iPad Musings 3

After "do you like it?" I think the question I get asked most is "can I buy an iPad instead of a new computer?"

The technical answer is "yes".  But I wouldn’t do that!  Here’s why:

While the iPad is, in many ways, able to be used in the same way a "real" computer is, it’s really meant to be a satellite to a computer.  There shouldn’t be anything on your iPad (or your iPhone/iPod Touch) that isn’t also on your computer.  But, if you wanted to, you COULD:

  • Buy an iPad and have it activated in the store or on a friend’s computer (you need iTunes to do this).
  • Download music and video and books from the iTunes store or Amazon’s Kindle store.
  • Transfer pictures from your camera with the optional camera connection kit to your iPad.
  • Sync your e-mail with a Gmail account from Google.
  • Sync your calendar with your Google account’s calendar.
  • Download apps from the App Store.

All of this is possible without actually owning a traditional desktop or laptop computer.  So why would you need a computer?

The first reason is probably the deal-breaker for most people who take pictures they never want to lose: NO BACKUP.  You’ve just taken all of those wonderful pictures.  You’ve offloaded them from your camera to your iPad so you can clean out your camera and take even MORE fabulous pictures.  Now those pictures exist only on your iPad.  What happens if your iPad dies/is stolen/breaks/etc.?  All your pictures are GONE, that’s what!  Syncing your iPad with a computer backs up all of your stuff. 

It doesn’t just back up your pictures, it backs up your application settings too.  All those hours spent getting three-star levels on Angry Birds, your bookmarks in your books, etc.  All GONE if you lose your iPad for any reason.  But if you’ve synced your iPad and you decide to get another one (or it’s replaced under warranty), when you hook it up all your stuff goes back!

You might remember George Carlin’s "A Place For My Stuff".  The iPad/iPod/iPhones are all meant to be "smaller versions of your stuff".  Your computer is where you have every CD you have ever owned ripped into and organized by iTunes.  It’s where you have thousands of pictures, organized into albums.  TV shows, Movies (both "home" and purchased).  All on your computer.

Your iPad is where you put SOME of that Stuff!  Those playlists you simply can’t be without no matter where you are.  Those movies you want to watch on that long plane ride or bus trip.  And those pictures you simply MUST have on hand at all times to show off.  These devices were not meant to be your ONLY computing device.  While it’s possible to use them that way, I’d never recommend that anyone do so.  It can only lead to heartbreak one day!