Article: Post-PC

by on November 11, 2015

There’s a narrative that the iPad is doomed as a device, mostly because industry-wide tablet sales are a bit flatter than in prior years. The Surface isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, and Google’s latest offering, the Pixel C, has a lot to prove, since Android-based tablets have mostly felt geared towards entertainment. The iPad Pro is being looked at with some skepticism, and it’s unfounded, especially with the introduction of iOS 9, more powerful apps, and the computer needs of many people.

Apple iPad Air 2

I’ll admit, after an encounter with premature obsolescence on a third-generation iPad, along with apps that seemed to be updated less frequently than their iPhone-counterparts, I moved almost all of my produtivity to a Mac and assumed that I’d probably just use my iPhone 6 (and whatever replaced it) to fill in the gaps. A few weeks ago, I realized that, although I enjoy Mac OS X, and one could argue that I have bled six colors for decades, I missed iOS on a computer. While it has limitations, the iPad got out of my way and also encouraged me to do more with a lot less. Playing with an iPad Air 2 at work led me to pick up one for myself, just in time for iOS 9.

Unfortunately, there were a number of apps that had long been discontinued or abandoned, but I was able to rejoin the iOS world quite easily. Some think that people like Federico Viticci who use an iPad as their primary computer are trying to prove something. Others believe that until the iPad can do everything a traditional desktop or laptop computer will do, it will never be an option. A lot of the PC users value the Surface over the iPad for this reason and it’s often their argument. I find the Surface to be a well-made device, but it’s a PC masquerading as a tablet. The iPad and Mac have little in common other than applications that can access the same data and share visual cues. I don’t use an iPad like a Mac. My colleagues use their Surfaces just like the HP desktops and laptops they replaced.

But that’s not to condemn the other products—I like that every platform is taking its own stab at the idea of a tablet, especially since the hardware varies. I couldn’t replace my Mac at work with an iPad because I need Windows for a few tasks, but after a few weeks, I’ve found that the iPad has taken over from my personal Mac for almost everything, other than backing up (okay, hoarding) old files, serving as an AirPrint server for my iOS devices, and serving for a few other once-a-month specific tasks.

Although my job doesn’t directly involve technical support for computers, I get asked a number of questions, and it amazes me how many people have computers that are somehow not working (mostly PCs, but a few Macs here and there), and are only using them for simple tasks that an iPad probably could work just fine for. Some of these include: web browsing, email, social networking, document creation (Word and Excel, especially), watching Netflix, listening to Spotify, and storing some photos. Usually out of a 128GB SSD or 500GB hard drive, less than 20GB is used, and a good chunk of that is dedicated to the operating system. In short, computers are complex and clunky for a lot of people, especially a lot of college-aged students.

Some of my observations are anecdotal, and there are plenty of tasks that are better with a traditional computer, but I suspect that some people are afraid to take the plunge with smaller devices because the form factor is a bit intimidating or that a full-blown, traditional computer is a security blanket (conversely, we have some employees that have been issued computers and end up using their personal iPads for most tasks instead).

My point is, I don’t see the iPad dying anytime soon, just as I don’t see the Mac dying anytime soon. They’ll both coexist, while sharing some overlap in Apple’s lineup—the iPad Pro vs. MacBook argument has already been kicked around quite a bit. If Apple is making money off of both platforms, and are able to develop both, why not offer options?

I’ve been impressed with how the platform has grown over the past year that I’ve been away. There are a lot of great new apps, and I’ll be bold and say that Microsoft Office for the iPad is the best version across all platforms (not necessarily the amount of features, but the joy-to-use factor). Split-screen multitasking is enough to really help with productivity for what I do, and the A8X has plenty of power to spare (I suspect the A7 and A8 feel more than snappy, too). Personally, I can’t get get rid of my work Mac without a few major shifts, including moving a Windows environment to another machine and figuring out how to get an iPad to talk to serial devices. However, I do think I probably won’t be running out to upgrade my home Mac any time soon, as my usage of it will undoubtedly decrease in favor of the iPad.

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