January 14, 2015 at 5:31 p.m. PST
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 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.
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.
Rip CDs and DVDs
A lot of people still own CDs and DVDs. I own so many CDs, I still have not been able to import them all into iTunes. If you have a large library of optical media, you will need a computer to import them into iTunes or other media libraries. This cannot be done on an iPad. There are no optical drives or apps that can accomplish this.
At best, one can get an audio converter for the iPad and connect it to a CD player. This isn’t really ripping, but more like dubbing. If the CD is 40 minutes long, it will take 40 minutes to copy it onto the iPad. From there, you will need to manually configure the tracks, but there is no way to get them into the Music app or iTunes ecosystem. Furthermore, the sound quality will be inferior, due to the unnecessary analog-to-digital conversions.
Once you have ripped your CDs into iTunes or other libraries, you can then sync them over to your iPad. Even iTunes Match cannot match your library until you import the CDs. If you have a vast library of CDs and DVDs, owning a computer is still a necessity.
Can’t Upgrade iPad Hardware
Just about anyone can upgrade a personal computer. It doesn’t take a lot of skill. You can upgrade RAM, hard drives and graphics capabilities by simply removing the cover and snapping a part into place. At most, you may need to plug in some cables and use a screwdriver.
You can save a lot of money by buying an inexpensive computer and upgrading it. I have even upgraded my Mac Pro. I added a new 2 TB hard drive and quadrupled the memory for a fraction of the price Apple would charge. Even compact notebook computers can be upgraded. Users can easily add new drives and increase memory. Doing it yourself will save a bundle.
Unfortunately, if you own an iPad, there is no easy way to open it up and upgrade it. I wouldn’t say it is impossible, but it is not easy because the iPad is glued together. You would risk damaging the device. It just isn’t user-serviceable.
When you buy an iPad, it’s hard to settle for the cheapest model with the smallest solid state drive (SSD). As iOS gets bigger, the operating system takes up more room on your iPad. This means there’s less room for apps and content. Apple’s solution is for consumers to just buy a new iPad. I purchased an iPad 2 with 64 GB of storage for $699 and it was practically obsolete within three years, thanks to iOS 8. If I bought the base model, it would have been obsolete after two years. It’s the last iPad I will buy.
Download iTunes Digital Booklet
Digital music downloads have taken the world by storm. For those who have shelves of CDs, they are a blessing. One can grow their music collection without taking up more shelf space. The lack of packaging also means that booklets accompanying CDs are no longer present. Some iTunes albums come with a digital booklet, allowing customers to read the liner notes. Unfortunately, if you want to download these digital booklets, you must use a Mac or PC. At this time, it is not possible to download an iTunes digital booklet directly onto an iOS device. Instead, users must download the booklet on a computer, using iTunes, and sync it to their iOS device. This is a basic task that most consumers want to do, but it cannot be done on an iPad.
Change Video Resolution for iTunes Downloads
iTunes provides content for every device in the Apple ecosystem. Different devices offer different capabilities. For example, if you own an Apple TV 2, it only supports 720p HD. Similarly, the iPad 2 features 1024 x 768 resolution, which is comparable to 720p. iTunes allows users to change video resolution, however, this is done best on a computer with iTunes. iOS only allows users to switch between SD and HD. If you want to choose between 720p and 1080p, you will have to use iTunes on a Mac or PC. For more information on changing iTunes video quality, please read this article.
Change Audio Quality for iTunes Music
iTunes offers music in 256 kbps AAC format. For some, this level of audio quality leaves much to be desired. New products such as Neil Young’s Pono Player and Sony’s reinvented Walkman are aimed at audiophiles. You can actually get CD-quality audio from iTunes, but you have to use your computer to accomplish this task. You also need to import the music from CD or from a download service that offers CD-quality audio files. On a computer, iTunes offers many choices for audio quality. These options are not available for iOS.
Schedule iTunes Downloads and Automate Tasks
Broadband providers often leave much to be desired. In the United States, most broadband providers offer unlimited network access, however, broadband speeds slow dramatically during peak hours. ISPs in other nations cap data usage and charge for overages, but allow unlimited access at off-peak hours. Wouldn’t it be great if you could schedule iTunes downloads?
Using the Automator on Mac OS X, it is possible to schedule iTunes downloads and automate virtually any task. This tool allows non-programmers to generate scripts that can be repeated and scheduled. iOS really has nothing like this. There are some iOS tools, such as Launchpad Pro, that can automate basic tasks. However, if you really need powerful automation, nothing beats a Mac. Automation is not just for geeks. Scheduling iTunes downloads for off-peak hours is useful for non-technical people.
The Macintosh was the first consumer-oriented computer that could run multiple apps on the same screen. It is ironic that Apple’s newest technology does not facilitate this user experience. If you want to refer to another app, you have to switch to that app or maybe reference a Notification Center widget. I often find it frustrating to look up information in another app.
Some apps will reset when you return back from another app. For example, some social networking apps will re-initialize and display an updated view of your “wall”. This prevents me from leaving the app to look up information or post a link. Doing so will lose my place in a post, returning me back to an updated view of my “wall”. It’s very frustrating and demonstrates how a simple thing cannot be done on an iPad. I have found myself compromising. Instead of researching a fact or posting a link, I will try to recall the fact and tell people to search for certain keywords. There are myriad applications where side-by-side multitasking is useful, however, and iPad cannot perform this function at all.
UPDATE: iOS 9 introduces new multi-tasking features for select iPad models. The new features, Slide Over and Split-View, enable running two apps on the same screen. There is also a picture-in-picture feature which supports video playback in a resizable and positionable window.
These features are still not as good as the original 1984 Mac and pale in comparison to OS X and Windows. Both operating systems allow users to create whole desktops with multiple apps and quickly switch between these. You can have several apps on one screen and several screens organized as multiple desktops. This is an order of magnitude more powerful than the iPad. The new iPad multitasking features reveal how primitive and simplistic iOS still is. It’s a mobile operating system. The iPad is still just a bigger iPhone.
While working on my site using my iPad, I was shocked at how difficult it is to name an image. iOS has abstracted file names from the file system. I tried copying the image and changing properties, however, when I uploaded the image to my site it retained the generic name. I also tried a few third-party apps which claim to be able to rename files. They only do this internally, within the context of the app. When I try to upload the image using a browser or app, I am forced to use my Camera Roll and get a generic image name, such as “image1.png”.
There are some workarounds. You can upload the image to a FTP site, rename it, and move it to your site. That’s a lot of effort to assign a file name. This method also requires another computer, the FTP server, so it isn’t done on the iPad. The workaround is to use another computer.
This is a deal breaker for me. I don’t like to publish images with generic names. It makes it much harder to manage hundreds of image files. It also negatively impacts SEO. The inability to rename files was truly eye-opening. It’s such a simple and basic task, but so difficult when you only have an iPad.
Play World of Warcraft and Other Games
World of Warcraft is one of the most popular games, but you can’t play it on an iPad. The game requires a Mac or PC, due to its complexity and UI requirements. You can’t have a software keyboard popping up on the screen while playing this game. There are many other games that can’t be played on an iPad. The serious gamer is best off with a Windows PC, although many games are now available for the Mac.
Play Flash Content
Steve Jobs decided that Adobe Flash would have no presence on iOS devices. Given that Flash is the main cause of crashes on the Mac, this makes sense. Furthermore, Flash exposed Mac OS X to the largest malware incident in Apple’s history, infecting 600,000 Mac users with the Flashback trojan horse. Flash was also never modified to work with touch screens. I applaud this decision, but unfortunately, Flash still has a presence on the World Wide Web.
You can play Flash content on an iPad using Photon and a few other browsers. These browsers enable Flash content by using the cloud. Basically, another computer in a data center is acting as a proxy between your iPad and the Flash content. The iPad isn’t running Flash. Instead, Flash runs on another computer, and your iPad is just a remote control. There is a lot more latency with this design. You can barely watch a video. Don’t expect to play a complex Flash game on your iPad. It would be nice if they let users decide, but it is too late. Adobe stopped making Flash for all mobile platforms. Steve Jobs was right. Between HTML 5 and apps (like YouTube) that offer the equivalent content, I don’t miss Flash much at all, but this does have some consequences…
iPad Can’t Play Hulu
If you want to watch Hulu without a subscription, you’ll need to use a computer. Without a Flash plugin, Hulu will not work on an iPad. You can install the Hulu Plus app, however, this requires a subscription. It is possible to watch Hulu using a cloud-based Flash browser, such as Photon. Don’t expect high quality video. If you try to put it on the big screen with AirPlay, it will look even worse. In fact, Hulu’s quality is so poor using cloud-based Flash browsers, I would go so far to say it is unusable. It’s another iPad fail.
No Tab Key on iPad
I was making a list on my iPad and wanted to indent certain items using the tab key. To my shock and horror, the iPad has no tab key! I searched on Google to find if there are alternate keyboards offering a tab key. Unfortunately, even with the custom keyboards introduced in iOS 8, none of them offer a tab key.
There are some apps, like Textastic, that offer a tab key on their toolbar. The app costs $7.99, and although it does a lot, it’s also a lot to pay if you just want to insert a tab. You can also press the space bar a few times to fake it, but it’s not the same thing. A tab is represented by an underlying Unicode character. Deleting the tab deletes all of the space it consumes in one go. A tab is a single character, whereas hitting the space button a few times is more than one character.
Coders know that the tab key is essential for indenting code in most programming languages. Integrated development environments (IDEs) allow programmers to define the indent level, but coders use the tab key to produce readable code. This is all the more reason that the iPad is not a professional product.
It’s not just software engineers who are affected by the tab key’s absence. Office workers may get legacy data in tab-delimited format. A lot of corporations have specific formats for documents, including tabs. Some writers also begin paragraphs with a tab. The lack of a tab key on the iPad is limiting. Apple could add it with an iOS update, however, given that the iPad is mostly a content consumption device, it’s clear consumers haven’t asked for this feature. As long as you can compose a Tweet, it’s good enough for iOS.
The iPad is extremely convenient. You don’t need to wait for it to boot up. It is light weight and can be taken anywhere. It’s a great tool to grab when inspired, but not very good if you need to use it for several hours.
Most people set their iPad on their lap and stare down at the screen. This will eventually cause fatigue, back and neck pain — one has to look down to see the screen. You can put it on a table or use some sort of stand, but you will still be looking down at the screen, causing neck strain. It is possible to position the iPad at eye level and use a Bluetooth keyboard. Touching the screen to operate the device, however, will be tiring after a while.
They iPad features a glossy screen which isn’t as bright as most desktop monitors. This is a necessity, as the device is battery-powered. The iPad screen is fine for a few hours, but if you’re working on it all day, the glare will cause eye strain. The iMac also garnered criticism over glossy screens. Apple’s take seems to be that these are home computers. People won’t be using them for several hours straight. Colors tend to be more vibrant and “pop” on glossy screens. It’s the magpie effect — glossy looks neat and sells well. Professional users would use a Mac Pro and supply their own monitor. Consumers have other options. One can buy a Mac Mini and a separate monitor. I use a Mac Pro and a large 30″ matte monitor. The difference between working on my Mac and an iPad is staggering.
The iPad is great to work on for a few hours, but you would experience eye strain, aches and pains from working on it all day, every day. Even notebook and laptop computer users will normally use a docking station at work. Every company I have worked at has provided me with a docking station and monitor, along with a laptop. Even though it is called a laptop computer, using it as the name would suggest is ergonomically unsound.
iOS is a relatively new operating system. The competitive nature of mobile computing has forced Apple to cram as many features as possible into each release. This has resulted in iOS releases plagued with problems. For example, when iOS 8 was released, copy/cut/paste functionality was buggy for about two months. This is a basic feature of any modern operating system. I still have the occasional copy/paste failure in iOS 8.1.3, but it works 95% of the time. This is still not acceptable for work. This feature has worked just fine on computers for over 30 years.
Apple released an operating system that couldn’t do a basic task. I ended up using my Mac a lot more often. The defect was so severe, it rendered my iPad virtually useless. Apple would never release OS X with such a glaring defect. Unfortunately, with iOS, you can’t revert the operating system. If you intend to work solely on an iPad, you must be conservative about upgrading iOS.
Even when iOS is stable, there are certain fundamental features that have never worked well. Selecting text has always been quirky. All too often, when I try to select text, it will reset the selection. If I am using Notes and start selecting text from the top when the keyboard is up, it is often difficult to select text obscured by the keyboard. I will sometimes tap a key and my selection is deleted.
When you try to select text on a web page, the selection capabilities try to be smart and aware of the underlying HTML, but this causes a lot of problems. Selecting text in an HTML table element has always been quirky. I have to select the whole row, paste it, and select it again. Ugh! This always has me booting up my Mac when I want to work fast and frustration-free. There are no apps on the iPad that accomplish this basic task well. TextTastic and other apps offer on-screen cursor controls. These can help, but compared to selecting text on a Mac with a trackpad or mouse, the iPad fails again. It’s clear that third-party developers have seen these glaring flaws and have tried to ameliorate them.
It’s not just copying and pasting text that is flawed in iOS. Compared to the rock-solid nature of OS X, iOS still has a long way to go. Apps crash or close unexpectedly much more often than OS X. iOS still is more stable than desktop and mobile operating systems developed by other technology corporations. It’s just that, compared to a Mac, iOS is a frustrating experience.
Revert Operating System
It is no longer possible to revert iOS back to the previous version. Shortly after a new version of iOS is released, the previous version is no longer signed. It cannot be installed on an iOS device. Restoring the backup will not restore the old operating system. You can no longer revert iOS using iTunes.
This is unique to iOS devices, as virtually every other computing device (including the Mac) will let you install an older version of its operating system. Even though Mac OS X upgrades are done primarily through the App Store, it is possible to buy an older release of OS X (on a USB drive) and install it. It is quite clear that iOS devices aren’t really computers. They are consumer electronic devices.
I really like Apple products, but this is far too heavy-handed. Given that the last two major iOS release have been buggy for the first few months, reverting would allow users to have a stable environment. I believe Apple does this so they can boast about how many users upgrade to the new operating system. There are some minor complications that reverting would cause. If you upgrade to iOS 8 and buy a new app that requires the new OS, how would they handle reversion? They could refund the app purchase, but that’s just not the Apple way.
Whatever the motive, the fact that you can no longer revert iOS can be limiting. You could be stuck with a buggy device until they release updates to fix crippling defects.
Numerous iPad apps enable image and photo editing, but they all pale in comparison to Photoshop or even GIMP on a computer. These apps can only do the basics and are designed to quickly edit photos taken on an iPad or iPhone. Professional photographers are still using standalone DSLR cameras and computer-based photo editing tools such as Photoshop.
While working on my website, I quickly ran into limitations with the available iPad graphics editing apps. I am hardly a professional graphics designer, but the iPad couldn’t even do some basic tasks. When I take a photo, I often need to straighten it out using the perspective tool. This tool is intended to add perspective to images, but it can also straighten a misaligned photo. Perspective editing differs from rotation, which is available on most iPad graphics apps.
I have searched through the App Store and spent a few bucks on promising apps, but not one of them offers this basic feature. Even GIMP on a Mac or PC can do this, and it is free, open source software. Beyond the perspective tool, Photoshop, GIMP and other computer-based graphics tools offer so many more features and are extensible with plugins. iOS Extensions are still in their infancy, and don’t even offer a fraction of the plugins available to computer-based graphics applications.
This seems pretty obvious, but some iPad proponents will claim that you can develop software on an iPad. This is not true. You can write code on an iPad. You cannot compile, test or deploy it on an iPad.
There are plenty of iPad text editors, but that’s all they can do. At best, if you are a web developer, you can write code on an iPad and deploy it to a development server. In this case, however, you need another computer (the development server) to do the heavy lifting.
If you have a Mac, PC or Linux machine, you can run an integrated development environment (IDE). IDEs enable developers to write code, compile, debug and deploy. Writing code is easier, because great IDEs like Eclipse and Xcode can provide assistance (beyond coloring key words) when writing code. For an IDE to do this, it must be able to compile and reflect on the code. An IDE is aware of the software libraries and APIs. An iPad is only aware of the text. A simple iPad text editor is not an IDE.
Host Severs and Databases
The iPad is, for the most part, a client and not a server. There are a few exceptions. I have an audio app that allows me to get files from my iPad using a URL. In this case, the iPad is theoretically acting like a server, but it is not a proper server. It doesn’t handle multiple, simultaneous users. It is more of a peer-to-peer connection.
If you have a Mac, PC or Linux machine, it is possible to host a server. This will make it much easier to develop and test system software. If you are working on enterprise software, you will most likely need a database. You can host databases, such as MySQL and SQL Server on a computer. You can host a web or application server on a computer. This cannot be done on an iPad, with its basic multitasking capabilities.
Professional Audio Recording
The iPad offers remarkable multimedia capabilities. When it comes to mobile devices, the iPad is peerless with regard to multimedia creation. There’s a whole universe of high-end audio accessories that can turn your iPad into a personal recording studio. There are some limitations, mainly that there is a limit to the number of simultaneous tracks that can be recorded. With available accessories, the iPad can’t support 32 or more simultaneous audio inputs for recording. This may seem like a lot, but it is not uncommon for 16 or more inputs and tracks to be used just for a drum kit.
Many professional bands need to record the whole band at the same time. You just can’t do that with an iPad. It would be difficult to even record a small rock band at the same time with professional results. Due to the lack of support for several input channels, compromises would have to be made. Instead of recoding the drum kit with several mics, one would have to settle for a few.
The iPad also lacks the ability to run professional DAWs and audio plugins. Instead of ProTools and Logic, iPad users have to settle for lite, watered-down DAWs like Cubasis.
At best, an iPad has 128GB of SSD space. A professional recording project can eat up that much disk space easily. It wouldn’t be possible to record a whole album on one single iPad, without constantly bouncing data to some other data storage. Even a long song wouldn’t fit on an iPad if it was composed of several 24-bit/192khz tracks.
It is possible to make professional sounding music on an iPad. For instance, an electronic musician, folk artist, or indie rock band might do well with an iPad. A jazz big band, however, couldn’t make a professional album on an iPad. Most major label rock bands couldn’t get by in the studio with just an iPad. They need a lot of inputs and need to record all of their tracks simultaneously. Professional recording studios have not traded in their Mac Pros for iPads. The hobbyist or indie rocker might squeak by with one. Most semi-pro and hobbyists I know still use Macs or PCs for recording, even if they own an iPad.
Professional Video Production
The iPad is peerless when it comes to multimedia capabilities. No other mobile device offers rich and powerful apps for creative expression. The iPad can do some pretty amazing things, but it cannot replace professional audio and video tools.
The main (back) camera on the iPad is nothing special. It is easily outclassed by the iPhone, but doesn’t even come close to the capabilities of professional video cameras. Unlike the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPad Air 2 does not offer optical video stabilization. Even if it did, it still would not be a professional grade video camera. It doesn’t take an expert to notice the difference between a professional video production, such as a TV show, and a YouTube video shot on an iPad.
Beyond the camera, the video editing capabilities of the iPad are still not up to professional standards. One of the main problems is that it is too difficult to manage assets. Professional video productions involve thousands of hours of video footage taken from multiple cameras. There is also a lot of audio involved — audio recorded during filming, music score, sound effects, Foley artists, voice overs and other audio assets. The editor needs to work with these assets. Doing this on a 128 GB iPad is not a possibility, even with external drives, cloud drives, and other accessories. No professional video producers are trading in their Mac Pros for an iPad.
The iPad also does not capture audio well. There are external mics and pre-amps available for the iPad. A real video production will often involve multiple boom mics to capture the sound of different actors. There isn’t one single device that can accomplish all of the tasks of professional video production.
If you just want to make some simple videos to share, an iPad is probably enough. There are many YouTubers who do this. There are also professional YouTubers, like Marques Brownlee, who use a lot of professional equipment. He has provided a list of his gear on Amazon. It is really quite amazing, and you can see how much better his videos are. His attention to detail goes beyond excellent reviews. That’s why he makes the big bucks!
The newest iPads come equipped with a decent 8-megapixel iSight digital camera. This can actually take acceptable photographs. The camera software bundled with iOS 8 provides features that enable great photography. Professional photographers, however, still use a DSLR camera. Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Marketing, uses a Canon digital camera, and he isn’t even a professional photographer.
Apple does tend to oversell the camera capabilities. At their keynotes, they will try to convince customers that professionals use the cameras on Apple devices. They put the spotlight on a National Geographic photographer who used an iSight camera to capture an amazing photo. I can believe that, but it is like saying a MacBook is as powerful as a massive server because a system engineer uses a MacBook at home.
Professional photographers are still using dedicated, high-end cameras. As Apple execs mention at the keynote — sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you. Yes, and a professional photographer will have a better camera on hand. Even paparazzi use dedicated DSLR cameras. The iPad camera is just fine for taking photos of your cats.
Restore Bricked iPad
While this has never happened to me, some Apple customers are the unfortunate owners of bricked devices. This means that the device doesn’t turn on at all. It is, essentially, as useful as a brick. Typically, there is no permanent damage to the device. Something in the operating system or file system has corrupted and it can no longer operate.
With virtually any computer, one can typically insert an emergency start-up disk or thumb drive to bring the computer back to working order. I have a Linux netbook that has a full backup of the base operating system built-in to the device. I can restore it simply by booting it up in recovery mode. This cannot be done with an iPad. Anyone with a bricked device will need to connect it to a computer and use iTunes to get the device working again. If you don’t own a Mac or PC, the Apple store can probably fix it. Of course, they will use a Mac to do this. The point is — you cannot fix a bricked iPad without using a computer.
Can’t Use Multiple Monitors
Professional computer users often require multiple monitors to get the job done. Recording engineers often like to have the tracks displayed on one monitor, with the virtual mixer displayed on another. Software developers will often display code in one monitor while using another display for source control or defect tracking. Multiple monitors are used by professional video editors. Even a lot of gamers also use multiple displays. I have seen gamers playing Battlefield 4 on three monitors. This cannot be accomplished on the iPad.
At best, an iPad can mirror its screen using AirPlay or a HDMI cable. AirPlay Dual Screen mode allows the iPad to show a different screen than the television or monitor. This is close, but it lacks the flexibility of true multiple display technology. Few developers have embraced AirPlay’s Dual Screen mode. Unfortunately, it is not something a user can configure. On a Mac or Windows PC, multiple screen setups are easily accomplished.
Run Windows and Linux
A proper computer can support multiple instances of different operating systems. This can be accomplished with virtualization or a multiple-boot configuration.
Virtualization basically runs an OS on top of an OS, within a virtual machine. For example, you can run a virtual instance of Windows or Linux on a Mac using software such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion. Virtualization is most popular in data centers, where a physical server will often host many virtual servers.
A multiple-boot configuration allows the user to select a different operating system when starting the computer. Apple offers Boot Camp, which allows Mac OS X users to easily install Windows. This actually works well, and many technical users claim that Windows actually runs better on a Mac because Macs often have better hardware than PCs. For about a decade, Macs have featured the same Intel processors found in most Windows PCs. Apple also develops all of the Windows drivers for Boot Camp, which may also explain why Windows runs so well on a Mac. When I used Windows, I would often experience problems with drivers created by some fly-by-night hardware company.
It is possible to install Linux on an iPad, but you must forego using iOS. This means you won’t be able to use any of the excellent apps that are designed specifically for your device. An iPad running true iOS cannot dual-boot operating systems or run virtual instances of Windows or Linux. Jailbreaking your device offers some possibilities, but it also voids your warranty and could expose you to malware. The iPad that most people use — one that runs iOS — cannot run other operating systems.
No Internal Storage Over 128 GB
The top-of-the-line iPad only offers 128 GB of SSD storage space. A notebook or desktop computer can store terabytes (1 TB = 1024 GB) of data on local drives. My Mac Pro has 2.5 TB of disk space.
There are many accessories and external hard drives that can work with an iPad, but none of these are internal. You must either carry the extra device with you or be on the same WiFi network. Furthermore, these devices are not nearly as fast as high performance internal SSD or hard drives found in notebook and desktop computers. You can increase storage by using cloud-based services, but these are even slower than external drives.
The lack of expandable internal storage hinders the iPad’s ability to be a creative tool for professionals. A pro audio or video engineer typically needs terabytes of internal storage to manage assets.
Can’t Customize Gestures
With iOS 8, Apple added new features, bringing customization options such as widgets and extensions to the iPad and other devices. Unlike the Mac, users cannot configure gestures. They are either on or off. Accessibility features offer a few more options, but they are fixed and not customizable.
Can’t Access File System
Apple abstracted away the notion of files and folders in their mobile operating system. Instead of having a file browser, like Finder, users manage documents within each app. There are some apps that can use files from other applications, but there still is nothing like Finder that can explore the iOS file system.
On a Mac, the average user is shielded from any system directories. This is for their own good. They could delete or rename a critical system file, which could corrupt the operating system. Administrators can run a Unix command to gain access to every directory. This cannot be done on iOS.
I Like My iPad
Despite what I have written, I do like my iPad and enjoy using it. I get a lot of use out of it and love the convenience. The small, easy-to-use tablet is actually better than a computer in some ways. The touchscreen and motion sensors allow for a completely different user experience. One must understand that the iPad is different from a computer and not necessarily inferior or superior overall.
Unfortunately, a lot of tech writers are making very bold claims that the iPad is a replacement for a computer. It may be for some, but I don’t think they have done their homework. It is irresponsible to assume that most people can do everything with an iPad. Even if they are not developers, photographers or AV professionals, they may want to play World of Warcraft or other popular games. I think a lot of people would like to download iTunes digital booklets and be able to adjust iTunes video quality settings. You can’t even restore a bricked iPad without a computer.
The problem is that writers and bloggers can do most of their work on an iPad. Yes, writing and making simple YouTube videos can be done on an iPad. Many of them admit that they don’t play video games or work with image processing tools like Photoshop. They often suggest using an ersatz version of a computer application, claiming it is just as good. Some desire to live in the “post PC world”, which is a complete misinterpretation of Steve Jobs’ idea that Microsoft is becoming irrelevant. It is an acute case of myopia. They cannot see beyond their own needs and interests, and push people into their narrow view.
Apple Does Not See the iPad as a Replacement
If you look at Apple’s product lineup, they take the Mac quite seriously and will ensure that the iPad cannot replace it. Apple devices are complimentary to each other, offering different features and facets of the Apple ecosystem. The new MacBook is a perfect example. Instead of making a pro iPad, they made a MacBook more like an iPad.
Apple wants you to buy everything they make. They will not gradually turn the iPad into a Mac replacement. It would destroy their profitability. Apple makes money by selling devices. Why would they sell you just one device? They want you to buy an iPad and a Mac. This also assumes that the iPad will continue to evolve, while the Mac will stagnate. That’s not going to happen. Mac sales continue to grow, while iPad sales are stagnating. Indeed, the iPad seems to be the gateway for the Mac. Most new Mac converts I know made their choice because they loved their iPhone and iPad and wanted something more. Instead of upgrading their iPad, they upgrade to a Mac.
Each Apple product is different. For example, Apple TV is much better for watching streaming and downloaded media than a Mac connected to a TV. An Apple Watch is better for quick glances of information. I think some in the tech media are a bit myopic. The iPad works for them, so they assume everyone can use one. But all of these people still seem to own notebook or desktop computers. They aren’t confident enough in this assertion to sell their computer.