Saturday, April 13, 2013

Understanding the Post-PC Phenomenon: Apple iPad versus 11-inch MacBook Air

...or this.

This post was inspire by Joanna Stern and Kevin Tofel's discussion on Twitter.

The worse than expected decline in the sales of traditional desktop and laptop computers has spurred a lot of debate on the Web recently. What is the culprit? It really is not too hard to understand. A comparison of two products will explain this phenomenon easily enough. Lets compare the Apple iPad 64 GB with the 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 64 GB.

Price. The iPad WiFi 64 GB will cost you Php33,900 at the local Apple Store. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air 64 GB will set you back Php46,990. In this first round, the iPad wins the day by a cool 13K.  The question is, can the 11.6-inch MacBook Air 64 GB make up for a 13K deficit?

Winner: iPad

Display. The iPad 64 GB has a 9.7-inch display as opposed to the 11.6-inch display, and following the bigger is better theory, the 11.6-inch MacBook Air wins that aspect of this category. But this is only part of the story. The smaller iPad display has a sharp 2048 x 1536 resolution display, against the 11.6-inch MacBook Air 1366 x 768 display. Overall, I think most of you will agree, the higher resolution gives the iPad the edge. 

Winner: iPad

Portability. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air is "razor" thin being just 0.67-inches at the thickest point. It is also terribly light at 2.5 pounds. Still, this feels thick and heavy compared to the iPad's 0.37-inches and 1.44 pounds.

Winner: iPad

Battery Life. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a battery that will last up to five hours. The iPad will run up to 10-hours on a single charge.

Winner: iPad

Apps. The iPad App Store has over 300,000 dedicated iPad apps. Apple does not post on its website how many apps there are in it MacBook App Store. Two years ago, there were 30,000. I think it is fair to say, the iPad has more available apps.

Winner: iPad

Keyboard. The MacBook Air has a nice keyboard. The iPad has none out of the box. You can add a keyboard to the iPad, but it still wont be as nice as the keyboard on the MacBook Air.

Winner: MacBook Air


Apple iPad 64 GB: 5
11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 64 GB: 1

Many of you will point out that there are other things I should look at like USB or Thurderbolt ports. Other will see I should give the iPad another win for having more and better cameras or having an LTE option available. I think, most of the market sees it my way, with the six categories I selected being what most buyers will consider.


  1. With respect to the last category of the comparison - consider this and this isn't the only one available.

    It is not inexpensive, and I do not know if it is quite as good as a MacBook Pro or Air keyboard.

    One more thing (to quote The Steve)...

    You may have seen the Apple patent for the wireless charging keyboard hybrid laptop / tablet.

    They're up to something.

    1. When Apple makes one with their excellent touchpad I will :)

      Apple is up to something, people are just expecting something new and evolutionary on too regular a basis. The loss of Steve Job's no doubt was a great loss but he did not work in a vacuum. I expect Apple will be part of the tech scene for a very long time.

    2. I am betting they will... I am more than betting, I am counting on it.

      I expect that they will release it as iOS X or OS X 9 (or 10), it may have Apple's A7 or it may have Intel's latest mobile silicon, it won't matter as they'll do it right and sort out the app thing (remember how at one point you could get the Universal or "fat" binaries that supported both PPC and Intel on OS X? Well, nothing to stop them from setting it up to do ARM and Intel in the same binary in future. There's a project to do that on Linux too called FatELF.)

      Apple is long from being dead - so is Microsoft, in spite of wishful thinking from some.

  2. apples and oranges comparison again...
    these devices where meant to do different things...
    full photoshop in ipad? temple run in air?

    1. Yes, it really is apple and oranges. The question is, how many people need apples, and how many need oranges.

  3. My kid has recently enrolled at a medical school, and I'm thinking of the computer hardware she'll need. I'm a doc too, and have an idea of how hardware can make/break one's workflow. My desktop replacements have PACS access (projected to a pro screen), 7" tablet for quick EMR work, and the usual net-enabled phones that can share a connection are useful. SO I think that the kid will need a good-size screen to learn from image-laden online sites, and a desktop is probably best since it can be upgraded on the cheap. But what about the unit for jotting down notes? OneNote is great stuff. The idea of the 19-hour battery life Asus VivoTab TF810c is slick (also the Thinkpad Helix), but can these Wacom-enabled devices keep up in a classroom situation?
    What do you think? Am sure you have a better idea.

    1. What software you will need would be the main decision maker as to what would be a good desktop replacement. I don't think I am in a good position to answer you, so I forwarded the query to Brett.

      I practice law, which entails preparing long documents. So my tool of choice is the MacBook Air coupled with Google Apps (strange combination). Light, long battery life and has a good keyboard. I am looking at Chromebooks come upgrade time.

      I would think, if you do not write long documents or do extensive work on spreadsheets, a tablet would be a better choice. Why drag a keyboard around if you do not use it,

      We tried the tablet for use in court, but it did not really work out for us. We planned to use them for note taking and referring to soft copies of resources documents while conducting trials. But a tablet in one hand and a document in another for presentation to a witness felt a bit busy. Basically, in practice we, would just leave a tablet on a table, where it than offers no advantage over a small laptop.

      Since, we already had a tablet for testing, we use it for note taking in meetings. It seems a lot more polite than sitting behind a laptop screen, We use a stylus coupled with a swipe type keyboard. You can enter data pretty fast this way.

      A hospital I work with from time to time uses iPad 3's to view X-Rays.

    2. By the way, I posted the query to Brett on Google+ here:

    3. I left a reply at the Google+ post, however, I thought I would also post it here so it would be at the source of the original question (and thanks for considering me as a resource here, Roberto!)

      I have a couple of ideas for sure, and I definitely agree with the thought to get a workstation with a large screen. Everything is generally quite fast these days, so make sure to have a nice display that is easy on the eyes, as well as good inputs (keyboard, mouse, touchpad)

      For note taking, a Wacom enabled tablet could definitely do it, and is handy for sharing the notes and so forth (into other documents, with colleagues / classmates etc.)

      Another option I would consider is to make it more application centric and thereby give more flexibility - ask the student how she prefers to take notes first.

      Does she prefer pen and paper, or digital? Suddenly changing workflow habits at a critical time (entering med school!) may not be wise - where I am going with this would be to go with Evernote rather than OneNote, since it does handwriting recognition (well, printing anyway), can recognise and search text in images etc.

      That's what I use and I know many others do too.

      So then, you can work on paper, take photos of the work or scan it or whatever, then share it, search it etc.

      You can of course also work as normal in digital space, and continue to use Evernote as a central repository.

      One other thing about going this way, it allows you to consider other tablet options since Evernote is on every platform.

      Hope this helps!

      PS - the "flexibility" aspect can be nice when you don't want to bring a tablet into certain areas - I don't know the entire range of possibilities for medical school, but perhaps some of the laboratories might be cramped or the like.

      In my own work as a nuclear inspector, I have often wondered about using a tablet, and there are some areas where it would be handy, yet there are others where I would prefer not to do that (in my case, it is because of potential contamination - I would rather lose a paper notebook than a tablet).

    4. That was fast! Yes, even I use Evernote & Skitch since they're awfully good for sharing notes across computers and phones. My kid has been wired from birth, so this scenario is no great leap for her at all.

      OK, Brett. A desktop and Wacom-enabled "convertible" tablet. Thanks!


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