iPads are ace, but we still need netbooks

iPad virtual keyboard
The iPad's virtual keyboard: ow, ow, ow, ow, ow

The iPad, we're told, is killing netbook sales. Who needs cheapo, titchy laptops when you've got Apple's all-singing all-dancing unicorn wonder machine? That's what many pundits, including me, have been saying for ages. So why on earth is this happy iPad owner buying a netbook?

Our family laptop has finally died, and while it'd be nice to say "well, the iPad does everything we need", it doesn't. I think - and my family thinks - that the iPad is a fantastic bit of kit, but there are still several areas where a netbook does a better job.

The first thing netbooks do better is typing. I'm hyper-sensitive about this because I'm still recovering from carpal tunnel surgery, but I find that glass screen painful to type more than a few words on. An external keyboard is essential for long documents, but adding one takes away the iPad's portability: good luck fitting your iPad and an add-on keyboard into the tiny space you get on a train or a no-frills flight. Not only is it impractical, but you also look like a bit of a prat.

The second thing is Flash. Sure, there are reasons to loathe it, but in my house my wife matters more than Steve Jobs, and many of my wife's favourite sites use Flash. Until they see the light and switch to something else, the iPad isn't a fully functional web browser.

It's not just Flash, either. Some things simply don't work, either because of overzealous browser sniffers that don't recognise Mobile Safari ("Your browser is old or strange! You can't come in!") or because of a lack of testing. For example, I've found many sites that use RBS Secure card authentication don't work on the iPad because the box that asks for your password doesn't display at all.

The third thing is that from time to time, you need a proper computer. I've yet to find an iPad writing app I like as much as Microsoft Word (no, really), and occasionally you encounter something that you can't do without a proper PC.

For example, the other day my father-in-law's camera memory stick became corrupt. You can fix that on a Windows box, but as far as I can tell there's no iPad app for that - and anyway, I can't connect my memory card reader because the iPad doesn't have USB ports and I won't shell out for a camera connection kit.

I'm not being anti-Apple or anti-iPad here. I'd really like to use my iPad for everything, and not just because I'd rather not buy another bit of computing kit right now: it's a superb bit of kit, utterly reliable and a joy to use. What it isn't, however, is a laptop replacement - and right now a laptop replacement is exactly what I need.


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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.