A cornacopia of portable devices defined

Apples and Oranges

In the last issue published April 26, I informed readers of the recent “bug” discovery that iPhones have been secretly tracking their owners’ location since last June. Apple commented on the controversy in a Q&A. Their answer is sketchy at best.

Apple maintains iPhones only record the locations of hotspots and cell towers so that phone users can all the more quickly figure out where they are when their cars break down on dusty, disused roads. Evidence, however, says otherwise; the phone is definitely keeping a time-stamped database of something, and the only reason would be to remember when the phone has been to a given location, according to researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden who discovered the problem.

Even though Apple isn’t admitting the charge, they announced that an upcoming iPhone update will fix the issue. The update will give users the option to prevent the data from being collected.

Netbooks vs. Tablets

Notebook computers, incorrectly referred to as “laptops,” were first seen roughly 30 years ago, designed as an easily-portable option to full-sized desktop computers, initially aimed at the military and businesspersons. As of late, however, manufacturers market them more as a desktop replacement rather than a complement, cramming in more components and computing power and increasing the screen size, both of which heighten not only the weight but also the cost.

That’s where netbooks, “sub-notebooks” and tablets come in. They do what notebooks were more or less originally intended to do: be portable. A netbook is simply a smaller and cheaper notebook that runs Windows or OSX; a sub-notebook is even smaller and has been mostly subsumed by the netbook; and a tablet, such as the Apple iPad, is a netbook-sized portable computer that often runs a proprietary operating system. Netbooks and sub-notebooks open and close, and have physical keyboards like notebooks; tablets trade in both of those features for a touch screen, providing the user with an on-screen keyboard instead.

Due to the success of the iPad, many tech bloggers believe tablets will replace netbooks as the ultra-portable computer of choice. They argue that as hardware size decreases and computing power increases, tablets will slim down and power up, making netbooks redundant. But they seem to forget that the same logic also applies to netbooks, since they will also get smaller and more powerful.

I really like netbooks and don’t feel that tablets render them superfluous, at least not currently. Neither has a built-in disc drive, but netbooks can hook up to one via USB, whereas tablets can’t. In fact, most tablets don’t have any USB ports at all; my 10.5-inch netbook has three. Tablets also are limited to the apps or programs made available by the manufacturer and third parties, while netbooks can use any program a notebook or desktop can. Tablets usually cost $200 or more than a netbook, although the original iPads will be dropping in price in light of the iPad 2.

Tablets do have their advantages, however. They are around the size and thickness of a netbook’s screen or even lighter; the iPad weighs less than two pounds. They can usually go much longer in-between battery charges, as well. They present a very quick, streamlined and uncluttered workspace for doing simple tasks such as web surfing, checking email, watching videos and listening to music. What tablets are capable of, they do very well.

So, for the time being, I believe both netbooks and tablets have a place in the portable computer market as each is geared for different uses, therefore comparing the two and concluding one is unnecessary is unfair. If you’ve been in the market for either, research both before making a purchase decision to ensure you buy the one that fits your needs.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.