CIO.com blogger James A. Martin loves his iPad but wont be ditching his computer anytime soon. Compared to desktop software, mobile OS applications require too many compromises. And there are those cranky flight attendants to worry about.
By James A. Martin
In 2010, not long after the iPad’s debut, Steve Jobs famously said the tech world was transitioning to an era in which PCs would be like trucks and mobile devices would be like cars. In the “post PC” era, computers would do the occasional heavy lifting but mobile gadgets would be our day-to-day devices, Jobs said.
Maybe he was right. But I’m not living a post-PC existence yet, and I doubt I will be anytime soon. The biggest reason: Mobile apps have become increasingly powerful, yet they almost always lack basic functionality that’s available in desktop software.
I recently reviewed three iOS apps—LinkedIn, Klout for iPhone, and Spotify—that all lack key features found in their desktop Web or software counterparts. With LinkedIn’s iPad app, you can’t edit your profile, for example. The Klout for iPhone app doesn’t let you create lists of social media accounts to follow, claim perks, or add social networks to your profile. Spotify’s iOS app doesn’t support its ecosystem of apps and you can’t drag and drop songs into playlists.
More importantly, I’ve yet to use a mobile app that gives me all the functionality of Microsoft Office desktop software, such as Word’s Track Changes feature, which is essential to my work. Cloud-based apps like OnLive Desktop give you full Office apps on your tablet. But you need an Internet connection to use them. Taking a long plane ride without Wi-Fi? Sorry, you’re out of luck.
Another example is the iOS version of the Safari browser. I can’t quite pull off certain tasks in Apple’s mobile browser that I have no trouble doing on my Mac. One big example: When entering new stories into content management systems, I may be able to accomplish some tasks in mobile Safari, but never all of them.
The upcoming Windows 8 OS might shift things significantly, because it’s optimized for both traditional computers and touchscreen-enabled mobile devices. But to get full use out of a Windows 8 (or any other) tablet, I’d need a physical keyboard. I’m not going to type for more than, say, five minutes on a touchscreen keyboard. It’s uncomfortable and inefficient.
So, to live in the “post PC” era, I need another piece of equipment, an external tablet keyboard, to recharge and keep track of. And that spotlights another problem: Most external keyboards connect to tablets via Bluetooth, which is banned on many flights. I’ve incurred the wrath of a cranky flight attendant before while using a Bluetooth keyboard, and it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat.
A Windows 8 laptop that can also be used as a tablet might be just the ticket. However, we’d no longer be talking about a “post PC” device, because that device would be a PC.
When mobile OS software offers a one-to-one parity with desktop software, and when tablets allow me to do absolutely everything I can do on my computer without having to carry around a keyboard, too, then—and only then—will I be joining the post PC revolution.