Getting Granny online: iPad, right? Wrong.

So your mother-in-law wants a computer, and she wants your recommendation – what do you say? The obvious suggestion of course – get a Mac. We all know it’s the easiest computer to use, and offers everything she could possibly need right out the box, right? Plus your kids can have free FaceTime with Granny whenever they like, and you can remotely fix any problems using Desktop Sharing. Perfect. “So how much is one of these Macs going to cost?” she asks. Er….

OK, so I’m not bringing up the whole “Macs are expensive” thing, because, in a nutshell, they are. No, they’re not actually more expensive than equivalently specified PC boxes running Windows, they just cost a lot of money – you can’t buy a cheap Mac in the same way you can walk into your local supermarket and walk out with a 15″ laptop for under £300. The cheapest Mac laptop will set you back £750, and that’s only if you’re prepared to buy a refurbished unit.

I’m also not flaming the “Mac vs PC” debate either, because I’ve been a Mac user for almost 20 years now, and have never owned a PC – I couldn’t possibly comment on which is better. When it comes down to surfing the web, sending emails and writing documents both Macs and PC’s will do that. I just know which I prefer to use, and yes, I’ve used plenty Windows boxes in my time.

Even though I know there are 101 (if not more) reasons for still recommending a Mac, Granny doesn’t want to spend “Mac money”, so before admitting defeat and recommending a budget PC laptop, there is one more option up my sleeve – the iPad.

I have a first generation iPad and it’s great for email and all manner of ‘sofa-surfing’ – tweeting, booking-faces and such like – as well as playing Scrabble and Sudoku, consulting various recipe apps (Granny would love that), browsing photos and even a spot of work. However – and it pains me to say this – I’m not exactly comfortable recommending that Granny gets an iPad. Why? A couple of reasons.

First of all, right now, the iPad isn’t ideal as a primary computer, mostly because it lacks storage and needs a desktop computer (Mac or PC) running iTunes to even get up and running. Of course the imminent arrival of iCloud and iOS 5 will go some way to alleviate these problems allowing easy cloud storage and over-the-air software updates, but the iPad will still feel like a lifestyle add-on.

Secondly, Flash. OK, so this one’s more controversial as I’d argue whether or not we need Flash-based websites at all, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the iPad doesn’t support it (good), and that just means it’s only a matter of time before I’d get the call asking how to upgrade the iPad so it can display all websites (bad). The bottom line is that while developers still use Flash for content, the iPad will never be able to browse the entire web, and with Granny only having two strict purchasing criteria – surfing the internet and email – it seems that I’m all out of Apple options.

I’m not sure who I’m most frustrated with – Apple, for not including support for the “entire” internet in their 10″ slab of loveliness; Adobe, for inventing the Flash monster in the first place; Web Programmers, for not being just a little bit more creative; or me, for not being able to recommend an Apple product.

For someone who’s never used a computer before, I’m absolutely certain that the Mac route provides the best user experience, and is in fact the best value for money. It offers a stable platform of integrated hardware and software, and every new Mac comes with a great bundle of software so it’s ready to have fun, be creative or get down to business right out the box (OK, so maybe you’ll need to download iWork from the App Store to take care of that last one).

But ultimately, all that good stuff comes at a price, and if all you want to do is surf the web and send a few emails, it really isn’t worth spending Apple money, especially when you can grab a top-brand laptop down the supermarket for under £300.

My recommendation? Get the computer that comes with Clubcard points – it might not be the fastest, prettiest or most reliable solution, but it’ll get the job done.

Ouch, that hurt.

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3 thoughts on “Getting Granny online: iPad, right? Wrong.”

  1. I think you pretty much hit the nail right on the head with this article. As much as we Apple-centric nerds like to think so, an Apple product isn’t always the right answer. One company can impossibly have the right product for every imaginable situation.

    1. Hi Tyson! The Mac Mini would be a fantastic solution, but unfortunately it’s still not cheap enough….Your US prices may be different, but here in the UK the basic Mini comes in at £529, plus you’d need to factor in an additional £200 for a budget third-party LCD monitor with HDMI input (or VGA monitor and adaptor), keyboard and mouse. For someone who already has the monitor, keyboard and mouse – or is happy to double-duty their living room television – the Mac Mini would be perfect. Unfortunately, Granny’s new to computers, and still have a CRT TV 😉

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