckle here is I have always been a PC guy. My wife sold me on the idea that if she had an iPad with keyboard and an iPhone she would never need a desktop again and would get off my back about her dream Macintosh computer. Little did I know I would get sucked into loving my own iPad. A lot of those iPad pictures with keyboards are just a result of iPad accessory and competing tablet manufacturers trying to convince people they need more than just an iPad and a simple case.
  • Christophe responded: Your are doing it wrong. IPad and tablet PC are not for activities requiring allot of typing. A mac book air much better for this type usage and not that much more expensive for the additionnal keyboard and mouse, storage ans usb plugs. IPads are for surfing, reading blogs, writing a few comments here and there and all this while laying in couch or in bed or while watching tv. It is not convenient when sitting at a table, or then only for a short time. I use my iPad1 every day since I bought it and i use my desktop PC for everything that is not surfing or simple relaxing games like sudoku or cards.
  • Alex responded: I can prop my fondleslab up on the smart cover that I got with it. That goes up on the shelf in front of me, with Bluetooth keyboard where it is convenient to type. Can’t do that with a laptop or Asus Transformer. I can take my fondleslab in my man-bag, which will not fit a laptop. The fondleslab is lighter than a laptop, too. I can prop my fondleslab up in a book holder when cooking in the kitchen, with any splatter, oily fingers, dough or batter wiping off quite easily. I use a matte/anti-glare screen protector for my fondleslab. The fondleslab fills that niche between laptop and mobile phone. It is best to think of it as a replacement for your clipboard, rather than a replacement for your typewriter. On the flip side, I have few issues composing essays on the fondleslab, mostly because I don’t insist on sitting at a desk while doing do. Hold the slab with both hands, use the split keyboard, and move around a little. Sit in your comfy armchair, prop the slab on the left arm, then the right arm, then out it down and just read what you have written. If you insist on working at a desk, use a desktop computer. You will strain your neck using a laptop without an external keyboard or screen (either one helps). iPad + Bluetooth keyboard allows for more ergonomic placement if you need a more portable work environment. This essay composed on an iPad between my desk, the armchair, and my kitchen.
  • BPMForReal (Twitter) responded: Missing-user-35 I went through an evolution where I was all about PC and Blackberry. Then I bought an iPad and had the same prop-it-up and add-a-keyboard cycle that you did. Then I bought an iPhone because I liked the iPad’s apps so much better than the Blackberry’s keyboard. That led me to a MacBook Air, which is now my favorite device. The iPad has become just a reader (an expensive one), especially once I realized that Mac’s use apps, too, but can truly multitask. It was an expensive evolution but I came to the same conclusion you did.
  • Darwin responded: To state the obvious..Most people use these attachments to their iPad for limited purposes not all the time. You can actually get an amazing amount of work done with them.
  • Dan Woods responded: The main problem for Asus Transformers and Windows 8 Touch-books is the lack of usable Touch-screeen and Hybrid Apps. Android and Windows compatibility with Adobe Flash have hamstrung the platforms Application ecosystems. While iOS developers have been forced to write programs that work well on the platform, Lazy or Opportunistic Android and Windows developers have fallen back on Flash, rather than design something for the Platforms. Hopefully, now that Adobe have admitted that Flash is not suitable for Mobile devices, Developers will create more native Apps for Android and Metro which take advantage of Touch User Interfaces.
  • AndrewSansone (Twitter) responded: I don’t think the iPad was ever created to replace the laptop. Apple still sells its fair share of laptops. It all depends on what you intend on using the iPad for. If it’s heavy creation rather than just content consumption then stick with a laptop. It’s really not about laptop vs. iPad for me. Your example of a device that would include both functionality is an interesting idea.
  • MacBoi responded: A version has been around since 2007 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiotron_Modbook My last Windows machine was a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP/Compaq_TC1000 and it was good in concept, but the actual implementation sucked wormsacks. I’d love to see an Apple designed and developed cross-over “MacTablet Pro”, with the simplicity of an iPad, but the strength of full OS X (including the underlying OpenBSD) and MacBook Pro hardware.
  • Jake Lockley responded: You’re only half right. The reality is Apple makes computers for people who don’t need computers. So what they want is something dumbed down, with a keyboard. Computers and full blown operating systems are too much for them. If Apple made a laptop that had iOS they would serve their market just as well.
  • oink responded: What you’re looking for is the: Asus EEE Pad Transformer
  • Scott G. Lewis responded: ??? Are you sure you used Google Image search? Only 1 picture of the first 20 showed a keyboard case. And only two more in the next 20. There are times I travel without my MB Air, but there are never times I travel without my iPad. If I do take a trip without the laptop, I’ll throw a small portable bluetooth keyboard in, in case I need to do long form typing.
  • Darryl responded: The lack of a physical keyboard is perhaps the biggest factor distinguishing the iPad from a conventional laptop and why it’s difficult for most people to think of the iPad, and most tablets for that matter, as full-fledged computers for doing work.
  • Aladdin responded: that’s what windows 8 is going to be able to do
  • Kevin responded: This post makes sense, but it shouldn’t knock the iPad too much. I am not a fanboy..I use Windows and OS X quite interchangeably, but I do have an iPad and and iPhone. I only use my iPad for media consumption (reading news, watching videos) and that’s it. In fact, I don’t even use email much on my iPad (my iPhone is much easier to hold and type). For the big things, my trusty 15” MBP still comes along. iPad’s are for specific people for fairly “specific” set of tasks.
  • flemingsean (Twitter) responded: This is a great summary of how I feel about the iPad too. I know lots of people who love them, but between my smartphone and my MacBook there really isn’t an iPad-shaped hole in my life. The one person in my family who gets the most use out of my iPad is my youngest son, who likes to play games on it. But as over-sized, under-featured games consoles go I don’t think there’s much of a niche for the iPad there either.
  • Russell responded: “Ideally, what I would like (and I think most people would like) is something of the form factor of a MacBook Air (thin and light), that has a detachable touch-screen that can run apps written for iOS or Android, and when the screen is connected to the main body, acts like a fully-functioning laptop.” You just described a Transformer Prime. I have one, and it’s awesome. With the dock attached it turns into a super-light touch-screen laptop with a battery that lasts all day.
  • Jools responded: Dude, it’s finally here. The Windows Surface Tablet.