Roben Kleene

Opinion Columnist Momentarily Mistakes Self for Entire Market

Farhad Manjoo pens an opinion column with the bold title “Steve Jobs Was Right: Smartphones and Tablets Killed the P.C.”. With a title like that, I was hoping to see evidence of shifting behaviors in a broad spectrum of consumers, towards iPads and away from Macs. But, alas, the only shift seems to have been Manjoo himself, who now prefers to use an iPad:

Ultimately, it’s the ecosystem that explains why I can’t stop raving about the iPad. When it came out, the big knock on the iPad was that it was just a big phone; today, that’s what I love about it — like the Watch or AirPods, the iPad feels intuitive and natural to me because it works just like the device I use most often, my phone.

Like a phone, in most scenarios I find the iPad to be faster, more portable and easier to use and maintain than any traditional P.C. I’ve ever owned. The iPad’s limited screen space and emphasis on full-screen apps also makes for fewer distractions than on a traditional personal computer. The iPad, like my phone, lets me log in to my bank using my face; the Mac, in 2019, doesn’t even have a touch screen.

I’m convinced that perception of the iPad online is warped by it being a great device for writing1. The thing about writing is that it’s a baseline use case for a device, because everyone does it (even if it’s just sending text messages). As a result, it’s one of the most well-supported use cases on the device, and by extension it’s one of the most common types of apps developers create. This is why, for example, there are a seemingly endless supply of great writing apps on the iPad, but only a couple of great image editors, and only one great video editor. For each of those tasks you’re walking up a scale of how common the task is, and how much out-of-the-box support you get for it as a developer. So it’s a great device for writing, and it’s natural for writers to share their opinions online, because hey, that’s a great use of writing! So when you read opinions around online, it’s usually writers saying they’ve managed to make it work for themselves, who have one of the best supported workflows on the device.

The only time Manjoo breaks out from his own workflow is in references a conversation with Dan Seifert, deputy editor at The Verge:

The iPad still can’t do everything a laptop can, and I still have to log in to a “real” computer sometimes. I had a long chat recently with Dan Seifert, the deputy editor of the Verge, who uses an iPad every day on the subway but often finds the device infuriating.

“For someone like me, who’s been using a desktop operating system for a long time, there’s a lot of built-in conventions that I’m used to that can be frustrating,” Seifert said. In particular, the iPad doesn’t work with antiquated work flows that are built for PCs. Say you need to log into your company’s bespoke publishing system or expense program? It’s possible those won’t work on your iPad — at least not yet — because they were built for much older devices.

“Antiquated work flows”2? Really? What about the state-of-the-art way that the very website that his article is being shared on is designed and built? Sure, there’s going to be some organizational padding between an opinion columnist and those behind The New York Times digital products, but does that mean he’s really unaware that none of the tools they use to do their jobs even run on iPads?

  1. Along with writing, illustration is another field where the iPad really shines. And, to complete the trio of great iPad use cases, the third is “in the field” work such as reviewing footage for a video shoot on site, or photos for a photo shoot. In other words, cases where the form factor benefits of the iPad outweigh its workflow deficiencies. ↩︎

  2. You can make the argument that most people don’t want to do the type of tasks that an iPad still isn’t suited for, such as graphic design, 3D, heavy photo editing, video editing, motion graphics, making games, or any kind of programming, including building websites–but referring to them as antiquated workflows is just plain false, those are arguably some of the fastest moving fields in existence. ↩︎