I was chatting to a friend about iPods and we started comparing the iPod classic to the iPod touch. In my previous post I talked about including an iPod touch in my bundle of gadgets I would prefer to have in one of my scenarios. The more we compared the iPod touch and the iPod classic the more I began to think that my preference for the iPod touch wasn’t really that well-founded anymore. I have thought I would upgrade my aging iPod video with an iPod touch as it reached the end of its life (it has started failing so I am thinking about this issue now). I think I was trying to present two gadget strategies (aka, justifications for accumulating gadgets) in my post over the weekend and didn’t do it very well. This discussion about the iPod classic versus the iPod touch refined my thinking a little more.
Multipurpose gadgets – good at many things
The one strategy is to acquire multipurpose devices that can accomplish a number of tasks. An iPad requires a separate computer to activate it and serve as its hub to a degree so iPad owners will have a separate desktop or laptop too. The iPad also isn’t really a phone so iPad owners would probably also have a separate phone which may well be a smartphone. This scenario is probably pretty typical with most iPad owners. What they will likely have is at least three devices capable of accomplishing a number of tasks with a fair degree of overlap between them. If the iPad owner is a typical Mac user he or she will probably have a Mac of some description, the iPad and an iPhone. They can all browse the Web, run applications, handle a variety of daily tasks and so on. They each do what do they do in their own way and may be better suited for some scenarios than others.
Specialised devices – better at specific tasks
The other strategy I described poorly is one involving devices that have a pretty narrow focus and, at the same time, are perhaps the best at what they do. The Kindle (DX or normal) is a far better ebook reader than the iPad, a desktop or laptop or a smartphone with the Kindle application. I say this because it is designed specifically for ebooks and similar content. It is designed for reading and it is lighter, arguably better suited for text with its e-ink display and has nothing to distract you from reading. The iPod classic doesn’t cater for applications from the iTunes App Store. It has a large hard drive and can handle pretty substantial media libraries. The clickable buttons aren’t very fashionable in this touch screen age but they are more practical if you are out and about and have it in your pocket. The iPod classic is designed for audio media first and visual media second. It really good at what it does too. Similarly, a laptop or desktop is still better at what these devices do than the iPad or an iPhone. They are more powerful, allow for more choices when it comes to software and so on. This strategy focuses on devices that specialise in specific sets of tasks which they arguably do best.
So why am I going on about this stuff? I think we get caught up in this mindset that the new iPad, iPhone 4 or some other super converged device is inherently better than a seemingly backward device like the Kindle or an iPod classic. After all, the iPad can browse the Web, enable you read attractive ebooks, consume your content and more. Why would you want a Kindle with its singular focus on books (ebooks and audiobooks, by the way) and its non-touch e-ink screen? Why bother with an iPod classic when the iPod touch has apps? The answer depends on whether you want a device that does the things it was designed for best or a device that does a range of things well enough?
Devices like the iPad are terrific devices, a sign that we the technological visions in Star Trek and other science fiction works could well become a vibrant reality long before humanity leaves Earth for the stars in the ways those works envisaged. These new devices could represent our collective evolution through smart technology and perhaps even herald the beginning of the end of ancient scourges. They are terrific devices but they are not necessarily better than the devices that enable us to settle down and read a good book without distractions or listen to some music without fidgeting with our Twitter apps or email.
Just a thought.