I have been doing some off-and-on research for a while now on netbooks, with the idea of getting one to run Linux on as a home computer. The search has been getting more serious lately. While varying back and forth on different options, I’m currently leaning toward an Acer, running Debian with Xfce.
A pair of articles (as well as Matt Gemmell’s iPad photos+posts on Flickr) floated into view the past few days that have added some wrinkles, specifically an iPad-shaped wrinkle.
iPad vs. Netbook
The first, from LinuxCommand.org, “Will The iPad Kill The Netbook? “
Ever since Apple announced the iPad, there have been countless stories in the press about the iPad’s effect on the netbook market. I’m a big fan of netbooks and I agree that the netbook market is in trouble but it’s not because of the iPad.
The author, William Shotts Jr, goes on to discuss how Microsoft has been systematically attacking netbooks thanks to its Linux threat. Which is intriguing, but of more interest to me is the notion of the iPad as netbook replacement. Shotts shoots down this idea:
[...] the iPad should not be directly competitive with netbooks at the conceptual level. In many ways the iPad is a remarkable device for content consumption. Unlike a Windows computer, it requires virtually no system administration. This makes the device a perfect “television of the future” where one just uses it to passively consume content. However, its lack of a real keyboard and limited connectivity options makes it a poor choice as a portable Internet interaction device; a role that the netbook hardware platform excels in.
Replace “portable Internet interaction device” with “portable word processor and coding device” and that describes my needs. I’m an excellent typist, fast and pretty darn accurate (depending on my caffeine intake ;) which makes typing-related activities a strength for me — I’m afraid I’d lose that advantage with the iPad’s virtual keyboard, no matter how “magical” it is.
(See also the TechNewsDaily article that Shotts links to, “Is the iPad Killing Netbooks?”)
Reading is Fundamental
Next is this from The Guardian UK, “Apple iPad: will it lead a reading revolution?”, which looks at the device from the perspective of another favorite activity of mine—reading. Or more accurately, from that of writers and publishers: in fact, written by someone in the publishing industry who doesn’t quite get what’s going on. (See the comments for more on that.)
There’s no denying the attraction of an ebook reader, if for no other reason than being able to carry around the collected works of, well, pretty much everybody in your messenger bag. However, I’m content with the analog versions most days, and usually limit myself to reading two or three books simultaneously. ;)
Still, I found myself browsing the iPad Guided Tours videos on apple.com yesterday, considering the idea of eschewing a netbook and going for an iPad. It was very, very tempting.
Then I saw the “from $499″ price tag and came back to Earth.
It’s $499 for a 16GB WiFi-only model. $599 gets you 32GB, $699 = 64GB.
If you want WiFi and 3G, it’ll set you back $629, $729, or $829 dollars.
I can get an Acer Aspire One netbook with an Intel Atom N280, 1GB RAM, 250GB hard drive, 10.1″ display with Bluetooth and a six-cell for $340. If I don’t mind going down to a 160GB disk, the price drops to $299. (If I browsed around some more, I bet I could find an even better deal.)
I can’t even buy the lowest-end iPad for that. And how many years from now would I have to replace the iPad?
Magical Mystery Tour
Don’t get me wrong—the iPad is a gorgeous, ingenious device. I’ve had a chance to play around with one. It is tempting, and for some people makes a ton of sense, especially when compared to a full-sized, few-1000-dollar laptop. Apple has already made a metric crapload of money from iPad sales—hell, they just passed Microsoft in terms of market cap value.
As a decades-long Apple user and evangelist, I never thought I’d consider buying a machine that wasn’t a Mac (or whatever Apple put on it), much less one that came with Windows installed.
Yet for my needs—a word processor/coding/browsing/email/music machine with an actual keyboard—Apple won’t be adding my dough to the pile this time. And Linux will get another full-time user.