The difference between an iPad and a computer

With Apple marketing the iPad as a new type of device sitting between the phone and the laptop, the question on many minds is “How is the iPad different?» Let us outline some of the key differences.

Some people want to know if the iPad is like a “little computer«. I would hesitate to make that comparison. If you want to describe it that way, I’d rather say it’s like a “iPhone grandand”. The iPad lacks many of the more advanced features found on traditional computers.

Multitask

Running more than one program at the same time on the same computer is multitasking. On a non-multitasking system, you must exit one program before running another. At first the iPad didn’t support this, but now multitasking is possible on iOS.

Can’t access iPad file system

The iPad does not allow the user to access its file system. On a traditional computer, you can create folder hierarchies, move files around, use your own naming schemes, etc. On the contrary, the iPad file system is completely invisible to the user. The only way to work with objects like photos, music, movies, documents, and contacts is to use the options presented by the applications these items are associated with.

You can’t install your own software

With traditional computers, anyone can create and distribute software. Users can install any program they choose. But on the iPad, all the software, called “Apps”, must be approved by Apple and distributed through Official App Store on iTunes.

user input

The iPad’s touchscreen interface replaces the mouse and keyboard. Two-handed typing is possible with the on-screen keyboard. I’m still getting used to it and my speed is pretty low at the moment. There is a physical keyboard that can be docked with the iPad, but I haven’t used it.

Other differences

Apart from these main points, here are some minor differences:

  • There is no ethernet connector, only WiFi and 3G (on selected models).
  • There are no USB or FireWire inputs, just the Dock connector like what is found on iPods and iPhones.
  • At the time of this writing, there is no built-in printer support. There are some apps that add this functionality in a limited way.
  • The first iPad didn’t have a built-in camera, but the latest models come with photo and video recording.

IPad is a long way from traditional computers

The iPad is a far cry from traditional computers and is a much closer relative to the iPhone. Users can only interact with the device through the apps they install, and Apple strictly controls the availability of that software. Personalization is limited to simple tweaks, like setting the wallpaper.

The question of whether or not the iPad works for you is a personal question. I’ll have a little more input on this after I use the device more and can compile my thoughts into a full review. For now, I’ll say the iPad is geared toward those who spend a lot of time consuming digital content but have little use for the flexibility of a traditional computer.