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Everywhere you look, people compare iPad’s capabilities with laptops. They instinctively assume the laptop is more capable because it has faster processors, more memory, and, of course, a keyboard.

While there are good reasons to assess fitness-of-purpose based on these common and widely understood attributes, these are precisely the features that also constrain laptops and make them less agile than tablets in mNy contexts.

It took a while, but afterthoughts of a recent article tugged at me for most of the week. This article (and real-life) experience had me thinking “try that with your laptop”!

In the iPad versus laptop debate, we tend to accentuate the capabilities of laptops with a preconceived bias that iPad must be the lesser tool simply because it lacks a keyboard and storage. Why is that? Is it simply because of its size, weight, overall power, and storage? Or is it that we are simply biased; we have experience doing stuff with laptops and we fully understand its bounds. Besides, how could a device designed for content reading and browsing ever have a fitness-of-purpose that exceeds a laptop’s abilities?

What if we stepped back and tried to counterweight this natural bias by thinking about the ways that iPad actually outmaneuvers laptops in meaningful ways. Are there contexts where your laptop simply cannot compete?

Here are some scenarios that look at the debate from a different perspective.

  • imagine you’re a passenger riding in a bouncy jeep over a mountain pass. You realize it’s imperative that you quickly create a high resolution diagram for a client and mail is as soon as possible. The diagram is going require lots of blocks and connectors to effectively communicate your ideas. In the back seat you have a Windows laptop with Visio and an iPad with OmniGraffle. Both devices are capable to building the diagram and tethering with your iPhone for transmission of the diagram. Which device are you going to reach for given this context?

  • Imagine you’re just getting settled on a plane and a really important client texts you requesting a three page advisory briefing explaining your position on a particular social media strategy. In the overhead compartment you have a 17″ laptop with a fully charged battery. In your executive style brief tucked into the seat pocket in front of you, there’s an iPad that luckily contains a recent podcast with many of the details that have shaped your social media viewpoints that the client is asking about. The flight is about five hours and you’re in coach but you didn’t upgrade to the the premium legroom section. Which device are you going to reach for given this context?

  • Imagine you’re attending a major conference in your industry segment. Your objective, as a business development executive, is to visit more than 75 vendors over a two day period on the trade show flow. In the context if this task, you are responsible for collecting notes, taking photos, and ranking sales opportunities using a web application. On the desk in your hotel room you have a nice Dell notebook and an iPad 2. As you prepare for the day by highlighting the vendors on the trades or floor map, you have to decide which device you’ll use to capture the data your company needs. Which device are you going to reach for given this context?

If you have some real-life experiences like mine, please share them.

IPad can do many things that laptops can’t, just sayin’ …