Macbooks and iPads

Everyone’s talking about using iPads as their main or only computer. I think Harry McCracken led the way, followed by Federico Viticci, who went so far as to adopt the iPad mini (the original, not the new one) as his main computer. Since the new crop of iPads was introduced earlier this month, we’ve been hearing more about this: Fraser Speirs records and edits his podcast on an iPad; Jason Snell has speculated on making the move, as has Dan Benjamin. Only John Siracusa and Marco Arment are holding out, making the argument that the iPad—although the both enjoy using it—forces too many compromises to get their work done comfortably. All of these people are right, as the experience in my household over the past couple of years attests.

When I was in need of a new computer three years ago, I thought long and hard about the iPad. I wouldn’t be without a Mac, as I had an iMac at the office, but I did consider whether the iPad would meet my needs at home. It reminded me of the early Macintosh: very good at what it did but limited by lack of software in the number of things it could do. That changed quickly for the Mac, and I had a feeling it would change quickly for the iPad, too.

Ultimately, though, when the newly redesigned MacBook Air was announced, I knew that was the machine I was looking for—nearly as portable as that first-generation iPad, but so much more capable right from the start. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second, and I suspect my next computer will be another MacBook Air. Yes, the iPad has become much more powerful, but the improvements in battery life have made the Air much more portable.

My wife is a different story. She was never comfortable with computers, and I knew from the moment the iPad was announced that it would be right for her. She resisted, seeing it as another computer she’d have to learn rather than a device that would free her from that learning. “Don’t buy me an iPad,” she kept saying, and I obeyed.

But things change. Two years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and followup chemotherapy. I knew she’d be spending a lot of time in bed recovering and that she’d want to stay in touch with her friends and the rest of the world. It was time for me to disobey. I bought an iPad 2 and put it in her hands. It was a success from the beginning and has been her main computer ever since.

It works for my wife for the same reason it works for Ben Thompson’s mom and tens of millions of others—it removes many of the computery aspects of using a computer. I’m willing to put up with the computery stuff because I already know it and I’m not willing to give up the power and control I get from it. My wife has no need for that power and control and shouldn’t be forced to confront it whenever she wants to send an email or read an article on the web.

Thus, a MacBook Air for me and an iPad for her. The best fit for each of us.