June 9, 2014

Progress on the path of passivity.

"The iPad And Other Tablets Are Turning Out To Be Far More Important Than PCs Ever Were."
[T]ablets have already, by one measure, surpassed the sales numbers of both PCs and laptop-style notebook computers....
And so we see ourselves sliding into passivity. I love my iPad for reading, but it's almost useless for writing. When I'm lounging about with my iPad, I'm a reader. I can write, but it's completely awkward to do so and I rarely do. In the old days, before desktops and laptops, I read paper books, probably with a pen in hand to write notes in the margin. With my desktop and laptop — connected to the internet and loaded with texts — the process understanding through reading merged fluidly with the process of writing. I read to write, and write for readers who write back to me, and I write again, endlessly. At some point in the evening, I settle down with my iPad, and I am deactivated. I'm choosing this deactivation, on a daily basis. One must wind down and go to sleep. But I worry about people shifting to iPads and other tablets and away from the keyboard. I know reading, just reading, can be active, and I know there's the modest activity of "sharing" what is read on Facebook and Twitter, and maybe the young folks can do some serious typing on the virtual keyboard, but I fear we are sinking into passivity, that we're taking sleeping tablets.

48 comments:

Scott M said...

I have a Samsung Note Pro 12.2 with a Zagg cover that is also a bluetooth keyboard that has a channel it designed to hold the tablet sideways, propped up like a laptop screen. This works flawlessly for writing. Combined with my dropbox account and my 4G phone, there's very few places where I can't write. Add a Logitech ultraslim bluetooth swipe mouse, and I might as well be at a desktop. I've not checked, but I'm confident that there are Apple equivalents for the Ipad, so it sounds like it's a question of what peripherals you're using.

The main benefit being that my tablet and mouse are FAR more easy to carry around than my large HP laptop.

tim maguire said...

While I'm not predicting how it will play out over time, the critique has much merit. The computer is a tool for creating as well as for consuming, whereas the iPad is a tool for consuming, only.

The whole Apple eco-sphere discourages creativity.

holdfast said...

It would help if the iPad would natively take dictation like the iPhone. Now that my works is retiring the blackberries and moving everyting to iPhones, I find the dictation function to be invaluable.

Michael said...

I agree that the devices have different utilities. On occasion I do some real work off my iPad but it is not ideal for that purpose. I have learned to go-around the lack of storage on the iPad using DropBox and EverNote but the navigation is not as easy as on a laptop where I now find myself doing most of my work. (About fifteen years ago I printed an address on an envelop from my computer and within six months had let my "secretary" go. Freedom!). There are signing applications that are useful on the iPad and I find that I use it to sign and return documents very promptly. I have abandoned my Kindles and use only the iPad now for electronic books.

I can do nearly everything I need to do that does not involve a Bloomberg machine off my MacBook Air 13". It is as nearly perfect a device as I have owned. I have only one PC left in inventory, a desktop which takes about ten minutes to begin to use since it takes that amount of time to clear the pop-ups. Hate it.

The iPad was a real Trojan Horse in the business world. Every old executive had one to look at pictures of his grand kids. Then he asked his IT department if he could get his emails on it. In two minutes he was getting his emails, a mistake the IT departments are coming to regret. Because the IT departments had been saying for years that it was absolutely impossible to get company business done on Apple products for this reason or that. The next to go was the dreaded Blackberry, a splendid device that could not retain a connection to the web and when it did would behave like a dial-up AOL account.

Nonapod said...

Since most people spend most of their time consuming content rather than producing it, it's not a surprise that devices that make content consumption far more convenient would surpass the less convenient ones. But when it comes to producing content, it's still hard to replace a big display in conjunction with a mouse & keyboard. For now at least anyway.

n.n said...

The desktop was the first stage. The laptop/notebook was the second stage. The tablet/smart phone was the third stage. The next stage will further reduce the form factor (e.g. Google "Glass"). The final stage will be a consensus design, where modularity will enable optimization for utility.

Peter said...

A tablet can be made to do almost anything a PC can do; the question is whether it will.

I bought a 10" Android tablet to use while traveling but then realized I really wanted a hard keyboard for it, and by the time I took the tablet and a keyboard and an easel and a case to protect the tablet's screen the thing was just as heavy and more unweildy than a small laptop (which weighs in at less than 3 lbs).

Which is to say, I'm not going to carry both a laptop and a tablet, yet the laptop still folds into a single, carryable unit (not a collection of peripherals), and when at home it can be connected to a large screen, and in any case I can open multiple windows (which I have yet to see on a tablet). And I can run all that legacy Windows software.


Nonetheless, tablets (hardware and software) are evolving much faster than PCs (some would argue that with Win8 PCs are devolving), and that momentum extrapolates into the extinction of the PC. Perhaps that's not inevitable, but Microsoft's ineptness is surely not helping to keep the PC alive.

Will tablets (other than Microsoft's clunky Surface tablet) ever support all the features of a PC? And if not, how many will care? Will it come down to whether you value your Android or iOS apps over what's available for Windows? Or does the PC's relative lack of coolness doom it in any case?

Anonymous said...

You're wandering into very well-trodden territory here regarding whether the iPad can be a content creation as well as consumption device. I happen to be like you and use it almost entire for consumption. But there are many people out there who have explored bigger possibilities.

Rockport Conservative said...

I do almost all my book reading on my iPad with a Kindle app. I am elderly, iPad makes it easy. I can enlarge the print, change to a black background because it is easier on my eyes and my hand does not have to hoist a heavy book.

For newspapers I use the computer. My eyes just do better with large type.

I read a lot, it does serve as a sleeping tablet. I have found that if I am reading fiction I must finish the book or I will dream of it all night long, rewriting it I suppose.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have a Samsung Note Pro 12.2 with a Zagg cover that is also a bluetooth keyboard that has a channel it designed to hold the tablet sideways, propped up like a laptop screen.

Not an expert here, but I would suggest being careful about typing at an angle. Got some sort of carpel tunnel, or tennis/mousing wrist a decade or so ago, and the doctor pointed out that most keyboards are setup badly for typing - you don't want them facing you, but facing away. Or, at worst, level. Facing towards you accentuates the bend in one's wrists, and that, he claimed, was a good part of the reason that a lot of people end up with this sort of physical problems when they spend too much time with a keyboard. To this day, I refuse to buy, or use, keyboards that are not capable of at least a neutral/flat angle. (At a recent job, I pointed out that if they didn't get me a proper keyboard, reasonable accommodations for an attorney not able to type anymore would be a full time assistant to take dictation - which got me the keyboard).

That said, I do have a fold up BlueTooth keyboard with my iPad, and use it for moderate typing. Works ok - I can type with it a lot faster than on the tablet itself. But not nearly as fast as on a regular computer with an ergonomic keyboard.

In my job as a patent attorney (absent that full time assistant I mentioned above that I didn't get), I often have to type a lot. And, tablets just don't work. Not even close. But, for the most part, I have quit carrying a lap top when I travel, in preference to my tablet.

Bruce Hayden said...

I can do nearly everything I need to do that does not involve a Bloomberg machine off my MacBook Air 13". It is as nearly perfect a device as I have owned.

My sister-in-law was trying to talk me into such a couple days ago. I told her that I didn't think that it would work for me, until I could hook up a couple of monitors, an ergonomic keyboard, and a mouse with multiple buttons, to it. I did admit to her though that the Mac interface may finally be better for regular heavy users than the horrid one in Windows 8. And, that may be the thing that gets me back into the Mac world.

Renee said...

Kids.


Tablets replaced hand held and console gaming devices.


Also the elderly/computer challenged.

Sam L. said...

I have neither, and prefer to read from books and magazines. I can understand the usefulness of readers, but not to me, as yet.

Original Mike said...

Amen, AA. When Windows 8 came out the claim was made that PCs, be they desk or laptops, would become obsolete. I was appalled. The implicit assumption seemed to be we would all become consumers, because creating on a tablet is Awkward, with a capital A.

1) The touch-interface sucks for anything requiring more than selecting choices provided by somebody else.

2). The screen is tiny. You can't have multiple windows open at one time.

I do a lot of work in Excel. Try doing any real spreadsheet work on a tablet. It's painful. I have a Bluetooth keyboard cover for my iPad, but it's too small. I'm looking to get a full-size keyboard for it, but it begs the question why I would want to do anything other than read on the tablet. I couldn't agree more that tablet = consumption, PCs = creation.

jr565 said...

Easy solution for writing on the iPad. Get an external keyboard.

jr565 said...

My one gripe with the iPad is the lack of a file system. That really needs to be added, at least to the iPad.

Sigivald said...

You are aware that "keyboards" can be connected to "tablets", yes?

(The idea, per Mr. Maguire, that an iPad is 'only for consuming', has never been tenable; it's so untenable it makes me wonder if people like Mr. Maguire [or yourself, per being unaware, evidently, of the plethora of keyboard options] have simply never bloody used one?

[The idea that "the whole Apple eco-sphere discourages creativity" will baffle the people at Apple who work on Logic or Final Cut, and the folks at Adobe who do Creative Suite, naturally.

As well as the hundreds of developers and millions of users of other "creative" software on Apple platforms.]

An iPad can be used to write. It can be used to edit photos and videos. It can be used to make music (and complex music using professional MIDI interfaces and analog inputs, not just 'tap the cute little fake piano'). It can be used to produce digital artworks.

"For consuming, only", indeed.

It's about as sensible to claim a PC is "for consuming, only" - not at all.

Interesting, further, that nobody ever seems to make those allegations about Android devices, despite them having ... essentially the same sets of software options, though without, oh, giving one iWork and GarageBand equivalents for free like Apple does.)

Paul Mac said...

CDB!

D B S A B-Z B

John said...

I find I-Pads especially and tablets in general especially annoying and their operators to be major league douchebags at events like my Grandaughter's/Grandson's recent end of school activity. Everybody is holding up an I-Pad to use as a camera. Consequently, those of us in back of them wind up watching the ceremony on I-Pads rather than the real thing.

Re productivity: I write a regular magazine column (http://www.packagingdigest.com/optimization/case-low-oee) and have written several on my phone. Not the best way to write but it's only 250 words and I can clean it up on my laptop.

I've carried a laptop everywhere I have carried my briefcase since about 1992. Yeah, the idea of a tablet is nice and with a keyboard is almost a substitute. But until I can have at least 500GB in the tablet, until it will allow me to develop and run Powerpoint, edit movies and pictures, do technical drawings in 2 and 3D, I agree with Ann, it is a consumption, not a production device.

And keep my files in the cloud? Seems like sheer insanity to me. I do keep my Evernote stuff in the cloud but that is about all. I would NEVER trust the cloud with anything of consequence unless it was also on disk on all my devices. Not addresses, not phone numbers, not email, not music, not nothing.

Wait'll you have a problem with your Dropbox deleting your files or your account. Or letting the govt paw through them. You won't even get a sorry.

Or you need something when you don't have a connection. Good luck then.

If I don't have it on disk, I figure I don't have it at all.

I totally fail to see the point of a tablet other than for a few specialized applications.

John Henry

Alex said...

iPads remain very crappy for doing anything but passive consumption. I guarantee you that anyone blogging or commenting is doing it on a real PC.

Original Mike said...

"My one gripe with the iPad is the lack of a file system. That really needs to be added, at least to the iPad."

Yeah, I forgot about that. Steve Jobs said you don't need one.

How can create, over time, on a device without a file management system?

Original Mike said...

@John Henry mentions PowerPoint. I use it a lot, too. The thought of doing that on a tablet makes my grimace.

Robert Cook said...

The iPad can be a powerful creation tool, if less so than desktop or laptop computers for general business purposes. Artists use the iPad for music and video production...and businesses can and do more and more use iPads for Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentations.

But then, Apple didn't mean for iPad to be the all-things-for-all-uses device; it has other products to suit other needs. The iPad was meant to provide the simplest and most immersive means for people to do that which most people use desktop and laptop computers to do: surfing the internet and checking email, as well as being a video and audio device. It is the creativity of app developers and end users that stretch the iPad into use as a creative work tool.

As for passivity, what about books? Whereas Prof. Althouse reads to write and makes notes in the margins of her books--a horror to me, as I am fastidious about books and want them to be as pristine and unmarked as possible...they are powerful for me simply as fetish objects--most people do not, and are passive receivers of the information conveyed by the books they read.

On balance, the iPad actually encourages and enables greater proactivity, interactivity, and crativity for more people than do books.

raf said...

Computers are far better for typing -- if you are of a generation that learned touch-typing. If you are of the generation that learned thumb-texting, you might be more efficient on a tablet or phone. Me, I'm one of the old folks who views tablets (even Android devices) as output devices, for the most part. I can "type" on them, but prefer not to.

Original Mike said...

An application for which I do like the tablet is to provide observing notes at the telescope eyepiece. When planning an observing session I make my own notes on my desk and laptop using several applications (Planetarium software, charting software, websites, e-books, scanned documents, etc). They get bundled up into a PowerPoint file which I can annotate and draw on, converted to PDF, and then sent to my iPad so I can reference them during the observing session. I'm still working on the technique, but it works pretty slick. Create on the computer, consume on the tablet.

Alex said...

Cook - if the iPad were such a great content creation device, why is Apple flogging the Macs so hard? Spare me the iBullshit.

Alex said...

Also for people who want to be more productive and consumptive at the same time - get the Surface Pro 3. It has a real digital pen.

Scott M said...

But until I can have at least 500GB in the tablet, until it will allow me to develop and run Powerpoint, edit movies and pictures, do technical drawings in 2 and 3D, I agree with Ann, it is a consumption, not a production device.

I can do all of that including video editing, though I'm not a high-end user and understand, from my PC-building/gaming days, just how much of a system hog video editing can be.

There's no reason to be afraid of cloud storage as long as you have both the discipline and the plan to make it work. You simply need to back up your Dropbox folder or other such to your hope system, OR, as I do, backup to the homesystem PLUS another cloud storage. In this case, Google Drive. I do this twice a day, every day and it takes very little time, though most of my docs are text-based, not image or video.

Scott M said...

But until I can have at least 500GB in the tablet, until it will allow me to develop and run Powerpoint, edit movies and pictures, do technical drawings in 2 and 3D, I agree with Ann, it is a consumption, not a production device.

I can do all of that including video editing, though I'm not a high-end user and understand, from my PC-building/gaming days, just how much of a system hog video editing can be.

There's no reason to be afraid of cloud storage as long as you have both the discipline and the plan to make it work. You simply need to back up your Dropbox folder or other such to your hope system, OR, as I do, backup to the homesystem PLUS another cloud storage. In this case, Google Drive. I do this twice a day, every day and it takes very little time, though most of my docs are text-based, not image or video.

R.A. Crankbait said...

My iPad is my all-around helper brain. At first I was just reading books and surfing the web, but once I bought a Logitech ultra-then keyboard I have been taking notes at business meetings and in my personal life (using Evernote to store and organize). I even have text for a couple of books I'm writing stored in Evernote, and launched a new Tumblr blog entirely from my iPad using 3G when I was geographically cut off for a week from wifi access. Plus I can still read the books and listen to the music stored on the pad!

Carol said...

When I first embarked on the Internet in 1997, I prayed I would find smart and funny people like I didn't know in meat space. It took a few years but boy did I ever! More than could have hoped for, thanks to blogs and message boards.

I think we've just gone through an extraordinary era of writing, opining, responding, interacting, arguing, creating, joking, ribbing, riffing... it was amazing, really, and it was too good to last.

It'll be back to the feelgood passivity of the Fifties in no time.

Robert Cook said...

Alex,

1.) Is Apple flogging the Macs any harder than they always have? If anything, I'd say they are doing so less so.

2.) The Macs are part of their product line; why wouldn't they flog them? As I said, Apple never intended for iPad to replace their other devices; it has been the end users who have been finding new ways to use the iPad for content creation, and app developers who are making apps to make the iPad more of a creation tool.

jr565 said...

as far as content creation on the ipad, Microsoft just came out with Office for iPad and apple's iWork is largely identical to what you have on the mac. You probably need to get an external keyboard to do it justice though.

jr565 said...

Alex wrote:
"Cook - if the iPad were such a great content creation device, why is Apple flogging the Macs so hard? "


Because they also sell macs? As an Apple fanboy, I WISH they dedicated as much to the Mac as to the iPHone.I own both, but its the phone and tablet that seem to be taking up the majority of Apple's time (Which is understandable since iphones are the sale leader at the moment)

jr565 said...

Crap, I'm agreeing with Cook. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Original Mike said...

From the Office for iPad website: "View, create, edit, and print Office documents on your iPad® with touch-friendly Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. "

Excel and PowerPoint without a mouse? Get outa here!

Original Mike said...

I hesitated for a long time before getting an iPad because you couldn't get Office on it. Now, after several months experience with the iPad, Office has become available but I have no interest in it.

Dr Weevil said...

CDB? Did anyone else think of one of the best children's books ever?

chuck_mayhew said...

And by 'we' you mean everyone but 'thee'

Freeman Hunt said...

I often type comments on an iPad. The difficulty typing leads to typos, and the difficulty placing the cursor leads to a lack of desire to edit after first drafts. That's why the quality of my comments has deteriorated over the last two years or so.

hamiyam said...

By all means enjoy your modern communication devices to the utmost. A while ago Guttenberg enabled the onset of mass media; more recently, with the advent of digital devices, the the net enabled our mass interactive communication. I look foreward to the day when I will use my phone to project a holographic screen and a holographic keyboard to interact with this website. Note that this device probably will be a successor of the iphone.

hamiyam said...

By all means enjoy your modern communication devices to the utmost. A while ago Guttenberg enabled the onset of mass media; more recently, with the advent of digital devices, the the net enabled our mass interactive communication. I look foreward to the day when I will use my phone to project a holographic screen and a holographic keyboard to interact with this website. Note that this device probably will be a successor of the iphone.

John said...

But Scott M:

If I have the discipline to make the cloud work, as you say, backing up to home systems and as well as backup devices (in or out of the cloud) Why do I need the cloud at all?

I have every file on my laptop that I have on my desktop. It takes me a minute or two a day to sync them.

I also back up to 3 different external hard drives frequently. I normally carry one of them (a 500GB USB drive smaller than a paperback book) with me when I travel. Even if my laptop fails on the road, I still have all my files that I can access from any computer.

It sounds like with your syncing and backup you are similar. So what do you need the cloud for?

More importantly, what possible use would the cloud be to me? Especially if I need a file and don't have access to the net?

Not a huge deal but the other concern is how to protect files in the cloud from snooping? Can you guarantee that Google, MS, NSA or someone else is not hoovering them? I have nothing terribly secret in any of my files. But I want to be the one who determines who gets to see them. Not someone else.

John Henry

Danno said...

I vote for Chromebooks as a great in-between device. Lighter and fast booting compared to a laptop, yet having a real built-in keyboard for typing as better than the tablet. All updates to system and security are automatic.

Robert Cook said...

"It would help if the iPad would natively take dictation like the iPhone. Now that my works is retiring the blackberries and moving everyting to iPhones, I find the dictation function to be invaluable.

6/9/14, 12:26 PM"


But it does! I dictated this reply on my iPad.

Dr Weevil said...

Wow! Robert Cook just openly confessed unabashed dictatorial tendencies!

paul a'barge said...

Pictures of tablets? Did someone say pictures of tablets? Check out these tablets.

Sunslut7 said...

Get a new Samsung Note 3 or its soon to be released Note 4. Problem solved. And its better than a iPAD5 in any case.