iPad Can Replace a Mac - For Some, Not for All

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Cult of Mac, unsurprisingly a Mac-loving Web site, has an article from Feb 5th claiming it is mostly possible to replace your Mac laptop with an iPad, or at least the new iPad 128GB (nicknamed by many the "iPad Pro").

Apple definitely views its future in tablets, and doesn't seem to get too perturbed when Mac sales grow much more slowly than tablets. Most companies try to protect all of its product lines; Apple is famous for being willing to have a product line be cannibalized, as long as it is the one doing the cannibalization. Apple is clearly a valued customer for CultOfMac.com; they do not want to upset their sponsors and source of information. So it is unsurprising that CultOfMac promotes that which Apple wants promoted.

On the other hand, they do make a good argument that many business functions can be performed on an iPad. Between local apps, wireless storage, and the cloud, most activity for most business people with whom I have interacted would do just fine on a turbocharged iPad.

However, where it does fall short is in three key areas:

  • Side-by-side: Belittle it as they may, most business power users require at least 2, and sometimes 3, windows open side-by-side. Business analysts need to see reports and then enter data into a spreadsheet; developers need to see the output of a Web page while writing the HTML or Java; graduate students need to watch a video in one window while writing results in a word processor window; etc.
  • Command-line: There are simply many activities that work really well on command-line: transcoding multiple audio or video files; parsing text; managing servers; etc.
  • Developing software: There have always been nice all-in-one coding environments like NetBeans (formerly Forte4J), or Coda, or VisualStudio. In the end, most high-power developers use some combination of tools, most of which rely on the command-line directly or indirectly; etc.

It is accepted in just about every forward-thinking startup nowadays (well, outside of Israel, but Apple has only itself to blame for giving exclusive import rights to iDigital, which has mismanaged it impressively) develops and designs on Macs. And not one of those developers, designers or executives could run on an iPad. When the day comes that a full command-line, full software development environments, and tiled windows are available on the iPad, the switch will be considered there. The tablet will really be replacing the laptop when Starbucks in Manhattan or San Francisco is filled with entrepreneurs building their company on iPads instead of retina MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs.