Saturday, April 17, 2010

Apple iPad - Mobile versus Portable

To say that there is a lot of confusion about the iPad is like saying there is water at Niagara Falls. Hopefully I can explain the power of the iPad in terms that anyone can understand.
There are three (3) types of people:

  1. Those who want every device to do everything, 
  2. Those who don't care what it can do as long as it does what they want to do, and 
  3. The rest of us. 

My guess is about 3% of the people live in the first group, 80% the people live in the second group and 17% of the people live in my group; the third group.

Most devices should be created for the 80%. The Apple iPad works well for this 80%. The 80% is just now learning that their email lives in "the cloud" and not their desktops; therefore, the email can be loaded to any device that is connected to the Internet and has a mail client to retrieve emails. They are just now understanding that a Smartphone can free their email from those fixed desktop computers. They are just getting comfortable with SMS and sending pictures and learning about video. They are also the people most likely to be confused with all the buzzwords being used to explain the pros and cons about the iPad.

They could make a good decision about whether the iPad would be a great fit for them if someone explained it properly. This is my attempt to do so. But there is a problem.

The truth is that they may never read this post. The 3% and the 17% are the people most likely to be reading this post; so it is your responsibility to take this message to the masses. They will most likely ask YOU about the iPad instead of finding this post. You can refer them to this post, instead of trying to explain it. As techies, we often complicate things with buzzwords and techno mumbo jumbo.

The truth of the matter is, while a tablet PC is not a new device category, the iPad is one of the first to be truly a "mobile computing device". The manufacturers of devices like the Dell Latitude XT2 and all the other Tablet PCs have not understood one simple principle “Portable does not mean Mobile”.

Let me explain in this “Layman’s terms”. I will give an example that everyone can understand regarding "fixed", "portable" and "mobile". One thing that every person, man, woman and child can understand is, what the function of a bathroom is. These same people also know that there are other terms like Restroom, Washroom, Toilet, Lavatory or Loo. They all know that this location is a valuable resource for them.  If they go to any of these locations, they know that they may find extra items like towels, electric hand dryers, and maybe even an attendant in some. Even still, they understand they may experience even less in yet others.  But no matter which one they visit, they will be able to do "number 1" and/or "number 2".  This is commonly referred to as doing "the business". These locations, under most circumstances, will afford you the most confort to do your "business".  None of these facilities are portable nor mobile.

Doing your business at these facilities are similar to doing your business at a desktop computer; whether it is Mac or Windows; Dell, Acer or Apple. These desktops are designed to be non-portable and fixed to a particular location. You will most likely be the most comfortable while doing your "business" o these desktop, because these locations will provide the most amenities like comfortable seating area, proper lighting and other extras. You can use these at home, work, a friend or family member’s place; just like you would have a restroom facility. But if you want to use these and the creature comforts they provide, you have to go on site to do so. So, like a fixed bathroom, your desktop typically does not move.  But all "business"is not done on location.

Sometimes there are places that you visit that do not have a Restroom, Washroom, Toilet, Lavatory or Loo. Under some circumstances, there are some alternatives that can be used like a Porta John or Porta-Potty.  These "business" centers, while portable, lack most of the luxuries of the non-portable alternatives. Some people choose to use them and many others prefer to wait to do their "business" at one of the fixed locations mentioned above. If you do wish to do your "business", you have to seek out one of these facilities in other to get your "business" done. Your "business" is not taken care of at the very spot where first desired to get the "business" done.  Some preparation is required.  There might be a line, it may not be stocked property or someone may have left a mess behind; these and more may prevent you from getting your "business" completed.  While these facilities are not for everyone, it does offer choices for those who want to get their "business" done away from fixed locations.  While these facilities are portable they are not convenient to move about because of their weight and size. They are portable but not mobile.  I will compare these portable facilities to laptops which are portable, but not very mobile or convenient.

Most tablet PCs of the past were merely laptops with tablet or touch screen screens. These devices (including laptops, notebooks, and netbooks) are not very mobile due to their size, weight and setup time.  The laptop was never created to be mobile, that is to be used "on the go".  It was designed to be portable. Just like a Porta-Potty, it is designed to be taken to a location, setup and then used at that fixed spot. You take the laptop to a Starbuck's and set it up on the table. That spot is where you will use it until it is time to pack it up for the transport to the next location. Do you get the picture? It is a portable device that can be transported to different locations to be used. You would love to use your laptop in many venues; however, it is not convenient because you may not have a place to sit the laptop down, the battery may be too depleted (or you have to save the battery for a later time and place), there is no power outlet to plug it in, or it is just too big of an hassle to setup of the device.  Have you ever went to a location and everyone and their mother was there and left no room for you to setup? Ugh!  This is the equivalent to the line at the Porta-John and you may not have to to wait for it to free up.  Wouldn't it be better if you didn't have to wait for any resources to be freed up? If you didn't have to wait in line.

Better yet, wouldn't it be better if you could do your "business" in line?  Well the picture gets a little more graphic but the point is very clear.  So what bathroom analogy can I give to explain how convenient the iPad is? Think about it for a minute. What would allow you to do your business no matter where you are? Depends! Yes, Depends - the adult diapers.  This is not the image that Apple would like their iPad to be compared to, but it works. Clearly the Depends lack many of the luxuries that you may have with the fixed bathroom or even the Porta John, but you can accomplish the most desired tasks.  Whenever you have "business" to do, you do it! It doesn't matter if you are standing in line, on a plane, on the bus, at a conference, on the porch or in bed.

Of course you cannot take a bath or wash your hands, or fix your hair in the mirror, but anywhere that you are, you can take care of the important things you want or need to do without returning to a fixed location or having to take time to setup a portable solution. Just whip it out and go. Like with the Depends diapers, you may not have all the same amenities or even privacy that the alternatives allow, but you won't care much because of the convenience of getting your "business" done when it needs to be done.

Portable does not mean mobile. A laptop is portable. but not very mobile. The iPad is totally mobile. There are three things that make the iPad a very convenient device: battery life, screen size and "instant on". There are some tasks that you won't be able to do, but the important things will get done. These important tasks can be done quickly because you can turn the device on instantly.

Think about your mobile phone, it turns on instantly to allow you to accomplish the desired tasks. The only problem is the screen size and battery life. There are many things that your phone can do, especially if you have a (Blackberry, Palm, iPhone or Andriod), that you would do MORE if your battery didn't drain like it had a big hole in it and if the screen was bigger. Plus trying to do your "business" on that tiny screen is like trying to do your "business" in a pop bottle or jar (yuck).

The iPad allows your phone to be, well a phone again. Well it might be a SMS machine too, but your web surfing, emailing, music listening, picture sharing, movie watching, game playing, document viewing, Twitter and Facebook updating can be done on a device with a great viewable screen, a long lasting battery and instant on ability. The Apple iPad is definitely a game change because it is mobile.

The iPad device is one you can "depend" on the go (mobile). While it still "depends" on what you need to do and usage may vary, I firmly believe that most people will never need much more capability while mobile (or even at the other locations above). If they are going to camp somewhere, then they can use a desktop or laptop, but once you get exposed to something - it is hard to go back to the old way. People will find that the iPad can be enjoyed just as well in those other situations and locations as well. Apple and other vendors has created accessories that makes using an iPad usable or in a similar fashion to a laptop's or desktop's experience. These accessories like small pocketable power cords, small Bluetooth keyboards, portable docks or free-standing cases that together do not take up as much room as a laptop and its accessories would.

There will be things you will do with the iPad that you never could do or would do with a laptop or with a desktop computer because the developers will create those things; now that the first truly mobile computer is available and usable. This device IS magical, maybe not so much for what it is today, but for what it will do in the near future and how it will allow you to do more of what you already want to do.

You can not begin to understand what I am talking about until you hold an iPad in your hand. Don't believe me? Go to an Apple store or a retailer like Best Buy, Target or other approved stores, and play with one and you will begin to get the picture - in real vivid, brilliant color. A laptop, a netbook and traditional Tablet PCs are portable. The iPad is both portable and mobile in one sweet package.

I know someone is thinking, "the bathroom analogy is not the best way to describe using this gadget". Guess again, many people use their iPhones, cell phone and even the iPad while in the bathroom and many other places they visit. So the next time you ask someone to let you see their iPhone or iPad, you better have some hand sanitizer available for afterwards.

Carl W. Brooks is an entrepreneur that specializes in new technology. Mr. Brooks has been an online publisher since 1999 and has numerous sites and blogs that educate everyday people on how to either use, save money on or make money from the technology around us. He enjoys sharing with the world his unique take on technology and how to use it best in your life.


  1. I like the analogy, so props to your for creating it. However, I'm still super skeptical. {Disclaimer: I don't own an iPad, so I might just be missing it.)

    I'm not sure I really would just whip out my iPad wherever I am. For me (and I might be somewhat of a minimalist), it seems like something smaller, something that just fits in my pocket (like an iPhone) is the only device that's really mobile.

    Your thoughts on that? Do you actually pull out your iPad on the go that much, like enough to rival your cell?

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  2. @Marshall
    I really do. I don't go anywhere without my iPad. I have a Android phone, the Samsung Epic from Sprint. The battery sucks, so I don't use it for anything other than phone, texting and navigation. All the fun stuff is done on my iPad. I have the Wallet case from Happy Owl Studio so I carry my iPad as I would a wallet. Think Franklin planner. So my iPad is carried like a Franklin Planner.


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