A single monitor is absolutely the way to go, especially if you care about productivity. This is why iPad has such a bright future as the future of computing.
The original article discusses studies about multi-monitor workflow:
“Many developers believe multiple monitors improve productivity. Studies have proven it, right? Well, keep in mind, many of those studies are commissioned from monitor manufacturers like Dell and NEC. 🤔”
But it’s also important to remember that the field of psychology shows us that humans cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. This absolutely extends to monitors and apps — you can only focus on one at a time. Therefore, more than one monitor is by definition a distraction and a hit to productivity.
The original post touches on this idea nicely:
“One monitor means my work — and only my work — is displayed front and center. Distractions stay out of sight, and thus, out of mind.”
I love this aspect of working on my iPad. At most I have two apps running at a time, but one is usually exclusively for reference, while the other is work. Everything else gets tucked away, letting my productivity flow.
The article also talks about the perils of window management. I think this is absolutely an issue, especially for non-tech-geek people. While reducing to one monitor can help, switching to a mobile, future-forward operating system like iOS is far more helpful. There are no window management distractions on iPad, because there’s no window management on iPad. That’s perfect. That’s what will push effective, productive computing into the mainstream.
The author also touches on the perils of a monitor that is too large. This is an important point that too many iPad haters miss — being limited to a 13" screen is freeing and productivity boosting, not hindering. When the screen is too big, maximized apps become cumbersome, which forces more apps onto the screen, which ruins the focus we were talking about before. As the author says, with the reasonable sized screen:
“With a single screen, I eliminate decisions. I don’t waste time deciding where to drag windows or fiddling with where to place a given window. I maximize the app I’m working with to block out all other distractions…and get to work.”
The future of computing is mobile, rather than tied to a single desk or area. As such, the single monitor setup is important because your workflow doesn’t change no matter where you work from. I would add that operating on the same screen, rather than just one screen, is also key, because it means no compromise of scaling. This is why iPad’s lack of connection to monitor docking stations is a good thing: you work on the same screen everywhere.
All of this extends into a larger refutation of the criticism of iPad. The reason that iPad is the future of computing is because it lacks the frivolous, geeky extremes of legacy desktop devices. iPad is the future because it doesn’t have external monitors, because it doesn’t have windowing, because it doesn’t have an exposed file system, because it has only sandboxed apps. You can try to deny this, but you cannot stop it.