It’s the day before Christmas - sorry, the new iPad announcement, and most of the online rags have gone ballistic already.

Bypassing the usual futility of harping on about what Apple will (or won’t) announce tomorrow, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on it while I have time.

First off, a little background: Over the past few months, my work shifted from e-mail and bog standard office work to a strange mix involving 3D rendering, high-powered Keynote presentations, video editing and transcoding and a lot of code snippets and IM. Most of those things are next to impossible on the iPad (at least without significant extra effort), so other than meetings and remote access to servers, it saw little “work” use.

Having my Cyanogen-powered Nook around also cut down significantly on late night home use, since the 7” factor lends itself rather better to both reading and casual browsing - but my writing suffered greatly, and it was next to impossible to do some or the things I took for granted on the iPad. On the plus side, it was much simpler to hand data off between apps (Apple really needs to rethink their approach there) and, were it not for ugly UIs, a lot more satisfactory to access my media1.

So times being what they are and with limited budget for gadgetry, I had to ask myself whether I’d actually buy a new iPad this year.

After all, given my usage patterns of late, and had I a need for a new laptop (which I don’t), an 11” MacBook Air would be a better fit - were it not hopelessly hobbled by the miserly amounts of RAM it ships with.

Since it makes perfect sense to expect the entire Apple laptop range to be re-scoped and re-designed within a few months, likely with much thinner Pros and higher-density displays, and perhaps even without an 11” model altogether1 depending on Apple’s self-cannibalization strategy, getting a new home laptop is firmly on my next year’s to do list.

Either way, I’ve already started carrying my iPad around last week - both because I’m back reviewing code and doing mock-ups (which you can draft perfectly well on it) and because the battery lasts essentially forever (at least when compared to a laptop).

It’s the most reliable piece of mobile hardware I own right now, even if it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, and, as weather begins to warm, it’s also (literally) the coolest I can cradle on my lap comfortably.

Since I’m becoming rather fond of Android 4.x (and a few colleagues of mine swear by their ASUS Transformers), getting a brand new and zippy Android tablet was also something I considered - until I went into a few retailers over the past couple of weekends, checked the OS versions of their display models (four of which were recent Sony and Samsung models, much to my surprise) and found them all running Honeycomb, practically all of them with versions below 3.1.x (Sony’s was running 3.2.1).

It’s probably important to point out to those of you itching to say that most of them are marketed as being “upgradeable” to Ice Cream Sandwich that every single Android manufacturer’s track record is abysmal where it comes to providing core OS updates, and that, to this day, there are plenty of iPad competitors out there without a single upgrade - many of which are essentially dead in the water.

Contrast that with Apple’s long-term support for most of its iOS devices, and it’s easy to see that they’re in a completely different league:

Both my original iPad and my iPhone 3GS run the latest iOS and are quite likely to run all the next interim updates until version 6 (at which point I expect them both to be bumped off).

That’s three major versions and three years of ongoing updates so far (two years for the iPad), with updates coming out every 3-6 months. In contrast, Android tablets have a working average of zero lifetime upgrades.

So, solely on the basis of long-term support, buying a €599 3G-ready iPad is, right now, a lot better value for money than a €549 3G-ready Galaxy Tab 10.1 - and if prices remain the same, it’s going to be even a better deal tomorrow. Even more so if you consider the current frenzy to dump older versions and hardware to try to sell you something newer and shinier.

And that is probably the best possible argument towards my getting a new iPad whenever Apple decides to actually ship to Portugal - which, given that I had to ask a friend of a friend to bring me one from Spain the first time around, is something I’d very much like to see happening from day one for a change.

  1. Seriously, Apple’s steadfast refusal to allow me to sync my iOS devices with whatever computer I damn well please and download kid’s cartoons from Home Sharing to bring along on weekends will eventually be enough of an itch for me to scratch with another platform, but I have hope. You listening, Phil? ↩︎

  2. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Apple will kill off the 11” Air in favor of the 10” iPad in the fullness of time. ↩︎