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iPad or MacBook Air: Tool for post-PC generation


Is the iPad a PC replacement? I’ve been arguing this back and forth for the past year at least. The iPad (but only with an external keyboard) is a productivity tool. And, yes, in many respects it can replace a MacBook.

Valiant efforts have been made, but I continually come back to the snag that an iPad plus keyboard can weigh as much as an 11in MacBook Air and is only an inch or two shorter. Why have second best when the Air is so convenient?

Harry McCracken, writing for TIME’s Techland column, is one man who has lived for a year with the iPad as his only portable computer. He’s a convert, and joins Andy Ihnatko as one of the charter members of the “post-PC generation.” In December he gave us an account of how the iPad 2 became his favourite computer. Now he is bringing us up to date:

Back when I started, the notion that an iPad could largely replace a conventional computer was, um, a tad unusual. Some of the people who read my story, in fact, seemed to maintain that it was impossible, or at least that I was a moron for doing so. As one commenter put it: “This article is irresponsible. The iPad 2 is still an accessory to your REAL computer. To say that an iPad can replace your primary computing device is misleading and false.”

The five main benefits of the iPad, he says, are battery life, simplicity, general robustness, embedded internet and portability. No one could argue with this, particularly with the advantages of having an in-device SIM card.

Indeed, this is the one area where the MacBook Air falls down. For me, though, I have no problem in connecting my iPhone by cable and switching on the Hotspot feature. The computer even charges the phone while I am working.

It is too early for me to follow Harry’s lead and spend a whole year with the iPad. For one thing, posting items to this site is tedious on the iPad. In particular, selecting, manipulating the uploading photographs very difficult and often impossible.

These minor problems will be overcome, probably sooner than later, and I can see many more people following Harry’s and Andy’s lead into the post-PC generation.

But back to basics, as they stand at the moment: An iPad and custom keyboard such as those from Zagg or Logitech, is only marginally smaller and lighter than the smallest MacBook Air. If you factor in Apple’s wireless keyboard instead of a keyboard built in to the cover, the advantage moves decidedly towards the Air.

Lack of internet connectivity and a shorter battery life I can live with if it means better productivity. It’s horses for courses, though, and things are moving in the direction of tablets without a doubt.