A lot of keyboards have been strained over the furious typing surrounding the future of the iPad recently. All of these posts seem to be all over the place. Some calling for doom, some (most?) confused, and others saying ‘pshaw, all is good’. I think it would be helpful to look at what the iPad is actually good at doing — but do note that by using the word ‘good’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘better’ — what’s it’s not so good at, and then see if we can suss out this confusion.
Here’s what I find to be the best use cases for the iPad, as it currently functions:
- Web browsing. Sorry, even with limited access to some sites you just won’t find a better way to browse the web.
- Gaming. Yes console games are great, PC games are epic, and iPhone games are handy. To me the iPad strikes a great balance and I always find myself fully immersed in a game when I play it on my iPad.
- Hand written notes. Paper is better, but Paper is pretty sweet. That, and apps like Notability make things a lot easier than taking notes on any other device.
- Short bursts of computing. If I have to watch my kids I’m not bringing in my laptop out while they are playing. It’s too many interruptions for my laptop to hold up well, but the iPad lives for this type of usage. Grab it for 5 minutes, or 10 seconds, or 10 hours — doesn’t matter — you can easily pick it up and put it down and do what you need, or want, to do.
- Reading. Your Kindle is great and all, and you can read on the Mac or iPhone, but the iPad is very good for reading too. It’s certainly better than your laptop, possibly your phone depending on where you are.
- Outlining. I find outlining on a computer to feel silly, after all it doesn’t take much more to write it out since I am already on the computer. But the iPad is well suited for outlining as it’s onscreen keyboard helps to keep outlines short and to the point.
- Media. You may think the iPad is too heavy to hold to watch a movie, but have you tried holding a laptop or TV to watch a movie? And your iPhone is super light, but also tiny.
With the exception of maybe two of the above1 , people have historically bought specially made tools to do just one of the things on the lists above. The iPad packages them all up, and cumulatively at a cheaper price. It’s no slouch.
I’m reminded of this from Ricardo Mori:
That what the iPad does better is exactly the fact that it can do many things well. The iPad, for me, shines exactly because of the staggering amount of things it does well — there is no other tablet capable of doing something like this. You may say that this or that other tablet are better than the iPad at performing certain tasks, but they lack the iPad’s overall versatility.
Now, it’s not all good. There are a great many things that iPad does not (yet) do very well:
- Spreadsheets. I don’t even bother. It’s fine to view them, but shit to make a high quality spreadsheet on the iPad.
- Writing is unless you attach a real keyboard. I love the onscreen keyboard, but even I don’t love to write long form on it.
- Page layout. lol
- Coding. LOL
- Sharing files. I loathe having to send something to someone from my iPad. “Send me that PDF.” Trying 5 apps later I found it and sent it, what a pain.
- Working with reference material is too big a chore on a single app display device.
There are a lot more options you can add to either list, but those are the rudimentary things which people like to note about the iPad.
So is it a failure?
The truth is no one knows yet, but moreover you must define failure. Failure to make money for Apple? Surely not. Failure to rid the world of PCs? Absolutely. Failure to cure world hunger? Miserable failure.
I counter such notions of the iPad being a failure with a series of questions:
- Does a Camry fail because it is not a Ferrari?
- Does a Ferrari fail because it is not a Jeep?
- Does a MacBook Air fail because it is not a Mac Pro?
Of course not.
The only people truly disappointed with the iPad right now is Wall Street, because Wall Street is stupid. Wall Street lives and breathes on bullet points and future potential. How well is the iPad fighting the bullet point war? Not well, but only because Apple doesn’t care to fight that war.
And because the iPad doesn’t fair well when compared on bullet points alone — and doesn’t care to fair well — Wall Street just doesn’t get iPads. And when you think you are the smartest people in the room (the room being Wall Street and the people being ‘analysts’) and you come across something you don’t understand, you naturally believe it is because there is nothing to understand — and therefore it will soon die.2