I Love/Hate my iPad (and the promise of Windows 8)

by Asif Khan

I’m writing this from Seat 3F on Southwest, returning home from San Jose. The guy in 3E is encroaching on my personal space with his elbows and, um, wide stance. The guy in 2F just reclined his seat all the way back. No way I can pull out a laptop under these conditions. I love my iPad.

The thought of checking Twitter or reading RSS feeds on my PC seems like so *last semester* when I can swipe-scroll Twitterific and Flipbook on the iPad instead. Ditto for checking into flights, checking all my email in one place, checking stock quotes, scanning Yelp or just playing games with my kid. The iPad does all those things better than Windows. And my four year old won’t touch his PC anymore. We love our iPad.

Steve Jobs designed the iPad to fill the void between your iPhone and your Mac. He made sure that there was no overlap between these three important Apple revenue streams. And my stock portfolio thanks him for that! But now I have to carry 3 compute devices with me in my travel bag. I hate my damn iPad.

I wrote my last post one week before the Microsoft BUILD Conference in Anaheim and the Intel Developers Conference in San Jose so I wanted to weigh in with my thoughts. These former-BFFs-now-frenemies showed off their respective visions of the computing future, overlapping on the same freaking week! Conclusion? The Wintel marriage is definitely on the rocks and the PC era is definitely on the wane.

Microsoft is serious about building a post-PC ecosystem to keep up with Google and Apple. To that end, Windows 8 looks great so far! A common look and feel, if not a common code base (eventually?), with the upcoming desktop OS would make Win tablets a serious contender. I doubt Windows Phone Mango will be able to catch up to the current leaders at this point. But they could land a solid third if they don’t crash and burn like every other non-iOS, non-Android smartphone challenger.

The idea of a Windows-on-ARM tablet seems to tease at the premise of letting me leave that damn laptop at home. But it will not run legacy Windows apps and Microsoft has yet to commit to porting MS Office to it…about the only reason I would consider trading in my iPad for one (beside native USB and HDMI ports). But they are shoveling cash at app developers so something good should come of it eventually. Microsoft is persistent (when focused) and has boatloads of cash that they are willing to spend until customers finally show them some love.

Microsoft has nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving its tablets seamless compatibility with the desktop. Forget iTunes-like syncing with a PC. How about a built-in Dropbox-like folder where apps and data can be shared with other authenticated Windows 8 devices? A seamless, enterprise-focused ecosystem (tablet+PC+smartphone) would allow “anywhere computing” and would be in stark contrast to the iPad’s consumer/consumption focus.

But I think I like Intel’s vision even better. Where Microsoft is playing catch-up to the tablet generation, Intel’s next generation Core chipset, Ivy Bridge, is providing a tantalizing glimpse into its vision of the Post-PC future. To begin with, Ivy Bridge will enable a whole slew of MacBook-Air-like Ultrabooks for well under a grand. But that’s just the start.

BUILD got most of the press attention but Intel showed they’re serious about not just catching up but leap-frogging to the future of computing. Maybe I’m gullible but I think their idea of a future tablet-PC hybrid looks a lot more interesting as a replacement for the PC than a keyboard-less tablet.

Don’t think of the future of ultrabooks as just MacBook-Air-clone thin laptops. That’s boring. Think bigger (smaller?). How about a tablet on steroids: 12+ hour battery life. Lots of ports. Under 3 lbs. Ability to run a hypervisor with multiple VM images including Windows and Android. A 10″ touchscreen so you can pinch/zoom and swipe/scroll. A wide aspect screen ratio so you can run dual VM images side-by-side. Clamshell design offering built-in screen protection and a real tactile keyboard.

Sign me up!! It’s like an iPad and a MacBook Air had a three-way with a Windows PC and gave birth to an illegitimate superbaby! Maybe it’s overkill for the average consumer but consumers will still have the iPad. This would be great for an enterprise going VDI because it would be versatile enough to serve multiple user types, as an example.

And of course, it would be awesome for geeks like us who really want a next generation device that actually replaces a last generation device, not adds to it!

Of course both visions sound awesome but there is that pesky issue of executing on that vision. As Steve Jobs once said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal…but real artists ship!”…BTW, The Steve copied/stole the first part of that quote from Picasso :-). That’s walking the walk!

Apple owns almost every cog of its entire supply chain (and maintains tight control over the parts it doesn’t own) so they have maintained an impeccable on-time ship reputation (it also helps that they never publicly pre-announce a release date!). Everyone else has to rely on multiple partners, distributors, suppliers, retailers, etc that have conflicts and ambitions of their own. Too many chefs spoil the broth…and squander perfectly good visions.

So what say you? Did I drink too much of the Microsoft/Intel KoolAid last month? I mean we heard similar predictions when the iPhone came out and so far none of those predictions of “iPhone=consumer” and “WinPhone/Blackberry= business” have come anywhere close to materializing.

Is the Intel vision nothing more than Netbook v2.0 destined for the scrap heap? Is Microsoft biting off more than they can chew? Microsoft has never been good at being a technology innovator. They rely on someone else to come up with the idea first…and let’s face it, Ballmer doesn’t have Gates’ ruthless competitive streak. Also, the competition is a lot smarter and has much deeper pockets than those of the last generation’s Mac vs PC battle.

Maybe the iPad will continue to evolve with negligible competition (like the iPod before it) and new features will make the iPad’s current shortcomings irrelevant. Or maybe the new $199 Kindle Fire tablet running Android will, in fact, eat the world by driving down the cost of adoption to the point where it becomes the must-have Post-PC device for business users. Bezos is one smart cookie…I can’t wait to see what he does with his ecosystem!

If you had told me five years ago that Apple, Google and Amazon would emerge as the thought leaders in enterprise IT while the Wintel duopoly feverishly tries to play catch up, I would have said you’re nuts! But it seems to be shaping up that way, doesn’t it?

I really hope Microsoft and Intel can pull off their respective plans to hold onto the reins as we transition to this Post-PC era. Only thing I like better than shiny new things is fierce competition among well funded tech giants which forces rapid innovation and begets shinier, newer things. Bring it on!

NOTE:  I just got back from a 100% unplugged vacation and will shortly post Reason #4 on the “Five Reasons NOT to Implement VDI” series. I wrote most of this post on the way to Cancun and just updated it this morning with the new Amazon developments. Thanks for visiting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s