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Is Yours an Apple iPad Home or an Amazon Kindle Home? Neither?

Nov 21, 2011 2:28 PM, By Jason Bovberg

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Apple iPad

Apple iPad

I remember the first time I toyed around with a tablet PC, about 8 years ago. I was at a Microsoft conference, checking out one of the first Rugged Tablets from Motion Computing. It was a full PC experience—with an Intel 933MHz Pentium III processor, 256MB of RAM, and 60GB of hard disk space—and of course it came complete with an input stylus. I remember thinking, even then, that the tablet experience had a long way to go before it would gain acceptance beyond niche applications such as chart viewing in hospitals or contractor note-taking in the field. In short, this potentially exciting new form factor needed to get rid of the pen.

Which is what the Apple iPad did. And that made all the difference.

You can’t deny the convenience, of course. The usability and portability make the iPad a device like none we’ve ever seen. But is that aforementioned cool factor enough to keep this mobile-entertainment juggernaut surging forward? There have already been quite a few pretenders taking shots at the iPad—the HP Slate, the Dell Streak, the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the RIM PlayBook among them—but most have failed outright, primarily because they lack, yes, that cool factor.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Amazon Kindle Fire

But surprisingly, the initial community reception was lackluster—from reactions to the device’s name (it still reminds one of, say, a techie feminine product) to the perception that the thing really didn’t do much more than Apple’s smaller iPod touch, just on a larger scale. More important, it also lacked a bunch of functionality that a user might expect in a tablet computer. But gradually that latter perception turned into the iPad’s most revolutionary aspect: It wasn’t a computer at all! It was a toy! Aimed primarily toward the consumption and enjoyment of media and entertainment (music, video, web content, books, games), the iPad almost completely eschewed the notion of tablet computing in favor of tablet horsing around.

And in play-obsessed 21st century America, the iPad became an essential component of the connected home. Anecdotal evidence here at the Connected Home labs suggests that consumers are buying $700 iPads more for Angry Birds than for anything productive such as bookkeeping or research or even ebook reading.

As silly as that sounds, there’s truth to the notion that many people are purchasing these incredibly expensive lap devices because of their undeniable cool factor—but actually using them for surprisingly mundane, trivial tasks that are either wastes of time or redundancies from what a laptop or desktop computer does equally well or better. I’ve heard tales of grandparents proudly carrying their fancy new iPads into their kids’ homes and letting their young grandkids fumble around with the device, swiping their sticky fingers through silly downloaded princess apps. And when the grandparents get the iPad back in their hands, all they want to do with it is check their email or play Solitaire.

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