Apple iPad vs Windows Tablet vs Google Chrome OS

Apple has announced the iPad – essentially a large-size (242.8 x 189.7mm) iTouch. Large multi-touch screen, claimed 10 hour battery life, flash drive of 16GB up to 32GB, browse the web, play music and video, read eBooks. Keyboard dock for the desk, virtual keyboard for when you are out and about. App Store support and runs iPhone apps.


Here’s my instant reaction with a few pros and cons.

The design looks great, as you’d expect from Apple, and I’m a fan of the tablet concept. I wrote a piece on the subject back in 2003 when it still looked possible that the Windows tablet would take off. I think laptops are too big and bulky, and that the clamshell keyboard idea is desperately awkward when you are travelling. Ever tried to use a laptop while eating a meal, flying economy, for example? Or quickly fire up your laptop to get an address from an email, while walking down the street? It’s a horrible experience and the tablet concept is much better in these scenarios.

I also think that Microsoft’s big mistake with Tablet PC was requiring a stylus. Styluses are horrible, expensive, easily lost, and destroy much of the advantage of having a tablet. They are fine of course as an optional input mechanism, for writing or drawing, but not as a required item. Our fingers are capable of fine control on their own.

Apple’s device wins here; plus it has a UI designed for multi-touch, rather than a desktop UI with pen input bolted on top. The same will be true of the apps.

All good reasons then why iPad will succeed. And it will.

Still, I have reservations. When I travel, I need a mobile phone, for voice and all the other things smartphones are good at; and I need a laptop for all the things laptops are good at: email, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, custom apps and so on.

However, I will be reluctant to carry three devices with overlapping features, so for the iPad to work for me, I will need to ditch the laptop. Otherwise I’ll leave it behind, use it a little round the house, but eventually wonder why I bought it in the first place.

Thus, the critical question for iPad is this: to what extent can it enable me to leave the laptop behind? A lot will depend on the usability of iWork, the virtual keyboard and so on.

A related issue is the extent to which the device is locked down. I’m not 100% clear about this, but my impression is that the only way to get apps onto the iPad is via App Store. You can get music on via iTunes, and pictures via a USB adapter designed for cameras, and there must be a way to transfer documents via iTunes, but I’m guessing these go into some secure area which cannot execute applications – though no doubt there will be hacks to get round this. In this respect the model seems to be the same as iPhone and iTouch, and different from the Mac. Another factor is the relatively limited storage space.

This aspect is an annoyance – unless you change gear and think of it as a web client. Let’s say I wanted to get my custom database app onto the iPad. Maybe I could do that with the SDK; but better still, why not write it as a web app? Add a bit of offline capability and it could be just about perfect.

In other words, if I can truly get the web habit, so that all the stuff that matters to me is available online, then I can leave the laptop at home and just take out an iPad.

Or indeed Google Chrome OS. From what we’ve heard so far, Google’s devices will also be locked down, and unlike the iPad you will not even be able to install apps from an app store or save music and video locally – though who knows, maybe that could change, when people complain about how useless it is on a train or aeroplane. And like Gizmodo I reckon Google should make a Chrome OS tablet.

I’m beginning to think that Apple could have the high-end tablet market, and Google the low-end, because it’s safe to say that a Chrome OS device will be cheaper.

Microsoft will do its own iPad-like multi-touch device in around 2013, judging by how long it has taken to do Windows Mobile 7 following the launch of iPhone in 2007.

See also: Battle of the portables: Netbook vs Apple iPad 2.

Picture courtesy of Apple.

17 thoughts on “Apple iPad vs Windows Tablet vs Google Chrome OS”

  1. What will cause me to buy one is simple: Does it read PDFs natively, can I flexibly use the ‘net a-la the iTouch, and does it have an SD (or failing that USB) port?

    Short of these three elements, given its rather limited RAM, I probably won’t buy.

    Right now, I see only two out of three. Apple is probably afraid to put an SD port on its iPad, wanting to maintain “control,” even though this fear hasn’t extended to the MacBook Pro–which had a LOT to do with why I bought one.

  2. The model is, probably, the same of iPhone and iPod: you can buy apps, music and books directly in the iTunes app inside iPad or using iTunes in your Mac/PC and syncing them later. It’s what I understood from presentation.

  3. As you say, it’s just a big iPod Touch that won’t fit in your pocket.
    This is one of the main problems with all tablets, the other being that it
    doesn’t have a proper keyboard built in and so is no good for real work (and you can get a reasonable laptop for that price).

    “Ever tried to use a laptop while eating a meal, flying economy, for example? Or quickly fire up your laptop to get an address from an email, while walking down the street? It’s a horrible experience and the tablet concept is much better in these scenarios.”
    Surely the iPhone is much better in these scenarios? Tablets seem to fall between the two stools of smartphones and laptops and that is why they haven’t taken off IMHO. Does the better touch screen really change that?

    I also can’t believe that something designed for web access still doesn’t
    support Flash?! Its the thing I miss most on the iPhone, but on a tablet it’s inexcusable.

  4. Got a iPhone, but after using iMac for a while I put that aside for a laptop instead(PC).
    First of all, the size and look is real nice. BUT…. what am I gonna use this for???
    You can use apps that are “only” integrated to the apple-environment through iTunes etc. I hacke my iPhone, since I really don’t like the approach apple are doing with their close integration -locked in a sence- with theri iStore and iTunes.
    I switched to a laptop from the iMac because of the lack of software I need. I’m gonna switch TO iPad for???
    This doesn’t even have pdf-viewer out of the box.
    I’ve allways loved the design from apple,,, but it stops there. Doesn’t matter how cool the hardware looks, if you can’t use it to its full extent
    Cool look, but no practical use for my sence.

    IF I however can use the box for what I like,,,I’d be more interrested. I want to use a pc/laptop for my intends,,,,so if I want to use window, linux, chrome or what ever, I would far much more like that. I’m NOT a apple-hater,,,,but I really don’t like the approach apple makes by locking you in to their “box”

  5. @tim

    It’s the Apple’s business model and it’s working for now. They lock the platform offering one way to buy all the software, music, movies and now books you need using a simple interface in a secure environment. It’s all the average use needs. iTunes is now the biggest music seller in USA (here, in Brasil, it does not sell music, only apps) and people are happy with it. Why change?

  6. @Tim

    regarding getting apps onto the device this will probably be like the iphone (as its based on the same SDK) you need to be on the iphone developer programme but you either do a development build for putting on your own device, an ad-hoc build for putting on your friends devices and an app store build to do as its name suggests. As per your other questions I can answer them but not sure the Ts and Cs of the 3.2 sdk beta allow me to!


  7. I agree with Carlos.

    IMHO Apple isn’t for hackers. Get an HTC, and quit your whining about Apple… it’s Apple.

    Like the old engineering axiom says; you can have it good, fast, and cheap… now pick two.

    Apple is amazing yes. But… Steve Jobs isn’t a god (and cool your flames, I’m not calling ya’ll idiots) and so can’t deliver stuff to make everybody happy. Just ne glad your not one of those people that this applies to;

    Submitted by Anonymous on January 27, 2010 – 11:34 P.M. I love the first 10 seconds of the promo vid for this”When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical” Very telling of Mac fans. Wouldn’t you agree?

  8. hi…..
    i have been using microsoft windows all my life. The ipad looks very cool and im thinking of getting it. I never used an Apple before.The question is
    1) Can it support microsoft office or do i need to convert all my files?
    2) Can it support skype, msn and yahoo messengers?
    3) Does it worth the money im gonna pay?
    4) Do i need to pay to get programes and ebooks from istore?
    5) Is it better to buy now or wait for the upcoming models(God knows when)
    Plz give ur suggestions
    Thank You

  9. WOW… The ipad is unimpressive. Lets ask this, what can the ipad do that the ipod touch cant… try and find something. But hey if you want to try and impress the girls with a piece of junk “COMPUTER”. Oh and I want them to see what happens when you drop it on the ground. In the end tablet PCs win because there real computers. Also, where did you get the idea you can’t use your finger with a tablets screen. YOU CAN. If you bring it up have some facts to back up your “opinion”.

  10. Being a NON-APPLE user – Does MSoft/Windows have anything to compare to the IPAD ? Also, can u use Windows software with the IPAD ?

  11. Just recently, I jumped on the MacBook Pro wagon, and I never looked back, except on a few occasions, which could be overcome with compatibility software. From a business use standpoint, I’ve been happy. From a fun/entertainment standpoint, it can’t compare to the interactive screens of a touch screen.

    Not having had the change to get my hands on one yet, I still think it’s safe to say the “iPad” is must-have for the gadget enthusiest. Sleek and heavy, you feel like you purchased something substantial.

    I don’t 100% agree with the question of what do you leave behind because the iPad is not a full-featured computer.
    It’s a cross between a toy/gadget and a computer.
    The claimed battery life is a pure compelling reason to buy it when considering it for entertainment on a plane or anywhere you need mobile access (away from a power source). To be able to go 10-12 hours on a charge would make it a joy to um, enjoy. I could see myself ditching the iPod, but another comment that came to mind is What If You Drop It? MAN, I would cry!!!!! They’re just too pretty to watch that happen! And the cost, not one I would easily repeat if breaking it.

    One concern I have is Apple’s foothold on what you can stream via the internet. For instance, can you watch movies via a netflix account? With a 3G version, or with a Verizon/Sprint MIFI for example, you should be able to stream any entertainment you want to, and Apple has been stingy with this. I don’t want to be tied down to what Apple lets me do when it relates to enjoying the intermet, email and such. I should be able to watch a streaming movie/video, on other than iTunes based software.

    I will be purchasing one as soon as I can get my hands on one, and will do my own comparisons with an iPod as opposed to comparing it to a laptop. It won’t stack up well against a full-featured laptop.

    Now, if Apple were to make a swiveling clam-shell style MacBook Pro, with an 8-10 hour battery, I’m in. Oh, and a multi-touch screen. Don’t see that happening soon. Or will it?

  12. @Ron I agree long battery life is a very big deal; but it’s not exclusive to iPad. I am getting over 8 hours from a Toshiba netbook.


  13. I have a vested interest in that I work for Microsoft, however the HP slate continues to look interesting:

    I like Apple’s hardware and would have no “ethical” problems with buying an iPad if I thought it would fit my needs, but it seems just too locked down for my taste. I’ll play around with one in an Apple store and see how it goes, but if HP get their slate as slick as it looks in this video then it definitely does seem closer to the kind of device I would need (want?)

  14. I am seeing if I can ditch my “think and light” win laptop and use the iPad instead. The big issues (as has been mentioned) is getting files In and out of “Walled garden”. If I have ” documents to go”, I can read and edit word/ excel docs. But how do I get them off and on the iPad. Syncing with iTunes is not an optin on the road, ca’nt depend on email or the “cloud” if there’s no wifi.. That dock/sd/USB adapter apple has for getting photots off cameras would work but it’sl locked down to photos only and the iPhone os does not support the concept Of a “my documents” file storage area all apps can share.

    Without this ability to put/get files onto the iPad I don’ see how it can really have a shot at replacing my laptop.

    Any thoughts on this?

  15. Ok, so your argument that you have to load into iPad doesn’t make sense and you make incorrect assumptions without any research. 1) has a great rdc client to log into your pc. I can use that to do some work.
    2) there is air sharing….it links to a folder on your pc and you can save, create, and update files easily so there is not a need for a big data store.

    Your still stuck in the pc box and not really venturing out to see what apps leverage the system.

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