Can The an iPad Replace Your Mac? – Or Is That The Wrong Question?

In a Macworld opinion piece, Ted Landau asks and answers the rhetorical question: “Now that its possible to maintain an iPad without ever connecting it to a Mac, is it time to dump the Mac altogether?”

Yes and no, he says, depending on the sort of usage you need a computer for. Many iPad users are already finding they can get by with just the tablet, but as Landau observes, a laptop runnng OS X or Windows was always overkill forfolks who only want a device that can handle email, support casual Web surfing, and perform a few related tasks — still a minority he says, but a growing one. For certain categories of professionals, such as real estate salespersons , he notes that the iPad is also almost or already there.

However, for most of us yet, the answer has to be “no” says Landau. He owns an iPad and says he wouldn’t easily part with it, since as it’s the device that gets more use on a typical day than his MacBook and desktop Mac. But when he needs a Mac, they remain critical and indispensable work tools.

Landau observes that this overlap probably doesn’t trouble Apple, especially if it means people wind up buying both Mac and iPad. However, a persistent undercurrent of media commentary persists in predicting the Mac’s imminent demise content creators and other relative power users like Landau and your humble editor, it’s going to require some substantial and fundamental changes to the iPad and the iOS before that’s a seriously realistic scenario.

For now, the iPad, and delightful and magical as it is with its limited range of capabilities, in order to serve as a main computer anchor device would need:

• Better external storage and backup options – To wit, 128 GB isn’t enough for a primary machine, and with no Mac or PC (or for that matter if your Mac itself only has a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD as many MacBook Airs and Retina Pro models do these days), what do you back up your iPad to given its lame connectivity? And no, locked-down, restrictive, iCloud doesn’t come close to being a satisfactory substitute.

• Better support for wired peripherals – iPad external device and peripheral connectivity is pathetic. I would need the iPad to be able to connect via a hard-wired interface to an external storage drive, which would require a real standard USB port.

• Better typing and pointing device capabilities – While the iPad supports excellent text processing apps like Nebulous Notes, TextKraft, and PlainText — to name the three I use most, they all fall short of the capabilities of word cruncher apps I use on my Macs, largely due to the iPad platform’s inherent text-handling and editing tools and their limitations. Actually, I don’t really mind using the on-screen keyboard nearly as much as not being able to connect a mouse.

• Multiple windows – Landau says that while some may prefer the simplicity and focus of full-screen mode, he doesn’t. Me neither – give me real multitasking. For me the ability of the iPad to display two oen windows side-by-side would be a huge step toward making it an acceptable work platform.

A couple more points Landau didn’t mention but that I will are the iPad’s severe image handling and editing limitations and lack of document level file system access, both of which are deal-breakers for me in considering the iPad a serious contender as primary computer.

Consequently, as Landau concludes, the day when the iPad can replace every Mac is still not even on the horizon. I’m not holding my breath.

When iPad Can Be a True Mac Alternative

However, blogger Shawn Blanc contends that anyone like Ted Landau or myself who argues that the iPad cannot be a Mac replacement is missing the point.

To wit: The iPad isn’t meant to be a Mac replacement, but rather a Mac alternative — and only if you want it to be. In Blanc’s estimation, arguing about whether the iPad is a satisfactory Mac replacement or not is a bit like arguing about your favorite color.

He says the reason he chooses to work from his iPad when he can is because he enjoys it. He likes the change of pace that comes with using the iOS, and the challenge (a formidable one – Ed.) of attempting to do the same quality of work on the iPad without all the fancy macros, scripts, and shortcuts he has at his fingertips when on his Mac.

I can actually partly agree with him. I also use my iPad more and more for tasking it can do reasonably well, although I take no delight in having to resort to kludgy workarounds to compensate for its many inherent limitations .

But does even Blanc’s iPad replace his Mac? No. Is it an alternative work device when he wants it to be? Yup. Well, it is for me too. I agree with Blanc that The iPad is awesome, and that the Mac is awesome, too, and that the two statements don’t necessarily have to conflict with one another. I would just like the iPad to be more.

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