I've been a strong advocate of tablets as the future of personal computing for a while now. It actually goes all the way back to when I was in elementary school when I would etch user interfaces into the thin pages of my black marble notebooks, pretending that I had some sort of futuristic pen-controlled computer. Teachers would mock me when they saw what was in my notebooks. I clearly remember one teacher assistant looking down at me and saying all too loudly, "stop drawing boxes and start paying attention".
I dreamed of having a Microsoft tablet—the garbage old ones from the early 2000s that ran Windows XP—even though I was always a Mac nerd, and even at that age I should have known how shitty it would be in practice. Shitty or not, it definitely seemed like the future.
Fast-forward to the iPad, which I've had a somewhat complicated relationship with since its launch in 2010. I bought an iPad 2 in 2011 when they were first released, and I used that as my portable computer up until 2013. I had no money for a MacBook, so I made the most of that iPad, even though any laptop would have been much better suited for recording and demoing new music, writing blog posts, and performing at live shows.
I bought a MacBook Pro in 2013, and my usage of that iPad 2 completely dropped, so I sold it without too much thought. I bought an iPad mini 2 a few months later—thinking the smaller size would lend itself well to reading—but that didn't last, and I sold it in May 2014, after just 6 months of usage.
I didn't miss it at all. It's a testament to the utility and staying power of the Mac. iPads are nice, but Macs are necessary. I can't work without one, and I wouldn't even be in the music or design businesses if I wasn't given access to one when I was little.
Silly as I am, though, my tablet dreams came crawling back last February, when I bought an iPad Air 2, figuring I'd soon replace my MacBook Pro with an iMac for work, and embrace the iPad as my personal computer for just about everything outside of recording albums and doing intense design work.
The iPad Air 2 is technically a masterpiece. It's this insanely thin slab that contains the world's information. Information you can interact with and transform with your fingertips. It's a unique instrument—especially when paired with Samplr—and it really does feel like the future of personal computing.
Sometimes. Other times it just feels like a nascence. You could argue that's just because the software is still in its infancy, at five years old, and I would probably believe you.
I spent way too much of my free time last week in the Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal playing with the new iPad Pro. It's probably the most accurate realization of the tablet computer that I was dreaming of as a kid, and I strongly suspected that I would own one of these. I expected that with such a huge screen, and such a wide canvas for creation, my belief that the tablet is the future of personal computing would only be confirmed.
But I ended my week with a much different realization: the computer I want and, more importantly, need is not an iPad, but a MacBook.
The release of the iPad Pro actually made me step back from my strangely perverted childhood love for the tablet form factor, and gave me some more appreciation for a type of computer that isn't promised to be amazing, but has been amazing for a while.
I don't really work in the tech industry, I'm just interested in this stuff, so while I like to bet on which technologies I think are going to succeed and which are going to fail, it's not really my job to do so. I'd love to continue to stand up for tablets as the future, but I have the luxury of being a bystander and therefore able to change my mind.
If I were to put my iPad in a drawer for a month, I wouldn't really miss much of anything. But if I were to put my MacBook Pro in a drawer for a month, my business would likely crumble, and a bunch of my clients would definitely be pissed at me. I'm not saying that nobody can use only an iPad for work, but that I personally can't. I'm only making my life more complicated by trying to stand up for something that isn't working for me. The iPad Pro isn't going to change that, and after a few months of use, I can say that I find iOS 9's split view multitasking functionality hacky and confusing. It can't touch the desktop metaphor we've been used to on Mac and Windows.
Aside from work, the iPad sucks for lots of other things, too. Browsing the web on it is noticeably worse than doing so on a Mac. Sure, reading on the iPad is lovely, but as soon as you have to interact with anything on a webpage, it all goes to shit. Writing on it is obviously worse, though I'm sure a bunch of 'minimalist writers' will beg to differ. If you aren't a fan of the on-screen keyboard (I actually don't mind it on the 9.7" model), trying to strap some sort of shit sandwich bluetooth cover to it is nothing more than an annoyance.
Steve Jobs once said if you need a stylus, you've already failed. I say, if you need a physical keyboard to get real work done on a tablet, you've already failed, and what you're looking for is a laptop. You're just kidding yourself.
Anyway, I'm rambling at this point. I don't like to write about technology much anymore because it all feels so silly and materialistic. We're all lucky that we have any of these devices, they're all fucking incredible human accomplishments, and whatever works for you is what you should use. Personally, I'm done betting on the tablet, because as badly as I want it to work for me, it's just not.
I sold my iPad Air 2 a couple of days ago, and I plan to get a 12-inch MacBook when they update the processors. I'm really looking forward to that.