Why a motor-bike isn't a truck: the iPad / PC question
News that Apple became the world's leader maker of personal computers has caused a lot of hand wringing in tech pundit circles. See Apple only holds the top spot if you count the iPad in with the more traditional laptops and desktops. The iPad, it seems, isn't fit to be a computer.
Which is fine. I don't particularly care about meaningless metrics, and clearly neither does Apple. They don't focus on market share, they focus on making money and nobody is doing that better than them at the moment. The title of world's biggest PC maker is less interesting to them than filling a giant Scrooge McDuck vault with their money and swimming around in it.
What surprises me is that we're still having this debate at all. I would have thought by now that all but the most luddite of people knew what the iPad was, and that we were all comfortable with what it does. Yet it's not the average person on the street who can't seem to wrap their heads around it, it's the supposidly well informed tech journalism industry.
Is an iPad a PC? Is the existence of the iPad going to kill the PC and thus end civilization as we know it?
These debates are based on two mistaken beliefs:
- the iPad is only a media consumption device
- the iPad is meant a computer substitute.
Let's deal with the first one really quick. Damon Albarn created a Gorillaz album on the iPad. A popular band with the resources of a recording studio instead focused on using the iPad. If that doesn't debunk the notion that the iPad is just for watching movies and reading comic books then please stop reading here, since facts clearly mean nothing to you.
The second doesn't even seem like it should be an issue. The biggest fan of the iPad, indeed Apple themselves, are not saying that the iPad is meant to be the only computer that most people own. Indeed until recently you couldn't use an iPad at all until you first plugged it into your computer and had it connect to iTunes. It's not a zero sum game, the iPad isn't meant to kill computers.
Do other industries deal with this level of nonsense? Do car reporters get to write impassioned blog posts like "Why the Mini Cooper will never be an F-150 Pickup!"? Was there a point in time where everyone who made moving vans worried that motor-bikes were going to put them out of business?
I grew up in a town with a Western Star plant and I'm pretty sure the plant didn't close down because all of a sudden Vespas became cool again. Sure they closed down, but not because of Vespas.
The iPad is a great computer for a lot of things. I'm about to go on a two week trip and I'm not planning on taking my MacBook which will be the longest I've been without my computer for years. There are things that I do on my MacBook that I can't do on my iPad, and I accept that.
Some people can live just owning a motor-bike. Bikes are cheaper, faster and let you join gangs easier. But lots of people own both a motor-bike and a car or truck. Some people are going to own iPads and that will be all they need. Others will find they want to own both, while others will just want a traditional computer.
I've owned laptops since university, but for the first time now I'm considering buying an iMac for my next computer and just using an iPad for my mobile needs. I'm not ready for the iPad to be my only computer, but I don't live in a world where it needs to be.