Use What Works.

Use what works. That’s what it always comes down to for me, especially when people are talking about technology. That’s why I got interested in this comparison between iPads and Netbooks in a 1:1 project. This first article in a promised series focuses on cost. Yes, I do admit that cost is always a factor, a concern and a pressing interest from supervisors and those who control the purse-strings. Yes, it’s important to not flush away money (my bank account and pitiful pension contributions can attest to that).  Isn’t there something else to consider though – the experience?

The article concludes with a rousing support for Netbooks, and in the current way education works, it makes sense. Yes, Netbooks are cheaper, provide more bang for the buck, may even be a better tool for the job. Maybe the iPad, or any other tablet if you want to cut costs, works better for collaboration (in fact, I’d suggest based on how I’ve seen it work, it does). Anytime you have a keyboard you inevitably have one controller of the device. With tablets, I’ve seen first hand how people are more willing to share duties on it – searching for something on Google, then passing the tablet to a colleague, then collectively watching a video. I’m not saying that people can’t do that on a Netbook, they absolutely can, but intuitively, they treat them differently. I think people treat different computers, well, differently.

For the purpose of the comparison, they needed students to create media. I’m still not sure on how good a media creation device the iPad is. I think the iPhone has much more capabilities for better media capture out of the box. Certainly the form factor of an iPad is a draw back for media capture.  I’m actually going to be a bit of a snob and say that neither a Netbook nor an iPad are ideal. I’d say buy a fleet of Netbooks, then add a dedicated video/audio multimedia machine with the savings. With all that said, I think the iPad is a much better device, for surfing the web (even with the Flash embargo, most well designed modern sites that use Flash have an alternative available) and for consuming media. I also feel that the iPad despite it’s heftier price tag is a more enjoyable experience rather than a Netbook. Most of my Netbook issues are that the whole device is cramped and poorly laid out. It’s why I didn’t buy a Netbook two years ago and instead bought a larger laptop. Ultimately, that was probably a wrong decision as the laptop is not a great device either. Needless to say, I like the time I’ve spent with the iPad and other Android based tablets, I haven’t liked the time I’ve spent with laptops and Netbooks.

My dad, who’s always been a tradesperson, told me very early on, use the tool that works. In fact it’s been words to live by for me. I grew up using a 386 PC for games and Macs (a IIci that cost me a bundle) because they provided better audio tools at the time. Later I programmed using a PC that I built myself because the integrated programming environments were Windows only (this is pre-OSX). Even more recently I use the tool that works for me in the situation. I am lucky to be able to do that though. I realize that not everyone has the luxury or access to do this. I’m only here as a reminder that a dedicated tool for something is usually better than a multitool. Of course, your mileage may vary.