My New Laptop Computer is an iPod Touch – Part 3 – Analyzing Needs and Usage

Here’s the next installment in my multi-part series on my decision to buy an iPod Touch as my new laptop computer. The focus of this part is on how I looked carefully at actual needs and usage patterns to make my decision.
To review quickly and reset the scene:
I came to the conclusion it was time to consider buying a new laptop computer. I had broken the keyboard on my Tablet PC. My trusty Sony Vaio had just completed work on my book, but was five years old. And, this is a very important part of the story, I had a new employer-provided laptop to take care of my work needs.
Although my temptation was to just take advantage of the extremely attractive deals I was seeing on basic Windows Vista laptops, two things stopped me. First, the fact that by the time I configured a computer advertised at $600 in the way I wanted, the total was always in excess of $1,500. Second, I really wanted to try to focus on the way I use and I want to use a computer.
I’ve long had an interest in usability. Coincidentally, I was sitting next to a group of usability experts at work, giving me the chance to learn some practical details about usability and human factors analysis. And, at TECHSHOW, I had gotten the chance to talk about usability in this context with Ariel Jatib of RocketMatter, another usability expert.
So, I spent some time looking about how I actually used computers in non-work settings – home, travel, etc.
As usual, there were a lot of thought experiments and cogitation – the patterns I described in “The Best is the Enemy of the Good” still stay with me.
The key to my decision, however, came during the three days I spent at the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference, where I took two laptops with me (it was a car trip, not a plane flight).
I had the usual unusual projector problem – it took the second AV guy who came into the room to notice that there was some kind of translucent (yet clear-looking) lens cover on the projector. Funny, yes, but I now have one more thing to the long checklist I have made up of actual projector issues I have experienced.
I used a backpack to carry around a laptop. I used the wifi to check email, RSS feeds, web sites and to do some Twitter posts. I searched for available electric outlets and the usual stuff.
I talked a bit with Ross Kodner about laptops. I later announced to Ross that, after observing how I used my laptop, that I felt that the MacBook Air was the way I was going.
The more I thought about it, the more the Air made sense to me – except for the price, which felt a little steep, and the small hard drive. That, and the fact that any laptop made wearing a backpack around at conferences a necessity.
When I got back to St. Louis, I had to go to the Apple store to replace the power cord for my MacBook Pro, which had, incredibly, turned into a melted, frayed, non-working mess. Looking on the Internet, you’ll see quite a bit written about this problem. I saw some posts that said some Apple stores will replace the cord for free. My store happily let me buy a new cord at full price.
When they asked me if they could help me with anything else. I asked them to show me a few things about the MacBook Air. The more I saw and the more I asked, the less the Air felt like a fit.
I then asked, “Would you show me a few things about the iPod Touch?” In the back of my mind, I had the feeling that everything I did for three days at the conference with my laptop could have been done with an iPod Touch (and without a backpack on my back).
About 45 minutes later, I had the answers to all of my questions, including whether an iPod Touch would work as an eBook reader for me.
I didn’t make the purchase on the spot, for reasons I’ll discuss in part 4.
In the meantime, I thoroughly recommend Ernest “Ernie the Attorney” Svenson’s post on his recent experience using an iPhone on a trip while leaving his laptop at home. I saw lots of parallels to my own thinking.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
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