Matt Alexander declares that today the iPad has replaced the Mac, by adding a new 128GB model.
. . . with a price immediately comparable to the 11-inch MacBook Air, Apple has ostensibly released an iPad that broaches into the realm of full-time workhorse device . . .
Today’s iPad, available for $929 with an LTE radio, improves upon the battery life, display, storage, portability, and connectivity of my 11-inch Air.
Perhaps I can’t perform all of the work I do on my Air on an iPad, but the knowledge is nevertheless stunning when presented in a side-by-side comparison.
I agree, particularly in terms of cellular connectivity and battery life, the 128GB iPad (or any full-size iPad) is a compelling “one-device.”
But if the Age of the iPad as one’s sole computer — for work and leisure — is upon us, I don’t feel like the software has caught up to the hardware. Despite all the powers of the iPad (or tablets generally) as a device, there are still so many tasks that are easy on a PC but difficult-to-unbearable on an iPad.
Thinking just in terms of what I’m doing now: writing. Yes, you can pair a keyboard (and I actually have almost no trouble with the soft keyboard). But that’s just typing. When I’m writing, for work or for this blog, or what have you, I’m not just dropping text onto a blank field. I’m also formatting, I’m editing, I’m adding links, I’m italicizing, adding images, cutting and pasting, swapping between open windows and tabs for reference. All these things are possible on an iPad, but they are a huge pain in the ass. (Press the screen, hold, wait for the bubble to pop up. Oh, that was the wrong spot. Smudge over to the right spot. Release? Release. Hold again. There’s the bubble, and tap the menu option. Wrong option. Undo? How? Undo button or shake the iPad? Should I have double-tapped? Etcetera.)
I imagine this is the case for many other kinds of work that folks would like to be doing on their glass slabs, but still find it too cumbersome. Surely, the iPad makes many tasks easier than they were on a PC, or if not, strips away functionality in such a way as to simplify and make more pleasurable certain tasks (like note taking, light photo editing, or maybe even demo-music recording).
Let’s stick with writing for the moment. The problem isn’t the hardware, really. The Retina iPad as an electronic device is a wonder. But as of yet, I have not seen a software solution, an app, that, for example, makes formal writing projects really feasible. Many apps do an admirable job of making up for the deficiencies of tablet publishing, but they are merely treading water. PC’s benefit from the ease of using a pointing device like a mouse or trackpad, in having a definitive cursor on the screen that can show the user (with no question as to where their finger might actually be pressing) where the action on the screen is. And that arrow can be easily manipulated right before our eyes.
Someone needs to develop a software solution that totally rethinks that entire paradigm specifically for the tablet environment. Right now, writing apps tend to mimic the pointer-cursor concept but without the pointer or cursor, and simply relying on presses and taps. That sucks when you’re talking about something as granular as text. It’s just too damn small, and our fingers are just too damn, well, mushy in action. They are imprecise, unlike the blinking cursor or the hovering arrow. So for writing and formatting to really work on a tablet, that entire setup needs to be junked, and replaced with something that suits the hardware (and by hardware in this case I do mean both the tablet itself and the fingers operating it).
There was a time when I was eager to replace by own 11″ Air with an iPad, but it was this kind of work that made that a fantasy. (And would it kill Apple to make a MacBook Air with LTE and a battery that’s not a joke? No, but it would probably kill my wallet.) My Retina iPad is gone, replaced with a Nexus 7, in part because it did not justify its place in my life. It was not capable enough as a full-on work machine, and not small or light enough to be a leisure/reading machine.
And I still love my 11″ Air. It’s so adorable!
Anyway, Alexander is not all the way there himself.
Although many, myself included, are reticent to wholeheartedly embrace the iPad as a primary computing machine, there’s an increasingly large amount of people who are more than willing to do so. With each passing day, the compromises of relying upon an iPad for work are dissipating, whilst the Mac is steadily becoming more and more resigned to niche tasks for power-users.
We’ll see. I don’t think the kind of writing I’m talking about is the exclusive provenance of power users. So let’s watch what the devs come up with, and we’ll see.