Things You Can’t Do on an iPad

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Things iPad Can't Do

The iPad has taken the world by storm, with some tech pundits claiming it can replace a computer. There are still many things that you can’t do on an iPad.

When the microwave oven was first available to consumers, many people felt it was a replacement for ovens and ranges. Microwaves came with cook books detailing how to cook everything. After a few terrible meals, our family, like most, figured out that microwaves are good for cooking certain foods. People who only have a microwave oven, such as dorm-dwelling college students, have to settle for appropriate snacks and meals.

The iPad is similar to a microwave oven. Some people believe they can do everything and others will lower their standards and expectations in order to use this hip, new device. When the hype has worn thin and reality sets in, most rational people will realize they still need a computer for certain tasks. Some things just can’t be done on an iPad, and others are done more easily on a computer.

I love my iPad and use it every day. It often gets used more than my Mac. Unfortunately, there are some things that still require a Mac. Some of these are surprisingly basic tasks.

There are a surprising number of tech writers and self-proclaimed technology experts claiming that everything can be done on an iPad. When you look closer, you will find that their requirements are basic — social media, simple blogging, and entertainment. Even some of these tasks are more easily accomplished on a computer.

Some have simplified their requirements so they can work on an iPad. To me, this is indicative of the fact that you cannot do everything on an iPad. It’s never a good idea to compromise the end result in order to use a trendy technology. One should use the right tool for the job. This is like settling for frozen food and pop corn, because you only want to use a microwave oven.

Post-PC World Misinterpreted

A few years ago, Steve Jobs talked about the post-PC world. Jobs was speaking about the decline of Microsoft, and used the term “PC”, not “computer” and definitely not “Mac”. Microsoft has been losing ground, as Apple’s mobile, notebook and desktop markets have grown. Apple still makes notebook and desktop computers. In fact, sales of the Mac are growing, while iPad sales are in decline. If the iPad can do everything, its creator must have missed that memo!

Jobs actually co-opted the “post-PC” concept from MIT professor David Clark. His speech about the post-PC world has nothing to do with the iPad replacing PCs. Clark was talking about the “Internet of Things”. For example, he mentioned how much smarter Coke machines will be in the future. He never posited that computers would disappear. Instead, the point is that computers will be embedded in everyday items. The term was actually meant to rile Clark’s friends at Intel. It is more of a humorous poke than an ominous prediction that PCs would be irrelevant and would be replaced by tablets.

Clark never even mentioned tablets in his speech. If anything, he vaguely refers to smartphones. His speech focuses mostly on the return of client/server computing. Future personal computing devices will just be screens and the logic will run on servers. Does this sound like an iPad? Most iPad apps are thick clients or apps with no meaningful server-side components. When you write a document in Pages on an iPad, all of the logic is on the client side. At best, you can upload documents to iCloud. This is not the post-PC world that Clark envisioned.

So what does the future look like? Well, it is a network full of services – all kinds of services. Calendar maintenance services, e-mail services, voice mail services. It is a world in which there are devices that you use as user interfaces

Tim Cook has never mentioned that consumers should just buy an iPad and forget about the Mac. For many, the iPad is the gateway to the Mac. They like the iPad, and want more, so they buy another, more capable Apple product. The new 2015 MacBook is designed for people who want the form factor of an iPad.

Apple is in no rush to allow the iPad to replace the Mac. They want to sell you everything. Each product is designed to provide different facets and functionality for computing and interacting with the Apple ecosystem.

There is no universal Apple product that can accomplish everything. There are some things that an iPhone and iPad can do that cannot be done on a Mac. A Macintosh does not have a touch screen, accelerometer or gyroscope.

Apple products are designed to work together. They are designed to be complimentary. The Continuity features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are engineered so that working with different Apple products is seamless. Apple wouldn’t have invested so much effort in developing Continuity and Handoff if their product roadmap was leading to the iPad as a Macintosh replacement.

I used to think that Apple products were converging and, one day, you could do everything on an Apple phablet. This makes no business sense. As a public corporation, Apple must grow. They must provide new products that people can buy. As their product line evolves, Apple creates new devices that offer different user experiences and functionality, hoping that consumers will buy them all. Making a universal device would destroy their business. It will not happen. Like every public corporation, Apple cares more about shareholders than customers.

Beyond the rhetoric and big picture, there are specific things that still cannot be done on an iPad. Many people are aware that professionals need a computer to develop software and perform high-end audio/visual tasks. Hollywood still uses the Mac to edit movies. Professional recording studios have yet to replace their Mac Pros with an iPad. Everyday users may also find a few features missing on their iPad.

iPad Doesn’t Have Full Support for Printing

The iPad still doesn’t have what it takes to perform well in an office. It is possible to print from an iPad, using AirPrint, ePrint and other technologies. AirPrint is Apple’s wireless printing technology for iOS. Much like AirPlay, the technology is ubiquitous and supported by many vendors. The inexpensive HP printer I bought at Costco four years ago supports AirPrint. The technology is there, to some extent, but still leaves much to be desired.

Not all apps support AirPrint. Even some of Apple’s popular stock apps, like Reminders, don’t support printing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print out a to do list? Well, you can’t do that with Reminders on iOS. At best, you can take a screenshot. If you have a long to-do list, you can try stitching together a few screenshots.

It isn’t possible to preview printing using AirPrint. This is an essential feature. It is difficult to predict how a document or photo will be printed from an iPad. With a print preview feature, you can at least have an idea of how it will look. I have printed too many photos and images from my iPad, only to be surprised at how they turn out. Sometimes they are too small. They may even take up two pages. You can waste a lot of ink and paper trying to get it right. Color ink, in particular, is quite expensive.

There are some apps that offer print previews, but they don’t support all document types and apps. They don’t integrate with other apps or offer extensions. Should you really need to buy and install a new app to preview a printed document? This is something that is standard on every desktop operating system.

AirPrint also offers very few printing options. At best, you can set the number of copies and enable double-sided printing.

iPad printing options

When I use my Mac, I have so many options. I can even check the ink levels and clean the printing heads. Most printer manufacturers do not offer iOS apps with this level of printer management. If you have an iPad, you will just have to get up and use these features directly on your printer. HP offers an ePrint app that can display ink levels, but still lacks many other options. Like most iPad functionality, printing is watered down. (continue…)

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