Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Dear Zuck: The Apple iPad Is Mobile (So Sorry!)

Because while those who live in the echo chamber of Silicon Valley are frequently wrong, but never in doubt, a gigantic amount of time is spent being more technical than realistic.

And by “technical,” I mean annoyingly detailed in making a point as to completely obfuscate the essence of anything.

Let me explain.

In the middle of yet another dullish release of features–this time mobile-related–at an event at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, Calif., on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of the social networking giant, finally livened up the proceedings in the Q&A part at the end.

Ben Parr of Mashable asked a question everyone has been speculating about recently–whether and when there would be an iPad app for Facebook coming.

A fumbling “no comment” would have worked fine, but the real Zuckerberg seemed to have decided to channel the clever Aaron Sorkin-ish repartee of the fictional Zuckerberg in the movie “The Social Network.”

“It’s not mobile…it is a computer,” he said flatly.

“I think Apple would disagree with you,” noted Parr.

“Well, sorry,” Zuckerberg spat out, his voice dripping with the kind of sarcasm that only a super-nerdy Silicon Valley engineer can pull off properly.

And, while he quickly backtracked and declared a deep love of Apple products, it was clear Zuckerberg meant what he’d said and said what he’d meant.

That the iPad is just another version of the kind of computer he cut his geek teeth on and it is not at all like the mobile smartphones that are now moving squarely into power pole position in the digital universe.

Except, not so fast.

First, the creators of the iPad over at Apple do consider it mobile, and its own often-disdainful leader Steve Jobs has said so on many occasions.

While that does not make it so, of course, imagine if he got up and said Facebook was not actually a social network as much as, say, a glorified portal with more chitchat. Sort of an AOL-Plus!

You could make that argument, although it would not take into account a lot of key elements Zuckerberg did not take into account in his iPad-is-a-computer zinger.

But that’s not a good enough counter, of course, so let’s focus on real people using the iPad or tablets like it, such as the Amazon Kindle e-reader.

First, the iPad is a computer, because that is technically true, even though that makes a smartphone a computer too. (And, now that I think of it, my car is a computer.)

But actual civilians don’t make these kinds of distinctions and, if one spends any time watching consumers use tablets, mobile is entirely how they think of it.

If you want to get technical, I supposed “portable” is a better way to describe it, but not in the way a laptop is.

And here are the five simple reasons why:

No. 1: A tablet is typically carried around like a book or magazine, which are perhaps the most portable of all media.

While it has a hard shell, an iPad has the elements of those much more so than a computer laptop, which is much harder to manipulate, due to its clamshell design and keyboard.

No. 2: A tablet is largely used via a touchscreen, which allows the device to be intimate in a way a computer never is.

Watch people use a laptop and an iPad in a public setting and you will easily see the relationship is much different.

A laptop is treated more as a work device and an in-a-pinch entertainment player. Like a phone, the tablet is used close in and with no sense of boundaries.

No. 3: A tablet is largely used as a consumption device, with interactive and inputting elements, while a computer is an interactive and inputting device with consumption elements.

No. 4: The tablet, like my phone, is always on, with no boot up. It is persistent, while a computer is more periodic.

And a tablet is smaller and thinner than any computer and will only get thinner over time. Again, this kind of form factor makes it more and more a mobile device.

No. 5: And, even now, as large as the first iteration of the iPad is, it never sits on my desk.

A desktop computer, of course, does. My laptop sits on my desk, plugged into a big screen, and is often unplugged and taken with me when I travel.

But my iPad is never on my desk. Unless it is charging or synching, it is in my bag with my phone and always ready to go.

As in, mobile.