Should You Buy an iPad Instead of a MacBook?

The iPad has been notoriously labeled an oversized iPod Touch by countless skeptics, reviewers and even owners since its first day on the market. Despite its high success rate, I still encounter people daily who don’t even understand why the iPad exists or who it’s targeted toward.

Today we’ll discuss why the iPad is flying off shelves, who should consider getting one and why it beats a MacBook for many consumers.

For Apple Fanboys Only?

The first snide remark posited by skeptics is that the iPad only exists for the hopeless Apple fanboy types with too much money on their hands. These legendary and resourceful individuals own every iPod ever made and couldn’t wait to add a shiny new iPad to their collection of MacBooks and Mac Pros.


If Only Such A Button Existed

To be fair, this category does exist. I’m admittedly a complete Apple addict who drools over every new product launch even though I can’t actually afford to run out and grab it all on launch day (I’m still using a 2007 MacBook and a first generation iPod Touch!).

However, if you actually know a few typical Mac “power users” that already have a Mac Pro for home and a MacBook Pro for the road, you’ll notice that many of these people don’t even plan on buying an iPad in the near future.

The reason is that many professionals, such as graphic designers who live and breathe Photoshop, simply can’t use the iPad for much work activity and therefore are keen on sticking with the more powerful Apple products.

So if the primary target isn’t the professional who already owns ten grand in Apple equipment, who is the iPad for and how is this market different than the laptop market?

Why Not Just Get a MacBook?

Take a look at the specs on the latests MacBooks and MacBook Pros. 2-4GBs of RAM, hard drives with hundreds of gigs of storage, super fast processors; these are impressive machines.

This kind of power is absolutely necessary to run many of today’s popular Mac applications. The speed and versatility of Apple’s line of notebooks makes them perfect for college students and working professionals that spend a great deal of their day in front of a screen.

But what about everyone else? How many users out there do little more than browse the web (primarily Facebook) and check their email? Why does the typical person need Photoshop or even Microsoft Office? Your average soccer mom or manual labor worker isn’t exactly spending their Friday nights throwing PowerPoint parties.

The truth is, many people are drawn to the style and quality associated with Macs but really don’t need the $1,000+ machine that they end up with. This is especially true for people that already own a desktop computer and just want something to take with them on the road.

What Can the iPad Do?

If you’re not convinced, think about your parents or even your grandparents. What do they do on their computers that the iPad can’t accomplish just as well or better?

The iPad can browse the web (Flash excluded) and even provides a richer, more pleasant experience than a desktop computer in this arena. You can use Facebook and Twitter, send and receive email, plan your day, organize your contacts, play games, watch movies, create documents, read books, and do a million other things. In the near future this functionality is likely to extend to include photo/video creation and editing.


The iPad is amazing for web content

The relevant question becomes not what the iPad can do, but what can’t it do? The Internet has become the quintessential piece of our computing lives and when a $499 device provides it in such a beautiful format, I can’t help but wonder how many non-professional computer users need anything more.

For those that do need more, the App Store fills almost every gap imaginable, often without the need to spend a single cent. Want to keep a database of all your random daily information? Try Evernote. Want to access the files on your desktop? Grab Dropbox. Want to create a custom planet and rule over an entire race of beings? Check out GodFinger. All of these are completely free apps that come as a bonus to simply owning the device.

Closing Thoughts

Though I would love to be able to end this post by saying that I can completely function on an iPad alone, it simply isn’t true. Even for structuring simple blog posts I often take web screenshots and then crop/resize/edit them in Photoshop, a task that could probably be done on an iPad but not in the seconds it takes me to do it on my laptop.

Further, as a designer and photographer, there are simply way too many processor and hard drive intensive tasks that I do on a daily basis to work from an iPad. However, Apple isn’t targeting me with the iPad, but rather everyone else. Interestingly enough, while many scratch their heads and wonder what niche of consumers the iPad satisfies, I can’t help but wonder if everything else will one day become the niche.

Designers, photographers, videographers, musicians, these are niches that need powerful workhorse machines. The iPad may not perfectly suit the needs for anyone of these categories, but perhaps it’s the perfect device for everyone else. Maybe the recent history of making computers faster and stronger will give way to an era of devices that are convenient, practical, fun and perhaps even a little “magical.”

Leave a comment below and tell us how many people you can think of in your own life that don’t really do much beyond browsing the web on their computers. Do you think the iPad would be a better solution for these consumers? Why or why not?