Would You Buy A Synthetic iPad?

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I was bouncing around the Internet like I do every day and ran across a question that I had seen before: Would you buy a synthetic diamond for a loved one? I figured I would turn that around and talk about synthetic iPads and other things as well.

We have been able to make synthetic diamonds for decades and most of the industrial diamonds are man made synthetics for good reason. In general, they are as good or better than diamonds that are mined. A diamond is a pure carbon crystal and that is what is actually easier to make. Diamonds in the wild tend to have inclusions and extra stuff that do neat things like add color.

A crystal clear diamond is pure carbon. A blue or yellow diamond has impurities. Of course, having just the right amount of the right kind of impurities allows this to happen.

It is interesting to read comments and watch the big diamond companies like De Beers hype “natural” diamonds. Of course, they want you to pay big bucks for “natural” diamonds. They are some how “better”.

Unfortunately issues like “blood diamonds” that are mined and then used to finance conflicts around the world are a rather good argument for switching to synthetics.

Many of the arguments tend to emotional and that brings me to the iPad (Fig. 1). There will not be a synthetic iPad. That would essentially be an iPad clone and Apple would step on that so fast it would make your head spin. Of course, we have a virtual hoard of iPad alternatives.

The big difference between diamonds and the iPad in this comparison is that diamonds are rather simple carbon crystals that are generic and easy to identify. The iPad is a rather generic term these days that encompasses a range of products and a software environment that is extensive.

Tablets based on Google's Android are the main competition with Microsoft's latest offering adding to the mix (see Microsoft's Tablet Surfaces). The arguments about the iPad and other tablet tends to get rather emotional as well. The question is: Would you buy an alternative to an iPad that does about the same thing?

The choice is not so simple with this question versus diamonds because of all the variance associated with tablets. Looking only at the hardware and cost would make the choice easier but that is actually a rather small part of the discussion. The software on the hardware and the software on the Internet are actually more important and there the variance is even greater. Just the difference between Android and iOS operating systems is enough to make one think that you are on different planets.

So, does any of this have any relationship to the upcoming Design West show? Sort of.

The latest and greatest embedded hardware and software will be on display. The comparisons will be there and vendors will be very emotional about how great their “natural” solution is. You will have to make the comparison between the products. Unfortunately it will not be as simple as buying or comparing diamonds although it may be cheaper in many instances.

On the other hand, there will be a lot more that is unique. Finding solutions with just the right combination of hardware and software may possible and that saves a lot of time and money. It can cut time-to-market because building usually takes longer than buying. The trick is that solution is not always as clear cut as a diamond.

So would I buy a synthetic diamond? Probably. I've worked with jewelry in the past and used industrial diamonds for polishing stones. It works great. I've also used other synthetic gemstones like sapphires. Natural sapphires are very expensive while synthetics are comparatively cheap and are more pure. Of course, I also use an Andriod tablet.

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William Wong

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
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