I thought this was going to be a dream come true. I had been lusting after the iPad since it first was revealed, and not just for personal use, but as a business tool. The vision was that Vance and I would be able to get rid of laptops and have pads for the road and an iMac for him and an iMac or Mac Pro Tower for me. Initially we would probably still need to travel with our phones, but “soon” we should be able to ditch the phones and do all our work and manage all our client conversations just via the iPads.
In the Fall of 2012 it looked like we would soon be doing a lot of work travel to the Mid East, Morocco, and India. It was time to test the iPad. My over three year old MacBook Pro had some sound issues that indicated a logic board replacement and the system was getting slow overall. A pre-disaster change was propitious.
I had a lot of concerns. Would the lack of a standard file management system be a drawback? Would I be able to perform all the various tasks that my many jobs and responsibilities require? Can I manage, edit, and create new websites on the thing? Of all the concerns that were troubling me, I was secure in the knowledge that my Mac files would be safely and simply accessible via iCloud and that I would have no trouble with word processing via Apple’s Pages, with spreadsheets via Apple’s Numbers, nor with presentations via Apple’s Keynote. Since these were Apple programs designed by Apple for both the OS and mobile/iOS environments there should be no trouble with these critical tasks.
After some deliberation and hands-on time at the Apple Store with the Business Team and the selection of iPads, I chose the iPad mini. After playing with the device for a few days to simulate as many scenarios as I could, I learned two things that were quite surprising. 1) All the issues I was worried about had multiple, simple, and in many cases quite elegant, solutions. Generally the solutions were free apps, though some inexpensive apps were called for as well. But all the things I needed to accomplish that involve non-Apple software were covered. 2) The three main things I was absolutely not worried about at all, Apple failed big time in all three of these areas – Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations (collectively “iWork”).
iCloud did successfully provide reliable access to iWork files across multiple devices. But the iPad cannot display iWork documents the same way on the iPad as on an OSX system. Things generally look the same, but you are required to create a copy of the document in order to open and edit it. Part of Apple’s innovation at the program/app, OS, and backup system level over the past few years has been a concerted effort to remove any worries one might ever have related to versioning of documents. “Now, on our newest line of fancy devices, here is a problem from 1990. Enjoy!”
If that was the only problem, it is possible that I might have stuck it out. But it isn’t the only problem. The iOS versions of iWork do not have the full feature sets that their OSX siblings provide. This was not a huge problem for me with most basic tasks in Pages and Numbers, though I do like to send business correspondence on our digital letterhead (which is very simple) and it would not render properly on the iPad. Let that sink in. In fact, take a look.
Sometimes I add a little data to the footer as appropriate, but that is a really simple letterhead. Pages on the iPad cannot display this document correctly. If that was the second and last problem, it is still possible I may have stuck it out. But it isn’t the end.
Keynote. If you listened to any Mac news since at least 2006, you heard about Keynote often. You heard that it is much better than Powerpoint. It has more features than Powerpoint. It is far simpler to use than Powerpoint. In my experience, this is all true and I have enjoyed using the great and simple features in Keynote. Many of these features are not available on the iPad. The iPad does not even contain the same color pallet as the OSX version. I developed a very simple slide template in Keynote and the iOS version cannot even display the base template correctly, never mind actual data on the slide. If you get around the template flaws for some reason, the amount of information (amount of text/number of words) that can fit on a slide in iOS is less than the amount that can fit on a slide in the OSX version. Maddening!
Truthfully, the first strike would probably have kept me off the iPad, the second would definitely have done the trick, but now with this third problem, Apple, you are really just starting to piss me off.
I ended up returning the iPad and switched to a MacBook Air with which I am very pleased. The screen is bigger. It can do more stuff. It is more powerful. It can hold more stuff. It is very light and easy to carry. It already has a keyboard and mouse attached. Most of the folks I know and see who do use iPads for business also carry and use wireless keyboards, so i think this actually puts me ahead of the curve in some respects. When I am at my home office, it plugs right into my 24” cinema display which is quite nice.
I will return to the simmering rage hinted at in this post in the concluding remarks for the series.
Next Up: iTunes