The iPad Compromise

The iPad Compromise

I have a friend who has always been a little critical of iPads. When discussing them he has commented that they are too much of a compromise, particularly compared to a laptop. I tend to avoid discussions that in any way skirt the tribal Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft debates that lead nowhere and tend to scar egos so I've never really pressed my opinion. It doesn't matter to me if someone agrees with my choices, it does matter if I pursue a debate where one party's only real objective is to be the most correct.

Also, owning a number of expensive personal computing devices is a privilege, and this technology is an interest of mine. There's much that I do not own out of need, and as something of a minimalist I acknowledge that it also surpasses any concept of enough. I derive enjoyment from my gadgets and devices on the basis that I am engaged with them; like any hobbyist or enthusiast. I don't expect people that do not share my interest to find the same level of appreciation.

But I do want to discuss the notion of compromise, because it's an attempt to direct the narrative to one of loss or sacrifice. It frames the choice as being to give up something useful (where use is supposedly the most valid of virtues) in exchange for some other, lesser, property. In this case it is the presumed sacrifice of usefulness for material status (considered to be gauche or shallow).

I've never been able to get a good grasp of what usefulness I've given up.

Function is a complex concept for tools that can be repurposed, even within limits, by the imagination of their users. As we're discussing an Apple product, lets look to a recent quote about the iPhone X:

“What I think is remarkable about the iPhone X is that functionality is so determined by software. And because of the fluid nature of software, this product is going to change and evolve. In 12 months’ time, this object will be able to do things that it can’t now.”
— Jony Ive

He could of course be talking about almost any computer, and the thing is that the definition of computer is much broader in reality than the concept in most people's minds. This is how internet connected light bulbs have been recently implicated in cyber attacks across the world. There's a processor in the hub that controls the lights, it runs software, someone executes software that wasn't part of the original design intent and then suddenly you have a meaningful weapon capable of contributing to real damage to computer reliant systems.

The flaw in the argument against my iPad is that of presumed functionality. It's the notion that the iPad is intended to perform the same tasks in the same way. It's also a somewhat bizarre assertion that there is a zero-sum game involved; that by owning an iPad I cannot also benefit from all the advantages of a traditional computer. And yet I am typing this now on my MacBook — I haven't lost anything. I have in fact gained usefulness.

The iPad does not replicate functionality that exists on a laptop or PC. It improves the tasks that I might have previously employed my MacBook for and presents some functionality that did not exist previously. The beauty here is that I have a choice according to my immediate circumstances that not only considers utility but also ergonomics and comfort. So when I'm writing an eight-hundred word blog post I have the choice of a more traditional keyboard (one that doesn't occupy screen space). When I'm reading or watching a movie on the sofa or in bed all I have is a comfortable, lightweight screen. When I want to draw I have a computer that behaves almost like a sheet of paper.

I have the privilege of being able to own a number of computing devices that each excel situationally, even if just one of them is technically or theoretically capable of performing all the tasks I require. I can justify them based upon both this and my enjoyment of them. The iPad has not subtracted from my capabilities, it has added to them and when it is not the best tool for the job I can switch tools. Each of them beautifully designed to make light of the things I need or want to do. When I sit on the sofa with my iPad reading a book or a website, or watching a movie, it's the MacBook that would be a compromise; one of comfort and ease and the simple pleasure of an elegant solution to an everyday passtime.

If you prefer to do things a different way that's great. You win! But I don't have to lose for you to be happy; or at least I shouldn't.

iPhone X

iPhone X

Home Automation

Home Automation