Jeremy Johnson — Dallas Area UX & CX Leader
customer experience leader


I almost bought a TouchPad, then got a MacBook Air instead

I almost bought a TouchPad, then got a MacBook Air instead Two weeks ago HP dropped their TouchPad by $100, Staples had a coupon for an extra $100 off that. A 16GB Tablet for $299. Sounds like a pretty good deal… The next cheapest option would be to get a Nook for $249 - but I really like WebOS. I like the attention to the design details, the gestures, the notifications - I could go on. But in the end, and as the events of this weekend showed - only when at the bargain price of $99 does it beat out the iPad in buzz and sales for a short time before its demise. There's not only the cost, or the details, but what I wanted the TouchPad for. Yes, I'm a gadget geek, and yes, I like to tryout new things, and I also believe in consuming as much as I can online and off to inform my own designs. But, I wanted the TouchPad to be my productivity machine. See my iPad has been commandeered by my 7 year old as a gaming console, and TV. There are also opportunities for educational uses: math, spelling, BrainPop - but overall it's a consumption device. And that's how I use it as well - games, movies, reading, surfing - occasionally email, etc… but never any real production. Not that it's not capable of doing so - professional records, novels, websites, presentations - all can and have been produced on an iPad, but for me it's just not natural yet.

So it depends on what you want to use this device for.

Gruber recently posted about Seth Clifford's experience buying an Android tablet:

Case in point: when I went to Staples, I asked the sales guy for the 10.1 and the first thing he said was "What are you buying it for?" When I replied, "development", he said "Ok, because this thing isn't going to replace a laptop for you". No problem, I assured him, we're app devs, and we know what we're doing.

Then, the manager came over to verify the coupon I had and asked the same question again. Again I replied "development" and he asked "Of what?" rather indignantly.

"Uh, Android apps?" I replied incredulously.

"Oh, ok, because we're selling a lot of these things, and we get a LOT of them back. People buy them thinking they're getting rid of a laptop, and they all come back returning them."

And I agree, most people think a tablet will be a laptop replacement, or something that will increase their productivity, it won't. Or it won't for most people. There are just certain tasks that are more difficult - typing without a keyboard (not that you can't add one) - getting files from one place to another, managing your photos, multitasking (when needed), etc… If there is not an app specifically for what you're doing, it's probably not going to increase your efficiency.

Then why is the iPad selling like gangbusters? Because of what it does well, and how it fits so well in the entire Apple ecosystem. I love buying universal apps - where I get the benefit of purchasing once, and getting it across multiple devices. It does the reading and viewing all types of media well - and if you've experienced an iPhone, you know what you're getting. I think it's a wonderful entertainment device, that can help with work in a pinch.

I also like iPad's interaction model with it's focus, and I like that Apple is bringing that full screen, single-app-at-a-time focus to OSX with Lion. Is Apple purposely helping our distracted minds focus on one task at a time? Or are they just taking an interface that seems to work with millions (the iPad), and moving it to the desktop to get people to move up from an iPad at some point? I'd like to think this is Apple's genius design - helping us get back some focus in our work - removing the distractions - which has been so popular as of late (IA Writer for example).

That brings me to the MacBook Air. I wanted something portable like a tablet, but used not for entertainment, but to create. And in my opinion nothing can beat a Mac for this - no matter how small. And small it is, the 11inch MacBook Air is small, light, powerful, quiet, instant, and besides the whole "it's a laptop" thing, it's great for portable, anywhere creating. And that's what I'm looking for in the end: portable, quick, anywhere creating.

Lion really helps with this, with just my limited experience, it works well with smaller screen devices, again provides that focus, and has a tablet OR desktop feeling, that's actually pretty nice.

So while I may of flirted with a TouchPad, and had extensive time in with an iPad - I'll see if this MacBook Air increases my productivity. Like most purchases, we're looking for something to entertain, show status, or increase our productivity in life - this purchase was about productivity. Let's see what the iPad 3 has, and then I'll check back.

Anyone using an iPad exclusively? Can it/did it replace a desktop/laptop?