The iPad’s Failing

Jean-Louis Gassée has written a couple of interesting pieces lately on the viability of the iPad as a productivity tool. The first, called The Missing Workflow, outlines how creating a simple blog post is very complicated on an iPad:

For example, can I compose this Monday Note on an iPad? Answering in the affirmative would be to commit the Third Lie of Computing: You Can Do It. (The first two are Of Course It’s Compatible and Chief, We’ll be in Golden Master by Monday.)

I do research on the Web and accumulate documents, such as Dan Frommer’s blog post mentioned above. On a PC or Mac, saving a Web page to Evernote for future reference takes a right click (or a two finger tap).

On an iPad, things get complicated. The Share button in Safari gives me two clumsy choices: I can mail the page to my Evernote account, or I can Copy the URL, launch Evernote, paste the URL, compose a title for the note I just created, and perhaps add a few tags.

Once I start writing, I want to look through the research material I’ve compiled. On a Mac, I simply open an Evernote window, side-by-side with my Pages document: select, drag, drop. I take some partial screenshots, annotate graphs (such as the iPad Pro prices above), convert images to the .png format used to put the Monday Note on the Web…

On the iPad, these tasks are complicated and cumbersome.

The second article, entitled iPad and File Systems: Failure of Empathy, outlines how the hidden file system complicates, well, everything:

This is all well and good, but with success comes side effects. As the iPad gets used in ways its progenitors didn’t anticipate, another failure of empathy looms: Ignoring the needs of people who want to perform “complicated” tasks on their iPads.

When the iPad was introduced, even the most obliging reviewers saw the device as a vehicle for consumption, not creation. David Pogue in the New York Times:

“…the iPad is not a laptop. It’s not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it’s infinitely more convenient for consuming it — books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on.”

This is still true…but that hasn’t stopped users from trying — struggling — to use their iPads for more ambitious tasks: Building rich media presentations and product brochures, preparing course material, even running a business. Conventional wisdom tells us that these are tasks that fall into the province of “true” personal computers, but these driven users can’t help themselves, they want to do it all on their iPads. They want the best of both worlds: The power of a PC but without its size, weight, (relative) unresponsiveness, and, certainly, price.

And this, frankly, is the iPad’s shortcoming. I love my iPad. I use it constantly and even for some basic content creation. But there is no way I’m editing Excel files, doing full-blown Word docs, creating a PowerPoint, even trying to create a blog post with more than text. Even taking notes on an iPad, with fat fingers and styli, is ridiculous. It’s just not conducive to those tasks.

2 thoughts on “The iPad’s Failing

    • I’m not certain I know the answer to how to resolve the issue of “tablet as productivity” tool. I haven’t given it a ton of deep thought, though. I do know stylus input is a must. I need to be able to take reasonable notes on my iPad, replacing my paper notebook.

      I also know that these devices don’t do the little things well that make me productive. A simple thing like connecting contacts to an appointment is even problematic.

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