Are Mac users jealous of the iPad Pro? [Opinion]


Is the 2018 iPad Pro or a MacBook a better option for you?
Is the 2018 iPad Pro or a MacBook a better option for you?
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Anyone who thinks you can’t get “real work” done on an iPad is nuts. Likewise, anyone who claims Apple’s tablet is not a real computer sounds like somebody arguing that the 1984 Mac wasn’t a real computer because it didn’t have a text-based command-line interface.

The iPad vs. Mac debate certainly isn’t new.  Only the devices have changed.

I think that the folks making these arguments are jealous of the iPad Pro, or scared that it will become more important to Apple than their Macs. They want to use it instead of their Mac, but at the same time they’re unwilling to change anything about how they work. Instead, they want the iPad to be a touchscreen Mac with a detachable keyboard.

The iPad Pro and ‘real’ work

Make iPad music iPAd vs Mac
Who needs a Mac?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Musicians can get “real work” done on centuries-old violins, and tape recorders. Writers managed to write novels on paper long before you got so precious about your Macbook. Architects built buildings, pilots flew planes, and accountants counted stuff. And they can do all those things with an iPad.

If the argument is that an iPad doesn’t work the exact same way a laptop works, then that’s correct. For instance, if your job is “using a laptop,” then you’re out of luck, because the iPad isn’t a laptop. In that case, a MacBook is the only choice.

But confronted with this fact, some folks insist that the iPad needs to change in order to add the Mac-specific features, even though they are clearly Mac-only features. Worse, adding these features might end up ruining iOS for the people who actually love it and use it for what it is.

But if your job title isn’t “using a laptop,” then you probably * can* do your job on an iPad. The list of things that the iPad *can’t* do is quite small. You can write, design, edit photos and videos, add up numbers, email people, run a business.

Don’t blame the iPad if you don’t want to change

Another common argument is “The iPad can’t connect to a hard drive.” But think about this: Unless a person’s job is literally “connecting a hard drive to a computer and transferring files,” then they can probably do the actual task they need to do some other way. AirDop for photos or videos, for example. And if not? If it’s really truly impossible to do a task on the iPad (and not to just replicate a workflow that’s been designed for a Mac)?

No worries. Just stick with the Mac. The iPad can’t do everything yet. Maybe it never will be. But it’s just not true that the iPad isn’t capable of real work. It’s just that it can’t duplicate an exact Mac workflow. The solution is to stick with the laptop. MacBooks are awesome too, and will be even better when they switch to Apple’s A-series ARM processors. The great part is that the Mac and the iPad can both focus on what they do best. If you need a Mac, use one.

Maybe the Mac isn’t the ‘real’ computer

Friends don’t let friends get to this stage.
Friends don’t let friends get to this stage.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

And consider an illustrator who uses the iPad. She draws on the screen with an Apple Pencil. She creates entire books and sends them to her publisher via her iPad’s LTE connection. Maybe she likes to go sit in that comfy armchair in the library to draw. The one in the corner with a view of the gardens, and prop the iPad on her knee.

Imagine she has to translate this workflow to the Mac. No LTE. No way to draw on it without hooking up a Wacom tablet, and even then you can’t prop it all up on one knee.

Of course I picked this scenario to prove my point, but it’s no crazier than the popular “photographer with a hard drive” trope often used to prove the iPad isn’t the real deal.

My point is, both the iPad and the Mac are computers. And both of them make different compromises in their design, mostly to do with touch-interaction, or mouse-pointer interaction. Pick the one that’s best for you.

Goals vs. established processes

When comparing Mac and iPad, it’s important to try to separate the *goal* of a task from the *steps* already established to achieve that goal. For most people, those steps are easily confused with the task they were originally designed to achieve. For instance, the goal may be editing a video that was shot on a video camera, and readying the result for publication. That’s easily possible on the iPad. But if you want to use the tools and workflows established on the Mac (automations, Adobe Premier, etc.) then you can’t.

You most likely can’t carry out the same steps on an iPad that you do on a Mac or PC, but you almost certainly *can* achieve the same goal. And it may be that you come up with a new way to do it on the iPad, and still prefer the Mac. That’s fine, of course, because you can use the Mac.

But you might find you prefer the iPad way of doing things. Like our hypothetical illustrator. Or an airline pilot who doesn’t have to carry a suitcase full of manuals onto every flight. Or the podcast editor who prefers using a custom $30 app like Ferrite, instead of bending an all-purpose app like Logic Pro to do a job it wasn’t made for.

The iPad was never meant to be a Mac replacement. It’s a Mac alternative. If anything, it’s been hobbled by Apple’s insistence on making it too much like the iPhone, rather than not enough like the Mac. I’m just happy we have all three.