My Notebook and I are Growing Apart

on November 30, 2012

I can’t help but have the feeling as of late that a close friend and I are growing more distant. These feelings are encapsulated with gratitude, sorrow, and also an understanding that it is for the better. That close friend is my notebook. Up until the last year or so my notebook as been my trusted partner in this industry and the computing device I depended on more than any other.

My relationship with my notebook peaked in 2011 with the 13” Macbook Air refresh which I dubbed at the time the perfect notebook for me. However, over the past few years, we have been growing apart and the iPad is the culprit.

I have written extensively about the profound industry impact I believe tablets will have, however there is a quote from Steve Jobs when he first launched the iPad that I believe captures every bit of why my notebook and I are growing apart.

“The iPad is more intimate than a notebook, and more capable than a smartphone” – Steve Jobs

Nail.On.The.Head. Smartphones are personal, but tablets are intimate. In light of that profound quote and perspective, we may be better off thinking about tablets as intimate computers instead of personal computers—even though they are both.

In a column a few months ago, I advanced a similar theory to that of Steve Jobs where I connected this intimate relationship I have with my iPad by making the observation that things we hold we love. This is why I believe a handheld computing device like our phones and tablets will garner a deeper connection than the desktop or notebook ever could with consumers. Desktops and notebooks are designed to be used at arms length and roughly around 24-36 inches away from our bodies. Yet tablets and smartphones are specifically designed to be used 8-12 inches from our bodies. Tablets and smartphones–by nature–are more intimate and thus will yield fundamentally different emotional connections with those who use them.

This observation, of not only the intimate nature of these products but also the proximity in which we hold and use them to our bodies, is in my opinion, the root of why my notebook and I have grown apart. When you use a device like an iPad or iPad Mini and are used to holding it closer to your body, and your eyes in particular, you simply get used to consuming information on a screen much closer to your face and eyes.

This observation was cemented in my mind most recently when I and my family were traveling to New York for both fun and some business. During this trip we spent a lot of time out and about in the city and I took my iPad Mini with LTE modem everywhere we went. I spent quite a bit of time using that device to take photos, search for points of interest, browse the web, etc, and didn’t end up touching my notebook for three days. When I did finally get my notebook out and open it up, it felt distant, it felt like I was too far from the screen and I needed to hunch over and get close to it. Now this is not because I have bad eyes, I have perfect vision, it was simply because I was used to computing in this intimate fashion and using my iPad at a distance less than 12 inches from my eyes. Simply put, because the notebook screen is used at a farther distance, it seems smaller and seems harder to see after you have been using a screen much closer to your person. Use an iPad only for three days then go back to a notebook where the screen is 24-36 inches away and you will know exactly what I mean. The fact is the more I use the iPad the farther away my notebook feels every time I use it—and I mean that in a number of ways.

Now, it is not that my notebook is going away, however, because of this change in dimension of computing, I have found that my ideal use case for my notebook is when it is docked with my larger screen. The iPad and using it in such close proximity to my face makes it feel like its a larger screen than it actually is thus conditioning me to prefer this kind of feeling. I find myself more and more leaving my notebook stationary and connected to my bigger screen. That way when I need to use it, it doesn’t feel so far away or that the screen is harder to see. In this scenario a desktop would suffice but I am using my notebook as a desktop in this case.

Now I know this experience may not be the same for everyone since what I am sharing is my personal experience and preference. I do, however, think the intimate element of computing that tablets subconsciously garner with consumers may have a more profound impact on the market than we assumed before.

One last thing needs to be shared. My experience with the iPad Mini being used as my exclusive iPad over the past few weeks has drove my notebook and me further from each other and quicker than my iPad ever did. There is something about the pure ultra-portability and ultra-intimate experience with the iPad Mini that I will be the cause of many consumers re-evaluating their relationship with their notebook.