I echo Beth's statements about Macs and Apple in general. I've been a user since the second Mac model, and never looked back. Back then, the user interface alternatives were truly awful, especially for non-programmers. If anyone remembers the CP/M operating system, which preceded DOS, they'll know what I mean. Even now, I'm not fond of Windows, either the UI or the accompanying hardware.
I agree, Alex. Apple is facing challenges on the price front. With Amazon selling the Kindle Fire for $199 (less than cost) and RIM reducing its BlackBerry PlayBooks to $299, Apple is under pressure on price. There are rumors that Apple will come out with a trimmed-down low-cost iPad.
I'm not so sure it's just Steve Jobs that gives Apple the aura of cool or helps justify its high price. I've been a Mac user for more than a decade now and between my work stuff and family gear, own a nice collection of laptops, desktops, iPhones, iPods, iTouches, iPads, and the list continues. Mac devices are just inherently sleeker, sexier, and far more intuitive to use and that is coming from someone who is definitely not a gadget freak. I'll pay a higher price any day for a Mac device that delivers an overall better user experience. As long as Apple can continue to pull that off, I think it will engage its share of devotees.
We haven't yet hit the point where tablets become commodities, like laptops. That will happen soon enough (perhaps within 2 years), and I believe Android will be largely responsible. Apple is going to have a hard time justifying the high price point of the iPad, especially with Steve Jobs no longer around to give it the aura of "cool," which has been such a key to its success (as has its apps ecosystem).
As mobile apps keep showing up in all corners of the tech world, from design review to apps that look at plant operations, the first release always seems to be Apple. Yet the Android operating system is on more smartphones than Apple's iOS. Apple has the edge on tablets, but that's likely to change as major products such as the Kindle Fire come out featuring the Android OS.
Open-source Android may ultimately be more useful to users than the proprietary iOS. Watch for Android to pass Apple on tablets and watch for app developers to introduce the Android OS apps before they release the iOS. Just a matter of time.
One of the really funny things about these new devices is that they have not really supplanted the older devices. I have been in the industry for a while (you can tell by the hair) and at one point all the talk was about convergence. I don't see it. I use a laptop, a smart phone and multiple desktops (for design, servers, etc.). My son, who I am always bemused by, has four devices. He has a phone, the iPad and at least one notebood computer. He also uses large desktops that the school has. Just before starting school, he bought a Kindle. This was the early one with the eInk. He uses that all the time becuase he reads a lot and the eInk is great for that. So, instead of having the one device that does it all, we have a bunch. I don't know where that leads us, but it is an interesting trend.
I do hear of engineers using their iPads on the shop floor to access drawings and other information. This is a good use.
Naperlou: I think it's funny your son offered to sell you his iPad. Gearing up for iPad3--I just saw reports this past week that there might be new versions coming out.
I agree with you on the laptop perference thing. Obviously, I do a ton of typing and I have much prefer my MacBook Pro laptop to the family iPad for doing anything. That said, my husband rarely uses his laptop any more and pretty much does all work-related stuff on a tablet, and he's in the communications business, which leans heavily on the keyboard.
In the end, I think it's all a matter of preference and comfort level. New generations of engineers like your son are going to be far more comfortable with mobile devices and well versed in how to use mobile design tools. The truth is the mobile devices and design tool apps won't supplant the full-blown desktop CAD and CAE tools, they will be variations and pieces of functionality that will supplant those applications when working in the field. And with today's increasingly mobile workforce, that is just the new reality of life.
Alex, this is being done, but I think it will take some time. At the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) they have been giving all incoming students an iPad for a couple or three years now. My son just started this year. He is studying aerospace egineering, so he is part of the target audience. It is interesting that IIT decided to do this with the iPads without having a particular application. They were just as interested in studying the student's use of the devices as anything else. My son is very aware of the software available on the device for engineers (I show him articles from Design News like the Slideshow: 11 Top iPad Engineering Apps). He was aware of many of them and had used them. Interestingly, he just offered to sell me his iPad.
I wonder about the tablet space in general. I am typing this on a laptop. I am perfectly happy with it (althogh it is dated). I do lots of typing. A tablet would not be great for me. I think most engineers are in the same boat. The tablet gives great mobility. On the other hand, there is a new class of notebooks, again following Apple's lead, called Ultrabooks. They are meant to compete with the MacBook Air. They give lots of the features of the tablet, are almost as light. So, who knows. It might be better to go slow on this. Another consideration is that Google has announced that it is bring out a tablet, and they will show everyone else how it's done (their words, more or less).
This is a fast evolving field, and it will be interesting to watch.
There is always some skepticism with any new technology out there. I think, by the end of 2012, mobile design apps will be old hat, and design engineers will be wondering how they ever lived without them.
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