Why The iPad Needs File Level User Directory Access And Real Multitasking – The ‘Book Mystique

Back in the heyday of the Classic Mac OS, converts to the Mac’s revolutionary Graphical User Interface took plenty of stick from DOS holdouts over the allegedly “Fisher-Price” on-screen environment. “There’s the ducky, and there’s the horsey” went the taunts from the command line jocks.

The were wrong of course and their protestations now seem quaint, what with Windows and even Linux having long since adopted the GUI to a greater or lesser extent respectively. Sniping at the Mac as having an allegedly kid-stuff interface were pretty decisively silenced with the changeover to OS X in 2001, with its industrial strength UNIX underpinnings and the option to switch to a command line at any time via the Terminal. Few users did. The GUI is better for most of us most of the time. But with this, as with most other things, it’s wonderful to have a choice.

Unfortunately, Apple apparently forgot that when they re-engineered the iPhone OS into the iOS for tablet computer duty with the iPad. The iOS has a more “Fisher-Pricey” user interface than the Mac OS ever did, and there’s no choice, even though it’s built on UNIX underpinnings as well. There’s been a deliberate decision to keep the iOS user experience as simple and uncomplicated as possible for non tech-savvy users. The problem with that is that the supposedly simple and uncomplicated way, while unchallenging to casual users, is not necessarily either the simplest or least complex nor the quickest and most efficient, for more advanced users, but they’re stuck using it anyway with the iOS. No choice.

Mac360’s Bambi Brennan, commentson Steve Jobs’s declaration of the post-PC era at the original iPad’s unveiling in 2010, noting that much of what we once used dedicated desktop or notebook PCs to accomplish can indeed now be performed on an iPhone or iPad. MS. Brennan observes that while plenty of people actually are dumping their Macs and PCs in favor of iPads, the rest of us often have two or all three of these devices, and one of the baneful consequences of living in the post-PC era is that it has marked the demise of the golden era of data folders, or more properly file directories, in which we can we learned to organize, store, and access computer files of all types.

The Mac’s file management system is known as the Finder, and thats how Mac users have learned to navigate through the file hierarchy of folders. However, on iOS devices, user accessible file directories, and a folder-based data organization paradigm as we knew it, have gone missing, because Apple, or more specifically, Steve Jobs, says Ms. Brennan, didn’t want us to have to muck around with folder management. Instead individual apps are tasked with doing the management for us. And as she observes, that’s the problem. It’s definitely simpler and easier to let the apps rule our data organization, but it’s definitely not better for those of us who want to use our iPads for production and content creation.

Ms. Brennan contends that while she may enjoy the freedom from not managing files in folders, she wants the option to manage her affairs in that regard on every device, keep files in sync on every device, and have the opportunity to change the organization whenever and however she sees fit. “Apple has taken that freedom away,” she says; “I want it back. You should want it back, too, because its in your best interests to be in control of your own files, and not leave storage and management to someone else. More control is better than less control even if its an option.”

I agree 100,000 percent. The thing I probably dislike most about using my iPad for production work, which I’m doing more frequently these days, and possibly exceeded only the lack of real multitasking as an annoyance, is the absence of access to the file directory. This is mitigated somewhat by using productivity apps that link automatically to Dropbox, which gives me file level directory access to apps created on the iPad via the Finder on my Macs, but being locked out of the iPad’s directory is still a frequent pain, and it makes some key production tasks, for instance uploading individual images to WordPress composition CGIs, impossible, which in turn disqualifies the iPad from being an adequate standalone substitute for a Mac or PC.

Traditionally, the Mac OS has offered two or several ways to execute a particular task or function — a dumbed-down easier but less efficient way for new or casual users, and an alternative way(s) for power users and pros. Is my estimation, that was far superior to the iOS’s typically single mode (the dumbed down one) that all users are obliged to live with.

Ms. Brennan notes that, while its easier (or lazier?) not to have to worry about file organization, whenever a file gets lost or misplaced on her Mac she can easily track it down using the Finder. Not so with the iOS on an iPhone or iPad where third party utility is required to find lost files and folders. The lack of file level directory search capability is a plagued inconvenience and frequent functional impasse on the iPad that sends me back to the Mac in frustration.

Now, if Apple chooses to market the iPad as an exclusively unchallenging to use device for newbie, casual users, and the tech-phobic, that’s their business, even though it snubs the needs and preferences of a substantial proportion of the longtime and loyal Apple user base. However, Apple has chosen to also market the iPad as a pro-user device.

When they released the 128 GB capacity iPad last winter, in an obvious response to Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet computer (which can run the full desktop version of Windows 8), press release highlighted that “the iPad continues to have a significant impact on business, with virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploying or testing iPad. Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad. The over 10 million iWork users, and customers who rely on other productivity apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system, or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, will also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.”

So please, Apple, make up your corporate mind. Is the iPad a serious professional’s device or not? And if it is, just adding memory capacity isn’t enough to make it so. We need the option of user file level directory access, and while we’re at it, real multitasking ability to have multiple document windows, from more than one app open simultaneously.

Some might argue that Apple has sold many millions of iPads, so refusing to accommodate the needs of pro and power users hasn’t hurt them. They should check the latest tablet sales performance metrics.

On the weekend, Appleinsider’s Mikey Campbell reported that KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider, is projecting that due to a combination of seasonality and heightened competition from Android device makers, iPad shipments in Q2/13 are looking like they’ll see a year-over-year drop for the first time since the device’s debut in 2010.

Campbell also notes that while Apple’s year-over-year iPad sales growth in Q1 was still positive at 65 percent, rival manufacturers Samsung and ASUS saw their Android tablets’ share of the sector jump 283 percent and 350 percent respectively from the year ago period, knocking down Apple’s overall market share in a category it once overwhelmingly dominated to about 40 percent. I can’t say for sure of course, but I would be surprised if Android’s more flexible user interface doesn’t have something to do with that.

I love my iPad, but I would love it even more with the option of directory access and support for multitasking, and I won’t be able to embrace the post-PC era until those features are available — or get so fed up that I switch to a Surface Pro. Others who’ve taken that plunge say they’ve been surprised by how agreeable it is on a Windows 8 tablet.

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