One of the ideas that get’s branded about when we talk about the iPad is that you “can’t do real work on the iPad”. I used to debate this topic a lot but today I realised that it’s complete rubbish. Not because you can do everything on the iPad, but actually it’s not that important and distracts from the issue that is really important. Let me explain.
The Can’t Do Real Work Narrative
The can’t do real work narrative works so well for two reasons, there are people who propose it and then there are those of us stupid enough to spend time debating it. Sure, it’s a fun question and topic to debate but the conclusion that is put forward — tablets suck, they aren’t the future of computing etc — isn’t dependent on that statement.
So a brief summary of the debate. Real work usually means programming or graphic design work, or occasionally working with some complicated CMS system (because tech writers) it includes every professional task someone needs to do (even if they do it rarely). Under these conditions you can’t do “real work” but in truth things are getting better all the time, there are interesting hacks around these issue which can be better than traditional solutions and not everyone needs to do these tasks.
Not everyone needs to do these tasks
This last point has become increasingly resonate within my own life. I changed from teaching to being a content writer. My day now looks like most typical corporate jobs instead of a life of traveling from location to location, creating handouts and presentations and other more unique challenges.
In my last job, there were some of these classic “real work” tasks that I found difficult: designing graphics, making videos, web design.
In my new job, I have the problems that most people suffer at work and let me tell you, you don’t need powerful programs like photoshop on the iPad to solve those problems.
The Real problems people face with real work
With software, there are a few core programs that I require, many of which have basic iPad apps that lack essential functionality. There are also a few websites and programs which just aren’t compatible.
With hardware, the idea of using my iPad at a desk for hours on end just isn’t sensible. Sure I could jerry rig some system to prop it up at the correct hight, and if I attended a few more meetings then I probably would have the sedentary work life that leads to neck-ache, but I do and as such a giant external monitor on a MacBook Pro is a very welcome relief. 1
These are issues which are rarely discussed when it comes to the iPad and real work and yet are much more pertinent for the average person. If you can’t access every webpage, then you can’t use an iPad for work. If there is some pesky item which needs to be dragged and dropped and doesn’t support touch, then you can’t use an iPad for real work. If you can’t access a common feature in a common app that your office uses, then you can’t use an iPad for real work.
The same isn’t true of chrome OS or Windows 10
Look, there is a lot I don’t like about Chrome OS and Windows 10. They all have downsides and the tablet versions of these devices really do, but they do the basics right. You can open up either device and do what most people in an office need to do (and at home too boot).
The solution to the iPad’s problems for being usable at work isn’t really in pro apps like Photoshop or xcode, but it is in being able to do the last 10% of tasks that people in offices can’t do or are better with a different device.
- I should note that there are rumors that the latest iPad Pro will support external monitors in someway. This would be a good step forward but technically you can already do that with the lightning to HDMI output and this doesn’t really solve the issue. You still need to look at the iPad screen to touch it. Unless Mouse or touchpad support came to the iPad that is.