The iPad Pro: don't read the comments

My first rule of the internet is to never read the comments, although I break that rule more often than not. Occasionally comments can be insightful and interesting, but usually they are just reactionary and not well thought out.

Recently while reading reviews of the new iPad Pro I made the mistake of reading the comments. I’m going to share that experience with you.

The overwhelming reaction in the comments was “I don’t get it. Why not simply use a MacBook Air?” or “If it ran OS X I would buy it”.

To my mind, these comments show a real lack of imagination. As Henry Ford might have said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would said faster horses”. I believe that a competent user of an iPad should be as efficient for many tasks as a competent user of a laptop or desktop computer. This will obviously not be the case for all users all of the time.

These seem to be the same sort of opinions that accompanied the release of the original iPad in 2010.

At present the iPad handles web browsing as well, or better, than a laptop. Email, word processing and spreadsheets are possible, using Microsoft Office or Apple’s iWork apps, especially with the help of a Bluetooth keyboard. Even photo editing is possible with the camera connection kit (remember that?) or iCloud Photo Library, although the limited storage space and lack of expandability might hamper that for some users.

I’m currently writing this article with a MacBook Pro, external monitor, keyboard and mouse. I could be just as efficient writing this same article with a keyboard and an iPad or iPad Pro. This obviously doesn’t apply to all tasks. A laptop might be better for some individual tasks, an iPad better for others. That advantage is just as likely to come from the available software as from the device form-factor.

Most of all MacOS has a windowing system and a file system, where I can group files from different applications in projects according to my needs.”

This is the universal refrain of the internet commenter. “I don’t understand why someone would like this, therefore it must be awful. And useless. And lame”.

The request for a file system and windows is widespread but to me it seems almost as necessary as demanding a purple computer. It’s useful but not the only solution.

There is demand for a file system because the user apparently wants to get work done and can see no other way. But the decades old idea of a file system is more and more something that gets in the way of work, even if you don’t realise it yet.

I find that I have so many files on my computer that traversing the directory structure is something that I do infrequently. When I’m looking for a particular file I will either search for it using system-wide search or find it in the list of recent files. A file system is something that helps to get work done but isn’t necessary if it’s replaced by something better. Arguably, the iPad file system hasn’t really replaced it with something better yet, but for many users it is good enough.

Apple has tried to hide some of the complexity of files, even on Mac OS. iTunes, Photos, Mail and many other Mac applications hide the complexity by using either packages) or libraries where the individual files are hidden away.

This is part of their solution. Users don’t need files, they just concentrate on work, while letting the files take care of themselves. It may not work in all cases but there are fewer exceptions.

is there is anything in IOS that handles citations and plugs into latex and Office? Sufficient to say, IOS has a LONG way to go even for college-level applications.

At the time of its release, I saw the original iPad as a revolutionary device and not just a big iPod Touch. I didn’t buy the original version but I did queue up on day 1 when the iPad 2 was announced. I don’t regret that decision.

I don’t see the new iPad Pro as revolutionary in the same way that I saw the original iPad as revolutionary. However, the original iPad was an exciting new device waiting for the software to make it outstanding. That’s definitely the case today with the iPad Pro.

There might not be iPad-based solutions for some particular specific problem today. For me that’s iOS development (Xcode) and video-editing (Final Cut Pro). That doesn’t mean there won’t be solutions tomorrow.

The iPad Pro hardware is a blank slate, waiting for developers to solve new and old problems with it. We’re in a software era and it is naive think that your particular problem can’t be solved by software.