Working it: iPad productivity isn’t about cursors

Don’t try to make the iPad into a PC.


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The Macalope is happy to stipulate that there are some people for whom an iPad is not going to be a great work device. That doesn’t mean, however, that the iPad is not a great work device for many.

Writing for Macworld (hey, that’s this publication!), Michael Simon says “The iPad Pro needs more than smaller bezels to take on the Galaxy Tab S4 and Surface Go.”

It will have small bezels, according to images found in iOS 12.

And it will also, most assuredly, have more.

So, uh, yeah, it’s probably going to be fine.

Apple may have started the post-PC revolution but it's in danger of getting left behind.

Long-time readers of his work will know that The Macalope does not think much of the market share metric. It should be obvious, however, that Apple has already locked up the profit share in the tablet market, so let’s just, for fun, look at market share.

“iPad Putting Pressure on Windows and Android Tablet Competitors, Says Strategy Analytics.”

Strategy Analytics estimates Apple’s current share to be at 28.2 percent, leading the pack. IDC estimates it as high as 34.9 percent. Samsung’s share fell 13 percent year-over-year to 12.2 percent. And how did the Microsoft Surface do? Oh, shipments fell two percent. So, it might take a little while before Apple gets left behind.

Still, that’s all history. Enter the Galaxy Tab S4 and the Surface Go. The Surface Go seems like a very solid device, albeit one that’s likely to be outclassed in speed and battery life by the 2018 iPads. It’s also more of a small laptop than a tablet and Simon spends most of his time talking up the S4.

…Samsung has created something of a hybrid system with DeX, basing it on the same foundation but retooling the interface to be more like Chrome OS than Android. You’re still using Android apps, but you can interact with them like you would on a PC.

And this seems to be where The Macalope and Simon fundamentally disagree. Tablet productivity isn’t about making it into a laptop by adding a cursor. Because tablet UI interaction is supposed to be different. What makes Windows 10 worse as a tablet operating system than iOS is that it’s not fully optimized for touch input. It’s still predominantly a desktop operating system. And, surprise! That’s also what makes DeX worse! Turns out not everyone is as effusive about DeX as Simon is.

“Galaxy Tab S4 reviews put the nail on Android tablet’s coffin.”

It's all very finicky and feels unfinished -- it's nearly impossible to predict what will work and how in DeX mode.

Basically, it’s that great Samsung attention to software detail that we’ve all come to know and love. Beyond the sloppy execution, though, it’s still just trying to make a tablet into a laptop.

And forget using your finger to manipulate those windows. You’ll have to grab your S Pen or, better yet, a mouse.

People who love to use the iPad to work aren’t sitting there thinking “Oh, my God, I can’t wait until this thing has a mouse and a cursor.” Yeah, they might want better multitasking support, but productivity isn’t about cursors and windowing. It’s about app selection, focus, speed and decreasing friction. The iPad isn’t perfect for every job by those measures, but it’s great at many.

If Apple truly believes that the iPad is the future of computing—and I’m not here to dispute that assessment—then the iPad needs to evolve beyond a new design.

Let’s remember for a second that this is all predicated on someone finding an unusual iPad icon in iOS 12, not an Apple announcement that says “We redesigned the front of the iPad and that’s all we did!”

It’s been eight years and the only real productivity advantages between latest iPad Pro and the original iPad is the ability to run two apps side by side.

Somewhere Federico Viticci angrily snapped an Apple Pencil in half, though he did not know why. Apple has also added a 12.9-inch screen, file management, a redesigned Dock, drag and drop, screen recording and a bunch of other stuff Viticci covered in his iOS 11 review. And soon we’ll have Workflow.

Pound for pound, the iPad Pro is still the best tablet you can buy. … But when it comes to replacing your PC, the Surface Go and Galaxy Tab S4 have got it beat.

There are definitely improvements Apple could make to the iPad to make it a better productivity device. But tablet productivity is not about replacing your PC.

(Don’t say “It’s about working different.”)

(Don’t say “It’s about working different.”)

It’s about working different.


Curse these cliché-loving hooves!

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