My 2c on the iPad vs Mac debate

Two of my favorite writers, John Gruber and Ben Brooks are weighing in on the Mac vs iPad debate. It is a highly debated topic, especially in light of the slower release of Mac computers, relatively feeble upgrades of the new machines and the growing oomph of the iPad, especially the iPad Pros.

Gruber writes, “To me, an iPad in notebook mode — connected to a keyboard cover — is so much less nice than a real notebook.” John feels hamstrung with the iPad. To that, Brooks responds by saying, “That feeling of being hamstrung on an iPad is not because of the device, but because it requires a mental shift to working in a way you are unfamiliar.”

The debate between iPad and Mac is a debate between the old and new way of computing. Desktop computing has been around for a long time and it’s experience was built, optimized and focused on by a group of early adopters. Sure PC went mainstream, but tablets and smart phones are a new way to compute – for the masses.

I am an iPad Pro believer, though it took me a while to completely convert. Around this time last year, I took my first stab at publishing on the iPad Pro. A few days later I took another take stab and lamented, “The lack of apps that take advantage of the massive real estate, power and capabilities of the device.”

Fast forward to today and I have totally changed my tune. It took me about four weeks or so to internalize the iPad Pro (13 inch) with Apple’s Smart Keyboard before building my entire daily workflow around the device. For me, iPad is primarily a consumption device and a perfect for communication — the most important part of my job. I am on Messenger, Email, Telegram, and Twitter. I am often using FaceTime audio for phone calls. I use Siri and Apple’s voice transcription feature to take notes, make to-dos and add items to my calendar.

I read a lot – Pocket is perfect to save and read magazine pieces – and most importantly, I love the entertainment apps – Netflix, YouTube and HBO Go are part of my daily diet. I read on Kindle app and have the New Yorker, the Economist, The New York Times and the WSJ apps. Even Apple News has grown on me.

That leaves me with the other most important part of my daily existence — photography and photo editing. I admit this is probably where iPad is the weakest. I absolutely need the laptop for editing, archiving and arranging my photo library. I am lost without Photoshop and Lightroom because they are my go-to tools I need to for editting my photos. As a Leica shooter, I have to live with JPEGs that aren’t as good as Canon or Fuji. I have to instead extract the most out of my DNG photos. The photo editing apps on the iPad aren’t good enough. I know Lightroom Mobile can edit DNG Files, but honestly it is weak sauce and hard to edit on the iPad. If anything, I need a laptop for that – and at present, my 2013 MacBook Pro is wheezing under the load.

As Ben pointed out, you need to get used to the “iOS as a laptop,” it which is way easier if your workload doesn’t involve programming or doing heavy lifting. Gruber is an uber-Mac user and perhaps has it tricked out with all sorts of scripts and shortcuts. Mere mortals like us are now used to Apps as our productivity enhancers and shortcuts to the online life.

The difference between power users and normals is that the latter use machines in very predictable ways. As creatures of habit we tend to go to many of the same websites, use usually the same apps and are trained to look for the familiar. And less complicated computing devices such as iPads are ideal. But more importantly we need to see the future of computing through the eyes of those who are not like us – folks who grew up using keyboards and mice.

Instead we need to think about the future from the perspective of those who are growing up today – kids who interact via touch and swipe, the toddlers who are learning to talk to Alexa and those who won’t need Lightroom because some machine somewhere will do the heavy lifting. It is the future, which is very different from the one that has so far been built with desktops, keyboard and mice. It isn’t today, and it certainly isn’t tomorrow – but ten years from now, the world will be very different. I am happy I am learning new computing behaviors, interacting and imagining what the future will be. It is sentimentality which makes me refreshing the Apple Store app to see when the new MacBook will arrive.

In closing, I channel none other the Steve Jobs and his infinite wisdom on the future of computing.

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm,” Jobs commented at the D8 conference in 2010. “But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

A letter from Om

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