iPad vs laptop: today’s dull controversy

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POSTED: September 27, 2012

Two days ago ZDnet published an article by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes that claimed that “1 in 4 tablet owners say it is now their primary computer”. This was based upon an infographic drawn up and posted by OnlineClasses.org.

An excerpt from an infographic at OnlineClasses.org - who have since reorganised their site so I can't link to the actual page anymore!

The article in itself represents one small part of an interlocking set of dull controversies. These act as click-bait for the producers, and have contrived to turn Apple, Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft and more into faux-football-teams that we are encouraged to support, and support as fanatically we wish. The mere possibility that Apple might (or might not) release a 7″ tablet is now enough to fill hundreds of comment threads with “my team is better than yours” posts.

Almost the only thing still missing is brawling and chanting at trade fairs. “Android, Android, out out out!” That’s the kind of thing I’m waiting for.

I am mentioning this for two reasons. Firstly, the full infographic is a lot more interesting than the article itself, and is well worth checking out. At the bottom it includes citations for all the information on display so, whether you choose to believe each item, or accept the implied conclusions, you cannot easily dismiss it as hearsay or gossip. Secondly, there was one genuinely interesting point made in a comment at the bottom of the ZDNet article.

A poster called AudeKhatru wrote:

The iPad lesson is not that PCs are dead, the iPad lesson is….

Most users do not need the power of a PC for most of what they do.

That does not make PC useless or passe, or dead. It just means they sell fewer units.

This was in response to an argument advanced by previous posters who had claimed that a “tablet is a cool and fun device, but compared to a desktop PC, it is no more than a toy.” lloydkuhnle, for example, had written that “I would love to see a tablet analyze non linear microwave behavior, or simulate an MMIC oscillator design.”

AudeKhatru rightly noted that this is not what most people spend most of their time doing with desktop or laptop computers. For most people, most of the time, their computer is capable of doing much more than they need. This may not be true for scientists, financiers, programmers, designers, and many others who depend on large screens, multiple screens and intensive processing power; but the majority of computer users, at work or at home, are not scientists, financiers, programmers, or designers.

Tablets are not “killing” desktop or laptop computers. Their adoption is simply helping to make clear the different regions into which our digital lives can be divided, and helping to suggest what level of tool might be most appropriate for each region.