Top ten reasons the iPad is not a laptop killer

Walt Mossberg’s review in the Wall Street Journal was headlined “Laptop Killer? Pretty Close.”  Here are ten reasons the iPad is very wide of that mark. 

  1.  No built-in printing.  I realize this is also a feature of the iPhone, but without easy printing the iPad will never compete in the notebook market – especially the business market.
  2. Still no Flash.  I’m sorry, but Adobe’s Flash plugin for web browsers is required, not optional. Without Flash a significant chunk of the web becomes useless.  Flash is widely used on travel destination, fashion, and other web sites that have limited content and don’t require frequent updating. “Flash is really good at selling a small variety of something based on emotional appeal – less than a dozen choices based on beautiful scenery, blending music and motion, etc. Niches that are monetized by this type of marketing tend to use flash a lot.”[1]
  3. No USB or SD ports.  Come on, what was Steve thinking?  (I know, WiFi will take care of it – except when there’s no hotspot nearby.)  And there’s only one Apple port. (There is also a microphone port and a built-in speaker.) My lovely wife Norma predicts a huge market in iPad docks that will connect to the Apple port and provide USB and other connectivity.  In fact, Apple will sell you a dock for $29.  The dock can be used for charging.  It also includes an audio-out jack for external speakers.  But what about USB?  From the description on the Apple website: “The iPad Dock also supports other iPad accessories, such as the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter and the iPad Camera Connection Kit.“ Essentially the Apple dock gives you (a) a stand for the iPad, (b) a charging station, and (c) another Apple port. The  “camera connection kit” sells for $29, including … USB.
  4. No Windows or Microsoft Office compatibility. That’s a choice Apple made when they used the iPhone platform instead of the Mac OS.  How long before we’ll see Parallels and/or VMware Fusionfor the iPad?  Apple offers a $30 version of iWork for the iPad. iWork includes a word processor (Pages), a spreadsheet (Numbers), and presentation software (Keynote).  I use iWork on my MacBook and it’s pretty good. However, Apple has lobotomized the product in the iPad version by removing most Microsoft Office compatibility.  All three iPad products can import Office files.  But only iPad Pages can export to Word format. Walt Mossberg notes that, “However, only the word processor exports to Microsoft’s formats, and not always accurately. In one case, the exported Word file had misaligned text. When I then tried exporting the document as a PDF file, it was unreadable.”
  5. A new battery for $107?  And a week turnaround?  The price is too high and there’s too much downtime.  For businesses, the downtime is probably the most important.
  6. No multi-tasking until this fall. Version 4 of the iPhone/iPad OS will include multi-tasking of some flavor.  Prediction based on past experience: Apple will allow its apps to multi-task, but block third-party apps from that space.  Business thrives on interruptions.  Without clear, clean multi-tasking, the iPad makes a nice doorstop.
  7. Brain-dead e-mail handling.  The iPad e-mail client “lacks the ability to create local folders or rules for auto-sorting messages, and it doesn’t allow group addressing.”  Of those three, I rate the inability to create local directories the worst flaw.  E-mail without organization is not communication.  It’s more akin to a pile of Post-It® notes.  Again, a fix for this is promised in iPhone/iPad OS 4.x.  Believe it when you see it.
  8. No bundled external keyboard.  I’ve spent way too many hours typing on virtual keyboards from the iPhone to various HTC mobile products.  Without exception, the experience is terrible.  Virtual keyboards that give no tactile feedback are not touch-typing friendly.  There are undoubtedly third-party infrared keyboards available right now.  Some of them (the good ones) will include a USB port for a mouse.  A few will probably try to bundle the mouse with the keyboard.  A very few will realize that integrating this setup with an iPad dock makes quite a bit of sense.  Apple sells a separate iPad keyboard – dock combination for $69.  They also sell the standard Mac wireless keyboard for $69. From what I’ve read it works fine with the iPad.
  9. Price.  The list price for the lowest-powered iPad (16 gb, no 3G) is $499.  For that price I can buy aLenovo S10-3t Tablet (065137U) that runs Windows 7 and includes most of the items missing from the iPad.  (The Lenovo was for sale on the Fry’s web site April 11, 2010.)
  10. Nickels and dimes.  $29 here, $69 there and eventually you’ll have a usable computer.  There’s an inescapable feeling of being nickel and dimed.  Apple has a reputation for producing high-quality, high-priced, full-featured products.  The iPad flunks the last category.


[1] and scroll to the bottom of the discussion.  The last post is virtually the only one with actual information.   Accessed April 11, 2010.

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About Tony Lima

Tony Lima has been working with technology, economic modeling, forecasting, and market research for 40 years. His background makes him uniquely qualified to navigate this varied landscape. Begin with his education: B.S. in chemical engineering from M.I.T. , M.B.A. from Harvard, Ph.D. in economics from Stanford. His day job was professor of economics at California State University, East Bay. He retired in 2016 to devote his time to consulting and writing. But he has found time to: write (eight books and over 100 articles ranging from wine economics to detailed analyses of meta-language code generators) consult with companies ranging from Microsoft to CEDEX keep his expertise up-to-date, constantly reading and sorting through the avalanche of information available daily maintain three blogs: Wine Research, Wine Economics, and Economic Policy Local policy analysis: Los Altos

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