AC power-dependent portable computing is still going strong, who knows why
As a student, I see a lot of different setups for taking notes and such in class. Some still swear to carrying around a forest in paper form, others have some form of computer with them, and surprisingly few do like me and use a tablet. My 308 gram iPad mini can hold all my books, all my notes, I can take notes on it, scan in paper materials, and leave a day of lectures with exactly what I came in with. Just as importantly, the iPad mini has a battery life that’s more than good enough for a full day’s use, and even with the screen on for most of the day I don’t drop much below 50%.
Because of this, I can’t help but feel sorry for the PC users I see in lectures. They come in the door, and immediately enter some sort of hunting mode to track down the most convenient AC outlet. Often the location of such outlets dictate where they can sit, and it’s not uncommon to have people clustered around the AC outlet hubs. It creates a massive cable mess that looks ridiculous and blocks the passage for everyone else trying to get by. The reward for their hard work carrying a over-sized computer to class is that they get to listen to- and force others to listen to- that constant humming from the fans. There are times where I’ve wondered if a helicopter has been about to land on the roof, only to turn around and see someone with a laptop that looks like a building behind me. To top it all off, they don’t do anything that actually requires a computer, as they’re either actually taking notes, or browsing an online newspaper or Facebook. I would get it if they used some sort of software that required a computer, especially a big one, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Honestly, it’s like seeing people carry typewriters around with them, it simply looks bizarre.
What’s even weirder is that the computers I see aren’t particularly old, but are rather the kind of laptops you pick up at a local electronics store without having the slightest clue about what you’re actually buying. We’re not talking about people who can’t afford to go buy something more suitable, but rather people who actually did go out to buy something, and simply returned with the wrong product. People actually go out and buy 15-inch computers with 3 hours of battery life with the intent of using them for text editing on the go, and end up paying more for them than either a battery efficient netbook/ultrabook or a tablet/keyboard combo would cost. It’s really all about a complete lack of knowledge on consumers’ part. You can argue that not everyone is into technology all you want, and you wouldn’t be wrong doing so, but it doesn’t make the sight of someone with a 15.4-inch block of an AC-connected laptop hugging the wall to have enough power to browse Facebook in class any less ridiculous.
I talk a lot about how you can use a tablet as a productivity device, with apps and services that help you make the most out of something like an iPad. When I actually see how my fellow students use technology, however, it’s obvious that something as simple as not needing to be connected to AC power would in itself be a massive step forward. I think that retailers need to start thinking about how they present products, as right now part of the blame is on them. Here in Norway at least, I haven’t seen a single demo area at an electronics store that shows a tablet and keyboard combo, unless the tablet actually ships with it. Since both tablets and laptops are low profit margin products, while accessories typically do not, it would to me make more sense to advertise tablets together with relevant accessories instead of displaying them as entertainment devices only.
Tomorrow is a new day of lectures, and a new day of watching the odd dance that takes place when AC outlet-dependent students wield their freakishly huge AC adapters to power their portable Facebook devices. I respect that some people don’t live for technology, but that just makes it just the more awkward when they still try to use it.