Friday, December 10, 2010

MB Air vs. iPad

I got an iPad on launch day, hoping to free my back from the tyranny of carrying my MB Pro.  My intention was for the iPad to be my conference machine.  At conferences, I typically only need a browser, Twitter and Evernote.  Simple enough.  The iPad can handle all these just fine.

But my first few gos were not that pleasing.  The virtual keyboard on the iPad is actually decent.  At first I carried an Apple bluetooth keyboard, but I found that it did not add enough value for the weight and bulk.

The size and battery life of the iPad are great.  I can wander around a conference without a bag, just the iPad in my hand.  No need to carry a plug.  Chances are, at most conferences, there won't be any available.  Big props to TechCrunch in this regard, for stringing hundreds of power strips and even good old ethernet--I love you guys for that.

There were two real problems that were holding me back from loving the iPad as a work machine (I love it at home for reading and the kids).

The first was the lack of multitasking.  Switching between apps was cumbersome, and it caused me to miss some notes I should have taken, or not get a witty tweet out (horror!).  Of course, this problem has finally been somewhat solved with iOS 4.2, and the iPad is now much better, though still not as slick as just clicking between windows.

The second was, and is, the crippled browser.  Mobile Safari is just not a great browser, and the lack of support for extensions means that I can't use 1Password or LastPass in the native browser.  Since I can't remember most of my passwords, that means I can't browse a lot of sites.  Also, many sites just don't seem to work that well in Mobile Safari, either because of Flash or other issues.  I have gotten used to extensions that shorten URLs, mail out links, etc., that make my life easier.  None of this works on the iPad.

A related issue is really Google's fault.  The consolidated account system they now use in Google Apps, so that my Google Apps account and my Gmail are linked, is really a pain in the ass.  It makes it harder to work across the accounts in a single browser, instead of easier.  So, on my laptop I just use Safari for Gmail and Chrome for Google Apps.  On the iPad, you are in one or the other, and fast switching, which is possible on the desktop browser, is not supported in the mobile version of Google Apps.  The Mail app is better in 4.2, but still does not quite integrate properly with Gmail.

So, I resolved to get an MB Air.  At first I was just going to pick up a used one during the summer.  But then I heard rumours about a new model on its way.  For some reason, people on Craigslist seem to be on crack when it comes to what they think their used gear is worth.  And so I waited, and waited, and waited.  And, finally, last month I got one.  The MB Air has basically the same specs as my MB Pro, but at half the size.  It is about twice the size of the iPad, but so much more useful.  The iPad's battery life was a huge plus for conferences, but the Air can go all day as well, especially if I can get wifi and don't have to use my MiFi.

The iPad has been relegated to home duty.  The kids love to read stories and watch videos on it.  I read the morning paper and catch up on RSS feeds.

Interestingly (well, maybe only to me), Twitter has been a casualty of the iPad demotion.  I love to read Twitter on Flipboard, so I wait until I grab my iPad to read it, instead of following throughout the day.

I almost got the 11" Air, which is more appropriately an iPad replacement.  But the screen on the 13" is more usable, and it gives me a lot more power for when I work remotely.  Still, that 11" is so small.  For users who do most of their stuff in the cloud but still need more than a netbook, it may be the perfect laptop.

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