The fact that netbooks aren’t distinct from everything we already know is where the iPad plays its double aces, it differs from all of the above in a number of important ways. First of all the form factor is so ‘new’. It is not built to be a smaller Macbook, or even a variation of it, hell it doesn’t resemble any sort of laptop at all in its design. This makes a huge difference in how users physically utilize the device, since its design is fashioned to make people hold it close to them, rather than use it at arms length on a desk or their lap. In this way, the device becomes more an extension of the user, rather than the user-companion relationship we’ve gotten used to over the years. That might sound weird, as if I’m romanticizing a machine but just at how many young people ‘love’ their phones, how they ‘feel’ about them. They carry their ‘extensions’ with them wherever they go, always have it out and usually sleep with it in their hands. They use it connect with their friends or others in the outside world and it becomes an extension or a integral part of their personality. I doubt many people feel the same way about their laptops or netbooks in the same, personable way. The form factor of the iPad puts it in a space which has much more in common with the mobile phone and PDAs than with any traditional computer operating system, be it laptops too. With just an ounce of foresight, I can very easily say that there will be a time when people treat their tablets the way we do our phones today. For schools and other teacher-learner establishments, this could mean learners would relate to their iPads differently, wanting to look after it and due to the design, I doubt any of these will be thrown or even passed around.
Form Factor of the iPad
There are a few aspects of the form factor, the sheer aesthetic delight of the iPad/other tablets that make it distinct from a netbook. The iPad is a ‘one plane’ device meaning that there aren’t any vertical and horizontal planes like a netbook. This means that the screen of the device does not act as a buffer-zone or a barrier between the user and the device. The learner and the teacher are not separated by the physical barrier any more; the screen enables group work so that means teachers and learners alike can work on the same task in unison. This is key to the whole process since it means that eye contact is much more easily maintained. Also there is the added bonus of the keyboard being on the screen, meaning a keyboard and display are integrated and this shortens the distance between input and display viewing. The days of looking from a horizontal keyboard to a vertical screen are over!
A second, but in this writers opinion; a more important difference is the operating system of the iPad.
Apple opted to separate desktop/laptop operating systems and purely mobile oriented devices in the way they operate. Rather than try to run a desktop class Operating System (OS) on a mobile device, Apple has written up and OS which is designed specifically for mobile devices and is optimized for nothing but.
The system requirements differ from a desktop based system and a mobile based system. The most obvious reason for this is the constant power supply of grounder systems and the culture of always being in the vicinity of a power outlet, which is associated with the laptop culture. Due to the fact that mobile devices can’t always be in need of a outlet, battery life is one of the key issues for them.
So as a result we have an OS on the iPad that has no extraneous desktop code, making more agile and suitable for lower operating requirements, meaning that these devices have added battery life. They are also able to take advantage of functionality offered by mechanisms such as accelerometers and figure gesture for input, sliding your finger around instead of actually pushing down