Buy a tablet, save on software?

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Today my dad and younger brothers visited, and during the conversation my dad mentioned he had looked at a guitar tab program for Windows that he ended up not buying (despite needing it) because it was $60. I looked to see if there was an iOS equivalent, and I found an app called the same thing from the same company for $4.99. After trying it out, it became clear that the 1/12 priced iOS app did exactly what he needed the $60 Windows program for, and on a device that is a lot more portable. This is how it is with a lot of software these days, and I’m starting to wonder if the cost of a tablet is insignificant compared to what you can save on software. Pirating aside, you’re often left with paying a lot of money for rather simple computer programs. Microsoft Office is somehow still in business despite the existence of OpenOffice, with even more expensive software such as Photoshop and various video editors being out of reach for many people, cost wise. While these computer programs normally contain a lot of advanced features that you’d never find on a mobile app, the real question is if you actually need those features. I’ll be the first to admit that the number one thing I use Photoshop for is to crop and resize images, which quite frankly is like using an aircraft carrier to go fishing in a pond.

What we’re seeing with iOS and Android is an increasing amount of software that give people the ability to do simple tasks on their tablet using software that is literally 1/100 (or less) the cost of what they’d use on a computer. I don’t really ever edit video, but if I were to do it I’d simply use ReelDirector on the iPad because that $1.99 app does most of the things I’d probably need, even if I can’t edit Hollywood movies with it.  $4.99 gets me TouchUp on the iPad, which not only gives you a quite powerful photo retouching app but does so in an intuitive way that people who’ve never heard of Photoshop could pick up in about 30 seconds. Document creation software, music creation software, various tools and utilities are all a lot cheaper on the mobile OSes than on a computer. Games is perhaps the ultimate example, as I can pay $1 (on sale) for games that would cost me $100 (here in Norway) if purchased for the Nintendo DS or PSP- and they’re sometimes the exact same games.

The result of all this is that my iPad is rapidly filling up with all sorts of apps that I don’t have any equivalent of on my computer, either due to price or availability. I sometimes need the help of my computer to do some tasks, but that’s mostly for tasks that normal consumers would never do in the first place. I know tons of people who aren’t very technically savvy who would love to learn how to edit videos, photos, music etc- but they don’t have Snowball’s chance in a cat scanner to learn any of it because computer programs are both expensive and overly complicated.

There’s also the issue of installation, hardware requirements etc. On iOS, you can use any app that it allows you do download. The entire program is represented by a single icon, and you won’t have to know what a register, codec, GPU, CPU, RAM etc is in order to use it. Installing any program on a computer these days is like throwing a frag grenade into a china shop; even when you think you’ve removed it all, you find some leftover pieces of it hidden in a corner. One of the main reasons I don’t play games on my PC is that with my PS3 I only have to see if the game cover says “PS3” and I know it’ll work. I don’t need to guess whether the requirements listed are lower than what my computer can handle, I don’t need to deal with installing it, and I don’t need to deal with whatever 984634 problems that might occur during installation, startup or in-game. You can say whatever you want about console game graphics and controls, but you won’t ever get a popup saying your PS3’s audio driver is incompatible with the game you just paid $100 for (or some other shit like that).

My point here is that having a tablet might not be as expensive as you think if you take into account all the software you’re suddenly paying less money for. Chances are of course that quite a few people reading this are using pirated software, but in the general population pirating isn’t as widespread as you might think. For many people, having access to cheap software is the same as having access to that kind of software at all, and if you can get software for every conceivable aspect of computing  for less than you pay Microsoft to use their crappy OS, then $400+ for a tablet might not be such a major investment at all.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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