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When will the iPad replace laptops?

December 22, 2013

There’s a very interesting thread at the Mac Rumors forum that delves into the issue of the iPad possibly replacing laptops. As you might imagine there’s a lot of passion on both sides of the issue.

Obviously the laptop market will never go away, but my question is more asking, when do you think an iPad will be just as good as a laptop.

Personally, I’d say about 2 more generations. Right now, I own an iPad 3, and I mostly use it instead of my laptop, but when those college papers need writing, I spend my time on that. This semester I had to make videos, write 10+ page papers, and download files and share them with other users. The iPad just can’t handle all of that right now, and yes there are workarounds, but I’d personally prefer doing it all on a PC.

Read More at Mac Rumors Forum

I have an iPad Air and a 13-inch Macbook Pro. I love using both devices, but replacing the Macbook Pro with the iPad Air just isn’t practical for me at this point. I can do quite a lot of things with the iPad Air, but some functionality I need just isn’t in iOS yet.

Here are some of the common problems I’ve noticed with using the iPad as a replacement for a laptop.

Safari Tab Reload Problem
One thing that is a real problem with iOS 7 is how Safari seems to frequently reload tabs. This makes it almost impossible to copy and paste links or content excerpts from one tab to another, which means I can’t use it for work purposes since I do a lot of blogging.

I believe that Apple has tried to address this in a recent patch for iOS 7, and it may have helped. But I still don’t feel that it’s practical to use Safari on the iPad Air for work as I can never be sure about the tabs reloading when I’m in the middle of blogging something.

Hopefully this is a minor issue that will go away entirely over time.

Lack of Safari Extensions
Speaking of Safari, one thing I hate about using it in iOS is the complete lack of plugins for it. For example, I detest seeing all of the stupid social media buttons on most sites. So I run Safari plugins in OS X that block them from loading at all, it makes for a much better web experience.

But plugins are not available for Safari for iOS at all, so I’m forced to see the “like this” and “tweet this” buttons everywhere while using Safari. I’m sure that there are many other useful plugins that other people miss while trying to use Safari on iOS.

The bottom line here is that Apple really needs to add the ability to run plugins so that those of us who wish to can extend Safari’s functionality to meet our needs and preferences while browsing.

No Multitasking and Multiple App Windows
Another commonly cited problem in the thread is the lack of multitasking in iOS. This can be a real problem if you need to use multiple applications simultaneously. This might be improved in future versions of iOS though, but for now it’s definitely a problem for some folks who need it.

It’s also difficult to have to keep flipping back and forth between apps when you are trying to do something. The ability to access multiple application windows at the same time is a huge time saver that you really notice while using the iPad for work.

Access to the File System
Most people probably don’t need access to the iPad’s file system, but some of us definitely do. It’s something that one takes for granted on a laptop, and it is sorely missed at times while using iOS on the iPad Air.

I cannot see Apple adding this unless they decide that it is really necessary to help spur sales of the iPad in corporate America. Most casual users could probably care less about it, and adding access to the file system might confuse or otherwise complicate things for them.

But if the iPad is really going to replace a laptop, then I think file system access must eventually be available to users in iOS.

iWork Versus Microsoft Office
This is not a problem for me, since I don’t really need either office suite. But some folks definitely need iWork to be a more robust alternative to Microsoft Office.

I believe that this will come over time as Apple continues to improve iWork, but it just isn’t there yet for some users who might be interested in ditching their laptops in favor of an iPad.

A Bluetooth Keyboard Helps
If you are interested in replacing your laptop with an iPad, you should definitely consider getting a bluetooth keyboard. The Logitech Ultrathin Folio Keyboard for the iPad Air definitely helps when you need to do a lot of typing on your iPad. It’s much faster than trying to use the on-screen keyboard.

I use it mostly for journaling in the Day One app on my iPad Air, but the keyboard could also be used for work related purposes to make the iPad more conducive for productivity. There are some helpful iOS function keys on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio that will cut down on the need to keep touching the iPad’s screen.

The iPad and the Macbook Pro Both Have Their Place
I think it is still too early in the iPad’s history to answer the question of whether it will ever be able to replace laptops. For some people the answer is already yes, but for others it’s a definite no.

The iPad has evolved significantly from its first release, and it’s to be expected that that will continue on as the product matures. Apple is always tweaking and improving its products, so I expect that five years from now the iPad will offer much more than it does right now.

For the time being, however, I am firmly in the camp that believes the iPad and the laptop are two different tools and that each serves different needs. When I want to journal casually or consume content, I reach for the iPad. When I need to do some work, I reach for the Macbook Pro.

Maybe this will change someday, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate future.

What’s keeping you from replacing your laptop with the iPad? Or have you already done it? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below. 


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3 Responses to When will the iPad replace laptops?

  1. Brian Masinick on January 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I’d say for the most casual type of user, the tablet gets it done today. Where it does “fail” is the lack of consistent media production that can be read from any tablet. Many sites today still do Flash or some other “attached” style, requiring a plug in or even another application. Not all tablets can handle that.

    Have Web-based features that can handle media with integrated features (NOT Flash) and the tablet market will be home for 90% of the public. The remaining 10% will either stick with what they have, or they are technically oriented and want to use multiple technologies. I’m guessing that 60-70% of people can probably just go with a tablet right now.

    Since I bought my mom a B&N Nook HD, she rarely has to ask me for help using the system. Once in a great while when there is some media-based Email she gets, I tell her we should view it on the laptop, then I fire up the antiX Base setup I made for her; I made sure to put Flash on it, and it handles whatever she needs.

    I thought a tablet would be easier for her than a laptop; she tends to “impale” her fingers on the mouse and the keys on a desktop or laptop system. I taught her to use a lighter touch; she still seems to struggle with that on key-based equipment, (probably dating back to her use of typewriters in the sixties and seventies), but she seems to be “getting” the way the tablet works pretty nicely.

    I think she’s pretty typical of a large percentage of people, who just want to write a note to a friend, see a picture of their children or grandchildren, find out about a meeting or a show they want to attend, look for a movie, or read the news. Yeah, people do a lot of other things, but these things probably affect at least 75% of the general population. The remaining 25% probably do these things too, if they use electronic communication at all. The number and percentage of those who do no electronic communication, at least in the US, I suspect is under 5%. It’s not impossible to do without electronic communication, but if you don’t use it, you are at a disadvantage in many things, so that percentage continues to dwindle.

    • Jim Lynch on January 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Yeah, I got my mom an iPad and she more or less dumped her laptop for it. It’s very comfortable for her to hold and use. She doesn’t do a lot of writing, so she doesn’t really need a physical keyboard. It’s web browsing, apps, books and that sort of stuff for most of her usage.

      It gets harder though if you need to run multiple apps at the same time. You really need Linux, OS X or Windows for that. None of the mobile operating systems really cut it right now for serious work loads, even if you use a physical keyboard with the tablet.

  2. mike on December 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    It’s called Surface, and it’s lovely.

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