Apple has created the world's thinnest and lightest full-size tablet, the iPad Air. By adding a 64-bit A7 processor, Apple has also made the device extremely powerful. This desktop-class processor is already in most mainstream PCs and laptops, but for the first time it's now in the skin of a tablet. After using the iPad Air for the past week I'm convinced it is the perfect personal computer for the masses.
Apple's move unifies the processor across all of its devices and delivers a powerful platform for developers to start taking advantage of. This means more robust apps, more innovative services, better multitasking, and cross-device media synchronisation that will be best-in-class for some time. Consumers can expect native apps to be faster, smoother, and more powerful. It sets the tone for other app vendors to do the same with their apps as they move to support this new processor.
Friends and family often ask me whether they should buy an iPad or another tablet rather than a new notebook, but the answer to that question depends on how you primarily use your laptop. If you sit at a desk all day, use a keyboard and mouse to input, and run software that requires a hardcore Intel or AMD processor, then you probably need a notebook or desktop. However, when most consumers are at home, the iPad is the ideal personal computer, and in fact it has become as versatile as any PC on the market.
My research shows that iPads have taken over as much as 80 per cent of computing tasks traditionally done on a PC or laptop. While consumers are not ditching their laptops or PCs completely – since they still use them to write school reports, create documents, manage media collections, and edit movies and pictures – the PC is now only used the remaining 20 per cent of the time.
That could change for those who buy an iPad Air. Now the device has tools powerful enough to handle those heavy-lifting tasks. Given its enhanced processing power and App Store that takes full advantage of the chip, many consumers may find it could become the primary PC in their digital lives.
And like the original iPad, when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, the iPad Air fundamentally operates like a laptop. I use a Bluetooth keyboard often and on many short trips this is the only personal computer I carry, even if I have to build presentations or write reports. Apple's iPad productivity software, which now also runs in iCloud, makes it an efficient machine and a very versatile PC in its own right.
The iPad, iOS 7, and the more than 470,000 available tablet-optimised apps are simply easier to use, less intimidating, and often more empowering than many apps that exist only on notebooks and desktops. The iPad Air is not computing dumbed-down; it is computing simplified. And simple solutions require sophisticated technology.
Apple has strengthened the value proposition of the iPad and the iPad Air as a mobile PC by offering the iWork and iLife apps for free. Now the iPad can be used out of the box to edit movies, make music, create documents and presentations, and a lot more at no extra cost. Unless you are a Microsoft Office power user, iWork will more than meet your needs. It can even open Microsoft Office documents and export them in Office formats as well. iLife opens the door to a creative world unparalleled on any other tablet platform, and whereas iWork may have competitors on other platforms, iLife does not.
The iPad has proven to be more than just a simple consumption device. A lot of that is due to the breadth and depth of apps available, particularly in the creative arts. While it is true that existing iPad owners benefit from all the software updates as well, the sleek design of the iPad Air and the powerful A7 chip make it more compelling than ever. That may make this the only personal computer many folks really need.
You might also be interested to read our full review of the iPad Air.