No niche for iPad: A cautionary tale on ‘needing a purpose’ | ZDNet

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After almost two weeks with the latest iPad, I walked back to the Apple Store in Grand Central, New York and handed it back to the blue-blazoned staff hipster who greeted me at the top of the stairs.

“Was there something wrong with it? And, do you need a replacement? We can get you a replacement, no problem,” signaling to holler over a fellow colleague. But I declined.

“There’s nothing wrong with the tablet,” I said. “I suspect it’s actually a problem with me.”

Within the 14-day period in which Apple consumers are granted a stay of financial relief on their purchases, I returned my tablet not with a heavy heart but nonetheless with a feeling of disappointment in myself. It’s not that I didn’t like the iPad. The build quality was excellent, the software functionality was superb, and there was nothing but the highest of intent for burgeoning productivity potential.

It was that I simply didn’t need one. And not just an iPad, a test case as it turns out, but any tablet for that matter.

Cue the back story.

I fell into the Apple ecosystem. At first, anyway. But I don’t think of myself as an Apple user. I am the kind of person who will use whatever tools that are necessary for the job in hand. It just so happens that I’ve become accustomed to the way these devices work together, just as other same-brand ecosystem devices do.

Almost two years ago I bought a MacBook Air. Still to this day, it has become a crucial, necessary, ultra-portable laptop that has, granted with its occasional failings, has served me well. The battery life is acceptable, so long as certain conditions are met, but in spite of the likely unique gripes rather than hindrances, it’s a fine piece of kit.

But above all else, OS X was the driving force for change. Gone are the days where apps weren’t available. That’s the cloud’s business now. And thanks to the App Store, many previously unavailable apps have migrated to the Mac.

Pleased with the design and the quality, but above all else the OS X operating system that had become so simple to use yet powerful by design, I ripped out the cords on my desktop machine — that whizzed and whirred in the corner of my home office with a subtle yet constant background-fading drone — and I replaced it with a Mac mini.

It was all too easy. I looked for a catch, but there wasn’t one.

A staunch Windows user for my adolescent and early adult life, there should’ve been a level of discomfort and disconcertedness. But there wasn’t. With fond memories of blue screens and translucent windows, I began to prefer a sense of simplicity

The last step was my eventual move to the iPhone, albeit for a second time. The first was not the best of experiences but as a result of my confidence in the Apple ecosystem, I thought it was at least worth another try. And it was worth it.

We can tick off the MacBook Air, the Mac mini — and all the peripherals to really go all-in — and the iPhone. (In between, I’d also bought an Apple TV, but it just makes sense when you’re downloading TV and movies). The next logical step, surely, was to get an iPad.

With glee and excitement, I picked it up from the Grand Central store the following day on my way to work. I configured it, I synchronized my music, my pictures, apps and everything else.

And then I went back to work.

Not on my iPad, but my MacBook Air, which I take with me to work. I took my iPad home and it was sat there on my coffee table for three days until I picked it up again. It wasn’t that I was avoiding it, and I wanted to use it, but I didn’t have any particular reason to use it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the iPad. And, I suspect there is nothing particularly wrong or different with any other tablet. It simply doesn’t fit into my lifestyle.

My iPhone is my primary email communication device, plus my music. That sticks me firmly in the “prosumer” category. But because of my job, I require a keyboard. Granted, typing on the iPad is not the most difficult thing to do in the world, but it’s less natural than a keyboard. I’m automatically drawn to a keyboard.

That said, it’s a fine device but I have, as part of my one-brand ecosystem, other devices that at least for me are better suited for purpose.

Even for “play” and non-work reasons, there was nothing drawing me to it that I couldn’t already do on my ultra-portable iPhone, my keyboard-enabled yet still light and portable MacBook Air, or my work-personal life separating Mac mini that allows me to walk away from it at any point.

If I were a financier, a marketer, or an artist, a tablet may be perfect. But not for me.  And you know what? That’s OK. It’s my problem, and not the fault of the tablet.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I find myself increasingly confused. I want something small and light that will do the basic stuff I need to do when I don’t want to haul the big heavy laptop. Usually, that is a trip on which I will not need Photoshop. But nothing seems quite right. What to do?

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Categories: Computers, Software, Technology

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4 replies

  1. Glad you wrote this as I was listing towards adding an Ipad to my 2 Iphones, 2 MacBook Pros, 2 Mac desk tops and one iPod . Maybe I won’t but I saw some marvelous photo work …………then I would have to carry 3 .. i think we had this discussion already Marilyn.


    • I have a Kindle and I use it all the time for reading, listening to music, watching movies, audiobooks and other media. But it’s not a real “tablet.” It’s a book reader with benefits. I have wanted a tablet because they are so cute, but hesitated realizing there’s nothing I can do on a tablet that I can’t do better on a computer or my Kindle. Tablets are really cool toys … but I don’t need one. What I *do *need is a light, compact highly portable computer, so that’s what I ordered. Ironically, no more expensive than and iPad and far more versatile. Like the author of this article, l have no use for a tablet. I have friends that love them and I’ve played with them. Great gadgets, but … for what?

      On Sat, May 25, 2013 at 10:19 PM, SERENDIPITY


  2. I ADORE my full-size iPad and my iPad mini. They have replaced laptops in my world, and there’s nothing like them for travel. The mini just squirrels away in my purse — as does the “big” iPad — and both just breeze thru Security. I have an iPhone but don’t like to do email on it. Oh, yeah — in the interest of full disclosure, I hereby admit to not only owning all these devices plus a 27-inch iMac, all of which have operated flawlessly for years, I also keep a two-liter jug of Apple KoolAid in the fridge, just in case the Jobs effect ever wears off. I’m a true believer. Yes, I am.


    • That’s really not the point. For me, there is simply nothing I can do on an iPad that I can’t do more easily on a device I already own. I loathe my iPhone, by the way. Really crappy sound quality and no damned keyboad. Oh how I miss our Blackberry phones. Garry hates his iPhone to the extent that he will only use it in an outright emergency. Why did we buy them? They were 99 cents on sale through AT&T and I figured how bad could they be? Bad. It has half the functionality of the Blackberry, old as it was, and NO DAMNED KEYBOARD. NEVER under-estimate the power of a keyboard.

      The iPad doesn’t have a keyboard either and it doesn’t have applications I need. I can’t use it to do anything I actually want to do. It wouldn’t even be useful to update or edit my website, so what’s the point? It would a waste of money.

      My Kindle Fire HD does a lot of stuff and I dearly love it, but it’s not a real computer. It’s a media center. It does what it does well, but I need things it doesn’t do. AND IT DOESN’T HAVE A DAMNED KEYBOARD.

      I have a huge HD 24″ all-in-one (looks like a Mac) Win7 desktop that, now since I found out what was wrong with it — old dying speaker system was arcing — is working great. I have a big, very powerful XPS Win7 laptop that will do everything I need to do except be small, light, and easy to carry. That’s because it has the world’s biggest battery. It will run close to 7 hours on its battery full throttle, longer if I let it run at less than peak, but I need a forklift to get it somewhere. It has a hi def screen, a full size keyboard, two versions of Photoshop, back lit keyboard and a blue-ray read-write DVD. And a buttload of power. I love it. It’s just very heavy.

      It cost me less than $1000 to buy. An equivalent Mac would cost me twice as much at least. I would not object to OWNING and USING a Mac. I object to buying one. I DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY WITH WHICH TO PAY FOR IT. I don’t get how come my friends don’t seem to be able to grasp the simple economic issue here: I’m broke. Poor. Fixed income. No money. Can’t afford it. It is humiliating to have to keep explaining I’m poor. Please. Knock it off. It just makes me feel bad.

      I know what I need: I need a Mac Air. I looked (again) and the price made my stomach lurch. No way.

      I hate Windows 8. I suspect Windows RT is worse. I suppose a Chromebook will be my ticket. It’s not my first choice, but it’s cheap and it will do 90% of what I need to do. The other 10%? I guess I’ll have to cope without it.

      On Fri, May 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM, SERENDIPITY


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