Postponing the post PC era by five years
It’s been a few years since Steve Jobs talked about the post PC era. But my 2011-circa iMac is still chugging along as I type. However apps have been learning to do more things, and demanding more processing power to do those things, and my old Mac is having difficulty keeping up with them.
The thing is I like my iMac. Its classic minimalist design looks, enhanced by the wireless trackpad and keypad, is every bit as contemporary as the day I got it. And I still get a thrill out of just turning it on, and seeing the world through its 21 inch screen. It’s not too small like an iPad, nor too big like a TV, but just the right size for relaxed reading, writing and watching videos. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit like one of those well preserved 70 year olds, whose age shows when asked to sprint.
For instance, opening the latest versions of even an Apple app like Pages can involve a wait of close to one minute. If the Mac happens to be turned off when I need it suddenly, like say to answer a Skype conference call, it could mean a wait of five minutes for the people on the other end of the call, which can be interminable in today’s world of instant gratification.
So I’ve been thinking of retiring the old guy lately, and replacing it with the latest iMac. That would come with goodies like fusion drive for quick starts, and the latest bluetooth for easy handover of docs I’m working on to my other Apple devices, and more. But all this comes at a hefty price.
My problem is my iPad 3 is also having age-related issues. It’s slowed down to such a significant extent that I had to reset it, erase all apps, and reload with just a few basic apps. So the question I have been asking myself is instead of buying two devices, why not instead replace both with the latest iPad that is due any time now.
On mulling this over, I realised that would means compromises on many fronts, and I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Take the screen size. I can still have the same size by mirroring it, but it’s not the same. An app working on the iPad screen is optimised for it, and it may appear in low resolution on the Mac making for a poor user experience.
Desktop versions of apps also tend to have more features. To illustrate, I’m currently working on Medium in my Mac’s browser, and it certainly is more flexible and has several more features than my iPad’s Medium app.
Precision is another issue. I’m not a designer but I do touch up images once in a while. That kind of precise work is a lot easier on my Mac than with my finger on the iPad. My brother recently got the iPad Pro with the iPencil, but it has some way to go before it gets on the same level as the Mac. Though I’m willing to concede that may be because I’m not too familiar with the iPencil.
Then there’s connectivity. I can stick a USB into the Mac and transfer almost anything. Or connect to my backup disks, and access old files. It’s possible on an iPad too, but it involves jumping through a lot of hoops. Finding stuff on the Mac is also much easier via the finder, while I have never been able to quite figure out how and where the iPad files away stuff. That way, Android and Windows tablets are far easier to use, but going outside the Apple ecosystem has its own issues.
Even health wise, I think the Mac is better than the iPad, especially for long hours of use. My Mac’s screen is set at eye level, two feet or more from my face, which makes it less of a strain on my eyes and my back. I also suspect the distance reduces the effect of the light emitted by the screen on my eyes.
The iPad does have its positives. The touchscreen, for one. I’m not too sure how useful that is on a desktop. We have a Windows touchscreen laptop whose vertical screen means your hand dangling is in the air while using the touchscreen, which is tiring. There’s the iPad’s portability, but that comes with the negative of having to remember to charge it. There are also a lot more apps for iPads, but again most of the apps on my Mac, do a bit more.
All said and done, I think I will hang on to my old iPad for another year, but get myself a new iMac sometime this year. This should effectively postpone the post PC era for another five years for me. By then, the iPad should have got around its drawbacks, and be ready to take me into that fabled post PC era. On the other hand, maybe it’s the iPad who has an issue with me instead of the other way around.
Jobs did give an analogy of people preferring trucks in the agrarian era, and switching to cars as the world went urban. Maybe I’m just a digital dinosaur pottering along the information highway in my old jalopy, and feeling a bit bewildered by the post-PC Ferraris zooming by.