‘Your’ vs. ‘My’

Tom Warren’s review for The Verge of the new iPad Pro and iOS 11 beta is headlined “iOS 11 on an iPad Pro Still Won’t Replace Your Laptop”. Exactly in line with my piece yesterday, that “your” should be a “my”.

Warren has some on-point criticism about the finickiness of iOS 11’s drag-from-the-dock behavior for setting up multiple on-screen apps on the iPad — his review is worth reading for that segment alone. But then he adds:

Sure, you can ignore these gestures if you want, just like thousands of Windows and Mac users ignore keyboard shortcuts they don’t know about. The problem Apple faces here is that it’s trying to convince everyone that a touch interface is just as productive as using a keyboard and mouse.

Again, Apple is not trying to convince everyone to replace a traditional Mac or PC with an iPad. Apple executives say that the Mac has a bright and long future because they really do think the Mac has a bright and long future. Any review of the iPad and iOS 11 from the perspective of whether it can replace a MacBook for everyone is going to completely miss what is better about the iPad and why.

In the 80s and well into the 90s there were non-stop debates about whether GUI interfaces like the Mac and Windows were “better than” command line interfaces.1 The argument was never settled, but we don’t even use the acronym “GUI” anymore. It wasn’t settled because the argument didn’t really make sense. GUIs were better for most people for most tasks and the command line remains for the things it is best at. The analogy isn’t perfect because the post-OS X Mac has both a great GUI and a great command line, but the iOS-vs.-Mac-for-work argument will be “settled” similarly: we’ll just stop talking about it a decade from now, years after many (maybe even most) people are using iPads and iPad-like devices for their computer-based work.

Imagine a review of the Mac SE/30 in 1989 that instead of focusing on all the things that were great about it — both the things that were great about the Mac ever since 1984 and especially the tremendous improvement in performance and user-interface snappiness that the SE/30 brought to the board — focused instead on the things that were still faster or better on DOS, like games or being able to write batch files. That’s what these “iPad Pro Still Can’t Replace Your Laptop” reviews feel like to me.

  1. Usenet veterans will recall that these arguments would break out on any and all newsgroups — not just those related to tech — and they would rage out of control for days like virtual wildfires. ↩︎