Laptop Replacement

Joshua Topolsky:

If you think you can replace your laptop with an iPad, you cannot.

Matt Gemmell, in response:

I occasionally see the phrase “laptop replacement” regarding the iPad, despite the bizarreness of both the concept and the generalisation. Intelligent people like journalists and tech pundits use it, seemingly without humorous intent, and it puzzles me.

There’s no such thing as a laptop replacement, and if there were, the iPad isn’t meant to be one.

The term usually crops up in the context of the iPad not being whatever it is the author is looking for… and no wonder. The phrase itself is strange, like you’re consciously considering replacing your laptop (implicitly with something else, otherwise you’d just upgrade to a newer laptop, surely), are assessing the iPad as a candidate, and you find that it is indeed an entirely different thing… but that’s somehow a deal breaker. So you want to potentially not use a laptop anymore, but you also want a computer that does all the same things as a laptop, in pretty much the same way. In which case, I think the computer you’re looking for is a laptop.

The articles I read on this stuff invariably pose it as a general question, which makes no sense at all. Is The iPad A Laptop Replacement (Yet)? But that’s not even a thing! It can’t be a thing, because there’s no such thing as A Laptop, either. What you’re actually measuring against is your laptop and how you use it, so anything else is guaranteed to be insufficient.

There’s another pattern I see, which I’ll just mention as a side-note: the stronger the conclusion that the iPad can’t replace the author’s laptop, the more likely it is that the required tasks in question are irrelevant to 90% of the computer-using populace. That, or they haven’t allowed for any change in workflow and interaction model, which is an act of remarkable intellectual dishonesty. But I digress.


In terms of the tasks I need my computing device for, I do some dorky technical stuff, and I use automation utilities, and some scripting, and I also produce actual work. Plus I do all the usual web browsing and email and social media. The iPad isn’t a laptop replacement, because it’s not a laptop. I wasn’t looking for one. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone under twenty years of age with a laptop, either. But the iPad has replaced my MacBook. That’s a fact.

No-one’s saying that it either can or can’t replace yours, or whether you’d want it to. Except the pundits and journalists who can’t seem to let go of the idea that it’s an either-or situation, where we need to have a winner and a loser. I’m not sure what they’re afraid of.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are just getting things done.

This comes up so much. If I’m at a coffeeshop coding or writing on my iPad Pro, I get asked the question all the time. I still use my macbook or chromebook too, but my iPad gets a lot of use.