'iPad as netbook-killer' concept ignites controversy

The reaction to Apple's announcement of the iPad on Wednesday has been both passionate and mixed. Many have shrugged at what appears to be a big iPod Touch they can't easily carry around. "I'd get better value in buying an iPod Touch and a magnifying glass," says Kory Salsbury, a tech support specialist at Web publisher IDG. Others, including Gene Munster of the Piper Jaffray investment bank and myself, see it as the first step toward a platform that makes netbooks and low-cost PCs obsolete in favor of a tablet that does both entertainment and basic business apps without all the baggage of a PC or Mac.

The suggestion that the iPad could displace the netbook has triggered a firestorm of criticism, as well as some passionate support.

[ Read the article that sparked the controversy over the iPad's potential to displace the netbook. | And read an equally impassioned takedown of the iPad by Windows expert and netbook fan Randall C. Kennedy. ]

Arguments against the iPad becoming a netbook replacement

"This is not a game-changing device -- not even close. It is a proprietary drug fix. A pure luxury play and will cater to the fools who buy into the Apple mantra," writes "zman58."

"It's simple. No [Adobe] Flash, no netbook-killer. The iPhone has managed to limp along without Flash support because it's a phone," writes "tobyfarley."

"If I'm going to carry something, I want it to do more than be a bigger iPod. This thing is the 'man bag' of tech. It will be just as popular," writes "bsjy."

"Spoken like a true Apple fanboy. ... Try to enter a bunch of data with a virtual keyboard and you will quickly go nuts. If you have to lug around a keyboard, you might as well carry a laptop," writes "saprinter."

"This view is just so off the wall, I had to read it a few times. Did we watch the same presentation? ... Comparing this to the latest Windows 7 netbook I picked up over the holidays (my third), I was just stunned at the missing functionality. No Web camera, no USB?!? No way to expand the memory (oh wait, it's Apple: You just buy the next year's model). My netbook has every app I use on my main PC. ... [The] device is interesting, the price is attractive, but [it] totally lacks any functionality to replace any of my current gear. Maybe next year," writes "MobileAdmin."

"The iPad is certainly no more convenient to carry than a netbook and sure doesn't offer the features that I need in a portable computing appliance. If I want a media player, I'll use a phone or dedicated player. I simply can't see pulling out an iPad and doing any serious work on it without a separate stand and keyboard. (And I mean serious work, like writing several pages of a report, not taking notes in a meeting or using it to view reference PDFs on a site.) The iPad will have its place, especially as a mobile extension of a laptop or desktop PC, but completely replacing netbooks and lightweight laptops? I doubt it," writes "Excalibur73."

"Personally I think it is going to be one of the biggest failures of the past 10 years. I just don't see any reason for people to want one. It seems like it's a giant smartphone. So what's the point? If you want to carry around a mini-computer/MP3 player/camera/phone, you'll carry your smartphone. Why would you want to pack the iBrick around with you also? " writes "thebiggere."

"The iPad may sell as a personal technology mobile device. But for business use, if I was going to spend money on anything bigger than a BlackBerry and smaller than a normal laptop, it would have to be a netbook running Windows. This is the only way to connect to the corporate network and run "remote desktop" either to a desktop PC or a terminal server in order to do real work," wrtes "davep."

"Let's face it, this new device is a jumbo iPhone with a much better screen. It will still be crippled with an AT&T connection, still won't be able to run Windows apps (you know, the programs that we run to make a living?), and has very little storage space. A netbook that can run Windows programs, can connect to any carrier that is has a good signal in your area, and has 10 times as much storage can be had for less than $299, today. Now when such a device runs Windows programs and connects to Verizon, I'll take a closer look because the technology appears to be terrific," writes "Wired-Guy."

"The iPad got the concept right about the activities; however it failed the hardware needs to support these activities such as video, movies, music, apps, etc. You need a large hard drive space for such activities -- I can't save all this on a 64GB flash drive. Until the iPad increases it storage up to 100+GB and incorporates a USB port, there is no reason why I should switch from my iPod Touch. That is why netbook will still survive," writes "reveler525."

"The iPad won't replace the netbook -- me-too tablets will. [But] it will drive innovation based on other OSes, and the winner will be the one that integrates best with smartphone, PC, and lifestyle. Personally, I am looking forward to getting my hands on one of these -- and the attachable keyboard, of course," writes "Buckminster."

[ Stay up on tech news and reviews from your smartphone at infoworldmobile.com. | Get the best iPhone apps for pros with our business iPhone apps finder. | See which smartphone is right for you in our mobile "deathmatch" calculator. ]

"For the $629 cost of a functional iPad, one can get a Lenovo S-12 netbook with a full size keyboard, builtin camera, 320GB drive, 3GB of RAM, a 1280x960 10-inch display, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, RJ-45, and eight hours of battery life. This will run all of my production applications, including Photoshop, SPSS Statistics, Office, etc. There is little that the iPad offers in comparison, except the 'wonderful' virtual keyboard and some Apple eye candy, which seems to so enthrall Macthusiasts. The iPad will likely sell until reality sets in to those who bought it that it doesn't fill any meaningful niche. Once the excitement of showing people your new iPad wears off, it will become a $600 color Kindle, if that," writes "Geekfail."

Arguments for the iPad (eventually) becoming a netbook replacement

"I also think that the netbook category is now dead -- sorry, Acer and Asus -- and low- to middle-end laptops as well. While the battery life was good on a netbook, the keyboard was always too small. As for Chrome OS, for me, it was a nonstarter since we're in the age of ID theft, and having all of my data in the cloud is a little too risky for me. (Though IT security risks are part of my job concerns, so I may be a bit more sensitive to it than most.) ... I think Apple did make a mistake in omitting four things: one or two USB 3.0 ports, space to insert one or two SD cards, true support for 780p [video output resolution], and support for Bluetooth headset permitting cellular calling. Having the wireless keyboard as an option was a good idea because it instantly turns the iPad into a 'notebook,'" e-mails David Allingham, in Gatineau, Quebec. "One last thing: The design. Didn't we see the iPad in a couple of 'Star Trek, The Next Generation' episodes?"

"I agree that this type of device could easily replace netbooks. However, as for this specific one, I think there are two major drawbacks that will hurt widespread adoption: I don't think people will flock to a device where every application and most content needs to come from one provider, even if they're comfortable with Apple in general. (Personally, I think any attempt to block out Amazon is risky at best). And I think the lack of multitasking hurts it -- I want to listen to music while I browse or work on a document, and I want Outlook open in the background for e-mail. Either one of these objections is enough for me to wait for a different slate-format device, or just stick with my laptop," writes "DaveN."

"The one thing it's missing that would make me tether the MacBook is running Keynote presentations through a video projector. Other than that, it's got a lot of stuff that I can use during the work day. It's got more stuff than the iPhone, but it's not as bulky as the MacBook. I think I can find a place for it to make me more productive, without it having to do everything," writes "nwjh." (Editor's note: Apple will sell a cable that allows use of the iPad with a video projector.)

"The significance of the iPad is as a lifestyle device. It packages Web surfing, e-mail, calendaring and contacts, light work (iWork apps), movies, 'TV' shows, music, books, magazines, news 'papers,' and the like into the form of a Kindle. That is precisely why it will be a hit in business. Younger workers will flock to it in droves, because of the convenience and the non-geeky, non-Micro$lop interface. It will be a huge hit with sales people, instructors, trainers, and presenters. ... I've used a couple of netbooks, an Acer and a Dell. They were cheesy, cheap, slow, and flimsy. ... If you're an IT manager in a large company, you had better start planning your response to this device now, and it should be a receptive one. The CEO and the sales team will probably insist you get them on the network ASAP," writes "BurkPhoto."

Arguments that the two devices are likely to coexist

"While the iPad is an elegant tablet device, it lacks a great deal of functionality compared to an XP-based netbook like my Dell Mini 10. I see the two co-existing, because it truly is an Apple-vs.-oranges comparison," writes "idgregg."

"I have a netbook. I have a laptop. My netbook's most important features are its extreme light weight (therefore easy portability), its battery life, and that I can rather literally afford to accidentally break it and buy a new one for cheap (certainly less than the iPad). Neither a netbook nor iPad/tablet will suffice for my job given a constant need for PowerPoint work as these screens are too small. But I can see how the iPad and netbook each can serve different purposes and for some business people could well be useful -- especially the iPad/tablet format," writes "zornwil."

This story, "'iPad as netbook-killer' concept ignites controversy" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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