The other day arrows,businessmen,choices,crossroads,decisions,directions,intersections,men,metaphors,Photographs,signs,silhouettesI mused about What to buy: an iPad or a Windows 7 Tablet PC? I offered a few suggestions, but wanted to provide more on the "why" behind the decisions.

I think that the challenge comes to whether or not you plan to just consume information and entertainment on a device and then those composing those ppt's and documents for pdf's - that's where having a traditional keyboard whilst still having the access to the touch screen makes sense.

Lots of space has been dedicated to the debate, including this article over at PCWorld, Kindle vs. iPad, by Jon Brodkin of NetworkWorld.

Having used all three of these gadgets, I've come to the realization that, for me, two or three devices -- not one -- make sense when it comes to rich media. (Sad for my bank account, good for the device makers.) Increasingly the device I take everywhere is the phone. But this is about doing more than I do on my phone, and with enough screen real estate in front of me to make it more enjoyable and productive. (I hate doing mail for extended periods on the phone.) if I had to settle on one device, the choices isn't obvious: it depends on what you intend to do with the device.

Here's why:

For reading, the Kindle wins hands down. Use it and you'll see after reading a few chapters that the Kindle's electronic ink display is easy to read despite not having back lighting. Rarely to I read where light is a problem, and when I do, I have a book light or lamp in the area installed in the pre-Kindle days when I only read paper books. And my travel reading lights that I have from my airplane hopping days have come into their own once again. I like that the Kindle is easily configurable, has simple controls and accesses the Amazon Kindle store with ease: virtual airplane hanger of titles anywhere on the planet, wirelessly for free. Let me repeat that: Anywhere. For Free. No wireless fees for 3G, but free basic Internet access.

I don't use the notes and mark up capabilities on the Kindle as much as I thought I would, but that may change as I have started reading more business documents and technical works that benefit from the virtual notes in the margin. I do wish that more of my trade and hobby magazines and local newspapers were available, but I think that will sort itself out. In those times when I want to ready the Times (Seattle, that is) I use the "experimental" web browser which works in a pinch.  

For portable work and play computing and browsing, my notebooks and Tablet PCs are the premiere choices. I like having access to my library of audio and video media that lives on my Windows 7 Media Center computers. I also like that I can access my all-you-can-eat buffet of music via my Zune Pass (and listen to a live stream, too), and video content via my Netflix subscription, YouTube and Hulu. With Windows 7 I can stream my media over the Internet to just about any another computer connected to the Internet. I get free Internet access at local hotspots via my wireless and broadband providers, and I find that I don't miss not having always accessible Internet via 3G. (I admit that even purchased a 3G card for one of my notebooks when I absolutely have to have access via my mobile phone account.) I also have access to my Amazon Kindle books via the Windows reader from Amazon.

When I feel the need to email (often), blog (sometimes) or participate in some form of social media (more often than I should), the access to a keyboard on my Tablet PC is a welcome interface over a virtual on-screen keyboard. I also like that I can use all of the software that I use every day from productivity software like Microsoft Office to suites from Windows Live and other commercial software. I live in Outlook and OneNote, so having a touch interface combined with the efficiency of a keyboard is really powerful. So for me, this is the overall, versatile choice.

The interesting next step is the Apple iPad. I admit it: I have an iPhone, as well as several Windows Phones (lately using the HTC Fuze for productivity and the HTC Pure for day to day) and I use it. A lot. I used to get lots of grief at work for having all my Windows apps available via shortcut icons right on my desktop (which is usually a dark blue or black background). That approach doesn't seem so silly now when you look at the UI found on today's smartphones like the iPhone and Windows Phone, as well as the simple interface of Windows 7 Media Center PCs. If you're just browsing the Web, playing games, reading mail and consuming the content in your iTunes library (I don't use iTunes for media), then an iPad form factor is a good choice.

Then there's Windows. I can't wait for the crop of new slates that will run Windows 7 and the new crop of Windows Embeded consumer devices. As Paul Thurrott covered in his blog post about Microsoft-powered tablets and slates "Microsoft will focus on Windows Embedded 7for mainstream tablets (which I take to mean "iPad-like" tablets) and Windows 7 for premium tablets (i.e. actual Tablet PCs)." Engadget covered the round of Windows Embedded Compact 7 (that's a mouthfu) devices at Computex and wrote about Microsoft's plans for Windows Embedded Compact 7at Computex. Devices like the ExoPC Slate featured here on laptopmag.com shows the ExoPC Slate with Windows 7 with an 11.6-inch, high definition touch screen, 2GB of memory and a good sized slid state drive (SSD). Very nice. 

So, if you want the best digital reading experience, the Kindle is probably your best bet. But if you want only one device and enjoy multiple diversions – reading, Web browsing, movies and games – the iPad is the better fit.

  • Composition and main utility, productivity device: Tablet PC
  • Reading main device: Kindle.
  • Hanging around, consumer of media: still Tablet PC (given my library of media on my Windows 7 Media Centre PC and ZunePass content). If you can't wait for a Windows slate and have a disc full of Apple iTunes content, then the iPad is a current choice. 

 

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