Why the iPad will kill the netbook (and the Chrome OS)

Apple's iPad is a helluva lot more than a media slate -- it's aimed at casual business users, too

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Some people will argue that, as a stripped-down computer that runs standard Windows apps and has a hard disk, the iPad can't touch a netbook. Of course it can. Sure, an iPad assumes you have a "real" computer to store your main data -- but the netbook is also predicated on the assumption that it's your "on the go" device. The iPad is personally compelling, but a netbook is not. Plus, you can easily get around the small storage of the iPad by using an Internet-accessible hard drive with a device such as the Pogoplug.

And some will argue that the fact that the iPhone OS is not a multitasking OS means the iPad can't do anything serious. Well, I do wish my iPod Touch allowed multitasking so I could run multiple apps at once, though I have to admit my netbook's support for multitasking doesn't change the fact it can barely run just one app at a time. But I think this issue will be moot soon. The iPhone OS for the iPad is version 3.2 -- a dot-one upgrade from the iPhone OS released this fall (3.1). I fully expect the iPhone OS 4.0 version -- likely to be released this summer -- will bring multitasking to the iPad. After all, Apple bought PA Semiconductor, which uses the ARM chip design, two years ago so it could get a low-power, high-performance chip for its mobile efforts.

By the way, I fully expect that IT will hate the iPad because it will mean pressure for allowing in a non-PC platform. (My colleague Randall C. Kennedy has already sounded that alarm on behalf of reactionary IT pros.) After all, most IT shops have resisted the Mac for decades and the iPhone for several years, so I expect iPad resistance to be their initial response as well. But individuals and small business won't have IT groups with that power of denial, and I fully expect them to jump on the iPad. Maybe IT should try that approach for a change. IT might give netbooks a temporary safe haven, but that haven will be a ghetto that users will struggle to escape.

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Google's Chrome OS now looks sad
And I believe the iPad means Google's planned Internet appliance based on the Chrome OS is already irrelevant. The Chrome OS vision is that you need a disk-less netbook to run apps via a browser in the cloud. The iPad vision is that you run apps locally and in the cloud; in addition, you can do all sorts of other cool things.

Google has shown little understanding of human needs outside of search algorithms, as its Nexus One debacle exemplifies. A stripped-down, Internet-required netbook is Google's vision -- that's taking "boring" and "compromised" to another level. The first indications of the iPad point to a device that's anything but boring, and the compromises it no doubt has made will not be top of mind.

The iPad doesn't feel like a stripped-down netbook, which in turn feels like a stripped-down computer. Instead, the iPad comes across as exciting and useful, and the price is right. Bye-bye netbooks!

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This article, "Why the iPad will kill the netbook (and the Chrome OS)," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, the iPad, netbooks, and Google's Chrome OS at InfoWorld.com.

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