Sending a recent high school grad off to college must be an expensive proposition.
Only a few decades ago parent-paid public college costs were a middle class affair. Today roughly 50% of Americans are unable to raise $2000 cash in an emergency, while real purchasing power is diminished even if a job can be found. So just what middle class am I remembering? The 20th century version of it, obviously.
A public college education (like Truman) average cost, assuming the student is living on campus, is about $12,500/year; that's room, board and tuition, but not including extras. Feeling pinched? Ohio State averages $25K! Two grand is sometimes hard to come by and could represent the technology cost alone for four years of undergraduate study, or a major car repair. So you're willing to spend the money on education, but what to study, what's going to be hot in 2032? The planet will be hotter than today, but occupation, skill set, economy type, most powerful nation status, broadband rank, health costs, homelessness, next big thing? Can't say...
I was offended after watching an Apple ad that seemed to ignore the reality of making technology investments for college-bound young adults. While not being specific, the ad suggests that iPad is a necessary tool, at the same time not mentioning more powerful devices that are really necessary tools, because Apple wants the disappearing middle class to purchase one of everything, no matter the redundancy. Apple accepted the supreme court decision that corporations are people, but don't assume the supreme court requires corporations or people have a heart.
I type this blog on an iPad because it's a convenient, if bare bones, content generator, but I don't for a minute think that it substitutes for a real computer. It may have enough raw processing power underneath the hood, but Apple dumbs it down, I presume, to maintain product differentiation, otherwise we might not purchase more than one device.
So I humbly declare the iPad to be a slick internet consumption toy, or presentation device, with much untapped potential. But because it's optimized for consumption, iPad is not an effective instrument for long form tasks like writing school papers. In fact I think Apple has backed the iPad into a corner, probably guided by in-house, old school Mad Men (or S. Jobs), who forced it to be an archetype of genre, that is, cats, grammys and children get it, but full capability should be hidden from view.
Microsoft and Google (Android) are biting at Apple's ankles, so something is going to give, and an inexpensive, reliable tablet with practical use scenarios could be on the horizon. I don't expect Apple to give up a huge lead without resistance, so perhaps, one day, they'll open the device up. I do concede that the iPad might own many vertical market segments, like medicine, aviation, construction, financial, retail, real estate, even an education content delivery device (it can do that now), but that's another article. Also, some will claim that the hacked iPad (called jailbreaking
) reveals all its wondrous capability, but I've been there, done that, and didn't care, it was still too Apple-ish on the surface and Linux-ish underneath.
The newest generation (3) iPad boasts a Retina display, which delivers four times the dpi (dots per inch) of my generation 2, and that helps tame the squint factor. Still, everything you see is reduced to a screen size that has mostly failed in another notable small computing platform, the netbook
My entry level, generation 2 iPad cost $319, refurbished from Apple. Refurb from Apple often (always?) means no visible damage, plus the Apple iPad refurb process includes battery renewal, the only internal component that will deteriorate over time. Credit where due, I give the product quality of my entry level, refurb iPad an A+. That price includes a one year as-new warranty, extendable with Apple Care (wasn't worth it for an entry level device).
After affirming the the on-screen touch keyboard doesn't cut it for real typist (took about a minute), I added a bluetooth Logitech Keyboard, this week and last the best keyboard accessory for this device, another $100. So, with no apps, no tax, I've got about $420 invested, and typing speed is reduced by about 30% because of the small keyboard. I'm living with my relatively inexpensive decision but not thrilled with it.
One can purchase a decent Windows laptop for that price, but the laptop won't have an honest 10 hours of battery life, a solid chassis, a Solid State Drive (SSD) or a plethora of available, relatively inexpensive apps. It will have a larger, more readable screen, practical capability and Windows 7, highly recommended if properly installed. But three to four hours honest battery life (less if you treat your batteries well and don't discharge below 50%) is still a bummer.
OK, then let's up the ante...
When one considers the newest generation iPad (with Retina display and Siri in the next iteration of iOS), one should not consider the base device (16GB). The 32 GB model will be necessary if one intends to store and play music, HD video, photo apps, new generation iPubs, superior camera images (just examples, there are many more) and, perhaps, school related work. It's still necessary to add the keyboard because higher cost and Retina display doesn't make it a more practical device.
The new iPad with iOS 6 will provide integrated voice dictation. Some will argue that voice dictation is the new keyboard. But isn't it already rude to shout at connected devices in public, or cubicle work spaces? I'm at the library right now because I like the environment; egalitarian, quiet, meditate, study, stretch the intellect, but in order to create content I should use a device that requires talking? Out loud? Fuhgettaboutit.
OK, that horse is way out of the barn, we've all seen idiots who shout into their phones, even without without voice dictation capability. Perhaps tomorrow's libraries will have dictation isolation rooms, or tomorrow's libraries won't contain books exactly, the racks will instead be adorned with pictures of what books looked like, the buildings will become museums dedicated to This is How Old Humans Acquired Information
. I'll add here that libraries are struggling in the information age to re-define themselves. If they fail, and we don't replace them with a free and open internet
, our ability to peruse a collection of unfiltered work will be controlled by corporations (the one's with heart?).
So the new iPad iteration, with no apps purchased but with incrementally higher function, sets the budget back about $700 before taxes, before apps, and it's still not a practical, stand-alone computing platform for school. When we've reached the $700 price point we're talking some serious dough, the rough equivalent cost for a good quality Windows laptop, perhaps equipped with a modest SSD. Should a $700 investment last four years? Will it get infected, filled up, dropped, stolen or lost? For those with disposible income, propensity for toy investment and not patient enough for technical evolution, go for it. But I would rather own a 13" touchscreen tablet/laptop with real capability (TBD).
Should we try to future-proof a computer investment, even when preserving device type may not evolve? High end, real computer and/or College: Commodity or investment?
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