March 10, 2010

The iPad is a disturbance in the Apple Store

Most geeks I know have a ritual I call the fake shopping cart” or FSC. This is basically the online version of window shopping.

The principles are similar, go to your website(s) of preference, and try multiple configurations until you build a dreamy new setup. Just the like intricate and confusing world of female fitting rooms, FSC is not only about one item, it’s about choosing the best combination of products.

Obviously - best - is relative. Although some geeks practice no-limits FSC, the real fun only happens when a certain spending restriction is established. The restriction itself doesn’t have to be realistic at all - you could try to build the best setup for $15.000, a budget that a new imaginary sports team owner like you deserves. In any case, some sort of limit is considered good practice.

Ever since Apple switched to Intel, my FSC has focused around notebooks. While I loved my iBook G3 and G4 machines, they felt underpowered. The jump in performance of the MacBooks made my dream of an affordable notebook with enough power to substitute a desktop real. Of course, there was still room for lots of debate, MacBook vs. MacBook Pro, screen size, RAM, hard-drive capacity and the obligatory external monitor brand question1.

Recently though, Apple has shaken my FSC beliefs with the introduction of the latests iMac’s and the announcement of the iPad.

On my last winter holiday I went to Venezuela and the US. For the first time since I’ve owned a laptop, I left the MacBook behind and only took the iPhone. I was surprised how little I missed it.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, he said that Apple saw a space between the iPhone and the MacBook. However, if you played FSC with a realistic budget recently, you may have found yourself in this situation: more often than not, you choose an iMac over a MacBook.

During his talk at this year’s MacWorld, John Gruber mentioned that next year, he would have to pick between two Apple platforms when choosing where to create, and deliver, his presentation. If the answer to this and other mobile tasks starts to be the iPad, then the functionality give the price of the mobile iMac (the MacBook), becomes questionable.

As soon as I add the iPad to my equation, the MacBook vs. iMac debate shifts from one-size-fits-all to best tool for each job.

The arrival of the iPad at Apple Stores next month is going to mark the beginning of a deadly fight. Not with Google or Microsoft, but within Apple product lines. This is not a problem for Apple, since Jobs probably believes that if anyone is going to cannibalize Mac sales, it better be Apple itself.

However, for Mac fans, it’s judgement time. It’s now time to pay for sins against the Apple II.

  1. It must be said that Mac users usually have less of a hard time with the facts, since Apple is very good at differentiating their product lines. On the other hand, the self-analysis of what you actually need, can be maddening and humbling. ↩︎

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