It's Official: Apple Just Killed the Laptop

Do you really need a laptop anymore?

That’s a good question to ask, because the answer depends greatly on how you use it on a daily basis. For me, the new Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch released this month is a no-brainer as a laptop replacement. It’s so powerful that I haven’t noticed any slowdowns in all of my apps, even the processor-intensive ones like Skype and Texture (a magazine reader).

That last point is incredibly important. When you think of “going mobile” these days, it usually means taking notes at a meeting, staying in contact with people, researching things on the fly, and talking to a bot like Siri to ask about directions…to your next meeting.

More and more, I’ve been using the Apple Pencil to jot down notes and sketch out ideas on an iPad. I’ve explained many times how bots have taken over my working life. I use Siri in the car, Alexa at home, and the Google Assistant everywhere in between (usually on an iPhone–yes, I know that is sacrilegious). I’m even more of an iPad user than before.

I feel the future is already being built for us, one device at a time. Bots and tablets are the answer. A laptop is almost quaint. A big screen fused onto a keyboard, usually powered by Windows. The question is why do we still use them. If you can run Photoshop and every other app you use on a normal day but also benefit from the portability and power of the iPad Pro, why keep using a laptop? I don’t drag a laptop around anymore unless I know I’m going to do some video editing or longer-than-usual typing sessions (say, a book).

As far as typing, the iPad Pro works symbiotically with the Smart Keyboard Folio, and I’ve been finding that I can actually type faster during normal writing sessions at Starbucks.

I like how the keys feel, because they don’t have the excessive springiness of a Google Pixelbook or even the Apple MacBook. I’m typing right now with fingers flying faster than ever. Now, I do prefer Microsoft Word on a desktop or laptop connected to a massive display in my office. I’m not sure when that will change, because I doubt I’ll ever haul around a 32-inch display.

More and more, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch (and now the new iPad Pro) is what goes into my backpack. I know I can type, I know I can benefit from all of the apps. It’s just faster. It’s instant-on access to Chrome for doing research on the 12.9-inch display.

The new model sports the Apple A12X Bionic chip, which runs faster than any previous tablet I’ve tested. I tested Netflix, Skype, the Chrome browser–all faster. I know some readers have told me they could never use an iPad because they do web programming, video editing, or play high-end computer games, and I understand those reservations.

I believe mobile is changing, though. When I see people using the Microsoft Surface tablet in meetings, they are usually taking notes. As far as younger workers, they tend to use their phones, even for typing up docs. Laptops were once a primary productivity machine, but with bots and apps we’ve moved away from that mentality. We don’t need to use a laptop to organize a schedule, or set up reminders, or hold a Skype session. With each passing year a tablet becomes more like a laptop anyway, especially in terms of raw processing power.

Still not convinced? I understand. It took me about three years of using an iPad during meetings to realize it makes me more productive. I also never use a laptop at home anymore. If I’m sitting in the living room by the fire, it’s with a book or an iPad these days.

The only slight ding to mention about the iPad Pro 12.9-inch is that it’s quite spendy. The base model costs $999, which is a much higher price tag than many Windows laptops. If you pick the version with 1TB of storage and cellular service, it’s a jaw-dropping $1,899.

I’m not seeing any other downsides, especially once Photoshop debuts next year. It’s maybe a bit bulky at 1.39 pounds, and I could see the tablet slipping out of my hands–it feels a bit slippery. I’m still adjusting to the lack of a Home button a little (you swipe up to unlock like you do on an iPhone X). Those are minor factors. I like how the Pencil attaches to the side of the tablet. The Smart Keyboard Folio is pure genius for typists like myself (it costs an extra $199). And make sure you try out a magazine on the 12.9-inch display. Wow.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about why you still use a laptop and compare notes. I know there are use cases where the iPad doesn’t work. For me, it’s killed the laptop.

During Chicago Toy And Game Week, Products Get Licensed

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a remarkable toy inventor named Mary Couzin. In 2003, Couzin founded Chicago Toy and Game Week — affectionately known as ChiTAG — to bring toy inventors, toy companies, and toy lovers together. Now in its 16th year, the annual celebration of play and innovation has become the event for toy inventors of all ages and degrees of experience. Currently taking place right now, this event is unlike any other I’m aware of for inventors in the best way possible.

It’s beloved by the industry, for starters. Event sponsors include industry titans like Mattel, Hasbro, Spin Master, LEGO, and Goliath Games. And get this: Product acquisitionists from more than 90 companies, representing 26 countries, will be there. Wow. That’s a lot of decision-makers in one place. Every year, new inventors, professionals, and even young inventors license their toy and game ideas as a result. That makes ChiTAG a uniquely successful event for inventors.

Unlike typical trade shows — such as Toy Fair in New York City — the focus at ChiTAG is squarely on invention, not retail. There are several distinct components. This weekend, more 30,000 attendees (half of whom are children) will peruse and interact with toys and games exhibited at the fair. Retailers including Target also make a point of attending the fair, because they can observe how customers interact with the toys and games on display.

Before the fair gets underway, there’s a two-day conference for new inventors focused on education, including how to pitch. Professional toy inventors — who set their own meetings with companies looking for ideas — are provided with meeting space. Young inventors are encouraged to compete in a challenge by submitting videos of their invention ideas, and receive feedback and mentorship in return. And finally, there’s an awards gala. (This year, my former bosses David Small and Paul Rago from the startup Worlds of Wonder are being recognized for their decades of innovative toys with a Lifetime Achievement award.)

In the 1990s while she was in real estate, Couzin pursued her love of inventing as a side-hustle. After achieving some success, she began advising and representing other toy inventors.

“Coming together can only help the industry,” she explained in a phone interview. “We really make a point of this feeling like a community. People who don’t carry that out are not invited to return.” Industry leaders make themselves available because they view this as their time to give back, she added. Opportunities to network are a core part of the experience. “You could sit down to breakfast with the head of Hasbro,” she said.

I personally know of inventors who have licensed their ideas because of ChiTAG. When novice inventor Eduardo Matos had an idea for a new toy that he thought was a hit, he considered his options. Sharing his royalties with a toy broker didn’t appeal to him. What he heard about ChiTAG on LinkedIn sounded too good to be true. But after an executive convinced him it was the real deal, he took the risk and paid to participate in the conference for new inventors, included the opportunity to pitch.

It paid off. He received a lot of interest, and eventually secured a licensing deal with a leading toy company. His invention is scheduled to debut next fall.

“ChiTAG a must,” he said. “The information shared was hugely valuable. For example, I learned that when a company asks to option your product, the typical fee paid is $5,000 a month. When my invention was optioned later that same day, I knew to ask for that.”

His recommendations? Take as many notes as you can, attend the entire conference, make your prototypes look as professional as possible, and have a hit on your hands.

When you have an idea for a new product that you want to commercialize, determining how to spend your resources is incredibly important, because they’re always limited. This is true for startups that raise millions of dollars as well as independent inventors. What’s worth it? What’s not? When? These questions are especially relevant when considering industry events like trade shows, as costs quickly add up.

At the end of the day, being able to access the people in your industry who are decision-makers is remarkable. I wish more trade events provided access like this. (If you’re looking to license your product idea, I don’t recommend buying a booth and waiting for someone to walk up. Read more of what I believe inventors need to know about trade shows.)

Missed out this year? There’s a wealth of information on the ChiTAG website, including a regularly updated blog and white papers.

Mary Couzin’s Tips For Inventors

1. Do your research first. Does your product idea already exist? Use Google to find out. You could also visit a local retailer or toyshop. Ask, has this been done? Will it sell?

“It’s so easy to check. It’s not like the old days when you had to visit every show and store. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.”

2. Don’t give up too soon. “Persistence is the number one quality you must have to become successful at toy inventing,” Couzin said. “Believing in what you have will carry you for the most part.”

Remember, no one has all the answers all the time. So take the opinion of others with a grain of salt. Couzin says she abstains from passing judgment on any toy or game for this reason.

3. Tell your story in the media. She emphasized the importance of storytelling, and referenced the success of the startup GoldieBlox. “Their marketing was brilliant. Before the product was as good as it is today, it had sold the public.” (Interestingly, GoldieBlox describes itself as a disruptive media company on its website.)

Toys are part of the entertainment industry, she pointed out, which means they compete for attention with movies, music, books, and television. “We’re the only ones not telling our story!”

If you want to succeed in the toy industry, you absolutely must attend this show.