Originally Posted by steelbom
Yet that claim is based on a significantly different test than the iPad 3. For the MacBook Air's 7 hours of battery life, they navigate through 25 popular websites with brightness set to 50%. The iPad 2 however is capable of ten hours in many different scenarios, and the iPad 3 will likely be the same.
Ultimately the MacBook Air is no replacement for an iPad and it never will be. It's significantly heavier and larger. You'll get a lot less battery life in the same tasks, and none of the applications are designed for touch, not to mention that reaching out to touch a laptop (or desktop) screen will become tiresome after a while. You can't use in the same ways, and you can't use it as easily in the same places. It's no competition.
Form factor wasn't my main point, but I'll discuss it. I own a couple of tablets and owned a tabletPC once upon a time (did you ever use one for any extended period? I suspect not (which explains some of your usability complaints) though I assume though that you do own an ipad). What are the main usecases for a tablet? Media consumption is the easy answer. Video, music, books, web browsing, games, etc. If one wishes to do even moderate productivity such as email or office tasks, a keyboard is required. From this we can deduce that there are two main use cases for tablets.
The first use case (media consumption) offers little advantage for the ipad (as compared with a touchscreen ultrabook with a "rated" 10 hours of battery life) in terms of usability or battery life. Music listening and picture browsing allow the CPU to remain idle as they aren't compute intensive tasks. The ipad has no advantage over the ultrabook in music as far as portability, and beats the ultrabook in playback battery life though the ultrabook offers better sound due to better audio processors. For picture browsing, the larger screen of the ultrabook would increase viewability while a better pixel density of the ipad may offer a better experience (assuming that new models of the air don't also have high res displays).
Video uses some processing power, but most of the work is done with dedicated decoders. The larger ultrabook screen and built-in prop make for a better experience while the ultrabook can also play more codec types and can be used for flash video (despite the battery hit, at least it is an option). An ipad is probably a better reading experience than an ultrabook, but a smaller, lighter ereader would offer an even better experience yet while having many times the battery life of the ipad.
The final major consumption types are web browsing and games. We have already come to the conclusion that the 7 hour battery life of current air models SPECIFICALLY applies here, so a 10 hour battery life would be definitely be the same except for the experience being many times faster on an ultrabook while the larger screen and built-in stand would provide a better experience (whereas the high res ipad screen wouldn't matter for low-res web content). Gaming battery life is the second area where the ipad might beat the ultrabook in battery life, but at the expense of lower quality and inferior controls.
As to productivity, once a keyboard enters the equation, the ipad becomes a slower ultrabook without the precision of a mouse.
My conclusion is that the tablet's main advantage isn't portability (especially compared to an 11" macbook air). It isn't a touchscreen as one could be added to an ultrabook (and it isn't that bad to use. It's more ergonomic than awkwardly holding a table and just as easy as when one has a tablet propped onto his or her thighs while slouching on the couch). The advantage isn't the UI as the major OS manufacturers (both Apple and Microsoft) seem intent on making desktop OSs finger friendly by incorporating tablet/phone UIs. The advantage then seems to be a combination of low cost (compared to ultraportables), and "fast enough" computing. The decision to purchase a tablet seems to rest with these two main properties (though the others contribute to some extent) outweighing the advantages of an ultrabook.
In my opinion, the current SOC of the ipad3 being out of date tips the balance to greatly favor the ultrabook and as such, the ipad3 (whether intentioned or not) only succeeds in making money at the expense of less informed consumers. Were this balance re-adjusted with a better SOC, my analysis would change.
edit: I almost forgot my laptop vs tablet usability bit.
Pic from Engadget
Imagine this device with just four differences. First, it is the size of an ultrabook. Second, it has a touch surface on the outer display side. Third, when the display is lifted (to reveal the keyboard), the outer facing side blacks out to retain privacy. Fourth, when the lid is lifted, the screen changes (from whatever rotated position) to a normal laptop view and then mirrors itself (it must mirror when switching sides).
This combination offers the features of a tablet while still retaining the optional usage and features of a laptop and thus proves that laptop and tablet use cases need not be divergent.
note to self: patent this quickly before someone else doesEdited by hajile - 3/16/12 at 9:07pm