Tech: laptop vs. tablet vs. smartphone

By Jacob Rasch

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Take a really cool laptop computer, like an HP TouchSmart Pro.  Now, remove the keyboard, mouse, USB ports and 50 GB hard drive.  Voilà!  You have a tablet computer.

The success of Apple's iPad has caused a recent increase in tablet sales. But while these devices are cool, they're not as functional as a laptop and not as portable as a smartphone. Photo courtesy

The Apple iPad is not the first time a company has tried to market a Tablet PC.  Microsoft first debuted a keyboardless PC with a touchscreen in 2001.  It was a miserable failure – and for good reason.  The product, while slightly smaller than a laptop, was not nearly as powerful, had very little memory and was not portable enough to take with you wherever you went.

Why has the iPad succeeded where other devices have failed?  Part of the answer lies in the Cult of Mac — the idea that people will line up to buy anything if it has an Apple logo on it.  Apple marketed the iPad as a product more powerful than your smartphone but more portable than your laptop.  And the American public bought the hype, buying over 13 million iPads in the last year alone, according to Apple’s most recent quarterly reports.

If this device really were the perfect combination of functionality and portability, then I would be on board.  But I’m not.

One major problem is the iPad’s limited compatibility with many of the Internet’s features.  Because Steve Jobs doesn’t believe that Flash videos will exist five years from now, he refuses to make the iPad Flash-compatible.  The problem is that Flash is an integral part of watching videos on the internet.

Another problem with the iPad is the App Store.  On a laptop, third party applications can be downloaded from anywhere, allowing a diverse variety of applications to reach consumers.  But on the iPad, the only way to get applications is to download them off Apple’s App Store. This keeps the iPad from having any of the versatility or customizability of a regular laptop.

In addition, the iPad may be smaller than a laptop, but it is not any more portable.  A truly portable device has to be able to fit in your pocket, so you can carry it anywhere.  An iPad is not nearly portable enough to be carried around with you, rendering it no more portable than a laptop.

All in all, the iPad may be a device whose time has come for many, but not for me.  In fact, people are “accessorizing” their iPad’s with external drives, USB ports and keyboards.  In my house, we have a name for those things: laptops.

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