Friday, 28 June 2013

iPad as laptop replacement: almost, but hamstrung by closed thinking

 I had to get a shuttle to work today, after dropping my truck off at the garage and, since my new laptop is due to arrive today, I decided to just take my iPad with an Apple bluetooth keyboard and its cool Incase Origami case/stand (see pic).

So I started with the usual email sift & dispatch.  Mostly fine until I had to reformat an email  I was forwarding and could not add bullets/numbering. After foraging for a bit I ended up having to use dashes and manual numbers. Mildly irritating because it's not exactly a difficult feature to add.

Next, I was trying to upload a document to a website. While 3rd party apps typically give you a plethora of sharing options, based on whatever apps you have installed (eg. Google Drive, Dropbox, SugarSync etc.), Safari only gives you access to the camera roll. Maybe Apple designers, in their shaven-headed, dodgy facial-haired wisdom decided that we would only ever want to upload photo to a website. Or maybe that filesystems were too complicated for my childlike, enchanted brain. The only sense of wonder here is the bewilderment that such a simple utility is not included. But then these are the folks who didn't even include copy & paste until the 3rd version of the OS.

So, basically, I have no faith in the utility of an iPad as a productivity tool beyond basic text and drawing. "That's because it's designed for media consumption, Neil!" you may ejaculate, fondling your tablet distractedly. Yes, it is, but my point is that the limitations are self-imposed by iOS designers, not by any hardware limitations. So to exclude key features that would make it a useful productivity tool is design snobbery at worst and oversight at best.

While other Operating System makers try to fundamentally reconcile their desktop and mobile offerings into a seamless user experience (Google with Chrome and Android, Windows with Windows 8, Ubuntu with their upcoming mobile OS), Apple are changing the fixtures with 'flatter' UI designs and features designed to only work with other Apple products.

That's the trouble with walled gardens: you can fence your audience in, but you can also become prone to self-absorption, and you can lose sight of what the people by the walls (on either side) are saying.

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