Stop It, Stop It Right Now

I thought we covered this a couple of weeks ago, but here’s Ted Landau for Macworld, with the borderline link-bait headline: “Why the iPad still can’t be a true Mac replacement

For wired connections, you are limited to connecting only one peripheral at a time—via the iPad’s Lightning connector. And even with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, you are limited in terms of what you can connect. Most especially, a host of USB peripherals are impossible to use with an iPad.

Also note that the iPad can’t burn CDs. WTF Apple?

And:

Similarly, you can’t switch to a larger screen by connecting a Cinema Display to an iPad, as you can do with a MacBook. You can’t do this even via AirPlay. And even if you could, the Cinema Display is not a touchscreen, limiting how effectively you could use it.

This is a stupid point. You can hook your iPad to a monitor via HDMI, or an Apple TV. Yes, those are not touch screens, but they are external monitors. Also, laptop users typically connect an additional keyboard and mouse, or trackpad, when using an external monitor. Why? Because twisting your head to look at a large screen while typing on your laptop keyboard is lame.

Both quotes are factually accurate today, with the caveat: “as things currently exist”.

AirPlay, for the uninitiated, is borderline amazing. I can sit on my couch and send jitter-free HD video and audio to my TV in a matter of moments. I highly doubt Apple is content to stop there with the AirPlay technology.

So yes, connecting peripherals to iPads is crappy today but that could easily change tomorrow. That may sound like a cop-out, but what Landau and others are preaching reminds me of a sensational headline from 1996 by William Gibson, proclaiming that: “The Net Is a Waste of Time”. The content of Gibson’s article is even more interesting than its headline:

That is a large part of its appeal. It is something half-formed, growing. Larval. It is not what it was six months ago; in another six months it will be something else again. It was not planned; it simply happened, is happening. It is happening the way cities happened. It is a city.

At launch, Apple knew the iPad was great for reading the New York Times website sitting on the couch. Apple didn’t know what else the iPad would become great for.

Even I, just month’s after the iPad was released (and I started this site), wrote this 1 post arguing that the iPad was best used to offload distractions like Twitter from your Mac. That was my best use-case for the iPad — to make it a place for distractions that you ignored.

Six months later the iPad was a completely different machine, and nearly three years later it can almost replace my Mac. Actually, over the past two days I’ve used my iPad more than my Mac.

And iPad is still growing.

Jean-Louis Gassée adds to the debate:

This brings us to a major iPad obstacle: On a “real” PC the file system is visible, accessible; on the iPad, it’s hidden.

And:

On an iPad you don’t navigate a file system but, instead, you launch an app that has it’s own trove of documents that it understands — but it can’t “see” anything else.

Except in the case of cloud enabled apps like Dropbox, Box.net, Egnyte and so on. But yes, there is no way to get at the file system on iOS and now Apple will have to either ignore the half-a-dozen users clamoring for it, or have to completely capitulate and re-think iOS itself. I hope Gassée holds his breath for that one.

Or Apple could just be depending on the strength of the opportunity that the App Store presents for developers to make the apps and tools needed. From the idea of the iPad being a terminal for a server, to robust apps like Dropbox, there is and will be a ton of apps that make the ‘lack of file system’ argument unimportant.

As Shawn Blanc says:

The iPad is a Mac alternative — and only if you want it to be.

Astute.

The argument many make is that for them an iPad cannot replace their Mac right now. But their headlines always scream “THE IPAD AIN’T MY MACBOOK AND THEREFORE IT IS SHIT”. It’s fair to say that the iPad is missing something for you, but short-sighted and stupid to dismiss it because you can’t connect USB devices, monitors, or see the file system.

I don’t know where the future of the iPad lies, but I believe we aren’t even close to realizing the full power and usefulness that it packs.

  1. Which was picked up by Lifehacker, and amazingly still gets traffic from there.
Originally posted for members on: February 28, 2013
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