It’s no secret that Paul Biba and I are both enjoying our iPads. I find it makes a great machine for e-book reading, web browsing, and Twitter, even if it is a little heavy. Even so, it wouldn’t replace my laptop for serious mobile computing needs, even if I had a Bluetooth keyboard to use with it.

But that’s not what Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson says. He finds the iPad makes such a fantastic travel computer that he is going to sell his MacBook Pro laptop. Of course, as Johnson admits, the only two things he really needs to do while travelling are write text and check e-mail. The main travel advantages he cited were the battery life and not having to take it out of the bag for TSA screenings.

Naturally, what works for me may not work for you. I’m not advocating that everyone ditch their laptops immediately. There are plenty of tasks a touch tablet just doesn’t do as well as a traditional laptop. (Can someone tell me how to use Numbers for iPad without crying a little bit? Triple-clicking selective click-and-hold-for-context maybe-this-drags made my lip quiver.)

But on the other hand, Josh Belzman, an MSNBC contributing editor, tried it for a week and didn’t like it at all—and explains why at great length.

The iPad is too heavy. It’s awkward to hold and view in public. It’s fragile. It requires expensive accessories to protect it and extract more functionality. There aren’t enough killer apps, at least apps that do anything more than their iPhone equivalent. Its wireless reception is spotty and if you’re an iPhone owner, 3G access will set you back on top of your AT&T plan and give you all the same fits. The iPad does almost nothing your smartphone or laptop can’t already do and will cost you more to do it unless you get rid of something.

Belzman finds that the iPhone does most of what he would want from an iPad, and a laptop does the rest—without being heavy or awkward to handle the way the iPad is.

I was discussing the iPad with a friend the other day, and he did not feel that iPads had yet found their “killer app”. I pointed out e-book reading, watching movies, surfing the web, reading comic books, and he replied that those might be nice things to do with it but none offered a really compelling reason anyone who didn’t already have one would want to run out and get one. He felt that sales so far had more to do with the “shiny toy” factor than any specifically useful purpose.

It is tempting to say that having one, I could not imagine life without it, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. The iPad does work really well for some purposes, like reading e-books and playing games, but they’re not things I couldn’t have done any other way. And as my friend said, it is not really clear how well the iPad is going to sell in the long run, after the “new” has worn off.


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