Personal disruption

John Gruber wrote a piece the other day on the iPad Air but more importantly, in discussing it, he discusses how the evolution of this product is not just disrupting computing for casual users but for users like him (and me) as well. His piece is well worth reading.

The iPad Air

Let me preface this post with this: I don’t like change. I like to construct processes for doing things and get facile enough with them so they fall into the background. I have no idea how people who are constantly changing computers, app mixes, and the like get anything done. Same goes for cameras. I like my cameras to be simple enough to fall into the background but deep enough to do what I need them to do (the Ricoh GR is my current fav and only camera). It takes me a while to come up with stuff that works for me but once I do, I stick to it, sometimes for too long but certainly as long as it enables me to get done what I want to get done. So, in short, things that disrupt the way I’ve been doing things successfully for a while take a while for me to digest.

Even with what Gruber has said about the iPad Air and what I’m about to say below on my iPad use, there is no way that any iPad could replace this computer for me. But, of course, it doesn’t have to.

I’m writing this on a 15-inch, Early 2011 MacBook Pro with a 2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB Apple SSD running OS X Mavericks. This computer is one of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many Macs) and has kept up with OS upgrades and the load I put on it with Lightroom (5) and other applications I use to process images, support blogs, and the like.

I could have constructed this post on my iPad or even on my iPhone and with dictation being as good as it is, the need for a keyboard is now up for grabs for many people. I touch type and I’m still more comfortable with a hardware keyboard on a computer as well as a mouse for editing and I like the 15″ screen on this computer for keeping lots of windows open. So for me, at least for the time being, a 15″ MacBook Pro is an important part of my process and at some point I’ll no doubt upgrade to the retina version. I don’t need my computer to be as portable as it can be, that’s what I use an iPad for but I do like to carry it with me when I travel (in the overhead bin).

As the iPhone has improved (I now have a 5s) its usefulness as a serious adjunct has increased. The 5s with its better processor and better antennas has tipped the iPhone into a much more serious tool that for many tasks can keep up with a computer. This is amazing to me.

I have an iPad 3 (retina, 64 GB) and have used it since it came out, mostly for feed reading on the couch but while on the couch for email and other less formal things. I use it on my monthly trips to California for watching movies on the plane and for this its been a godsend (coupled with a set of Bose QuietComfort 15 noise canceling headphones).

When Apple announced the iPad Air, retina iPad mini and a price reduction on the older 16 GB iPad mini, the price reduction on the old mini caught my eye. I’ve wanted to try out a mini but using one in an Apple store without my stuff on it isn’t a real test. The best test is to get one, get it home, get your accounts and apps on it and use it to see how it compares with a regular size iPad. The fact that a few of my friends have completely moved from the larger iPad to the mini has made me want to try one even more, so, I bought an iPad mini for $299 and set it up.

In a word, it solves the weight problem with iPads older than the new Air which by comparison feel like bricks. The iPad mini is light enough to hold up with one hand and read like a book (or a Kindle). This is something you have to experience to understand, that weight factor is very meaningful. I don’t know yet if the size factor is as meaningful: if the new iPad Air and mini were the same weight, would the size of the Air make it awkward in some situations. No way to know until I get my hands on it.

Now, my iPad mini has been rendered “ancient” with the new model coming out, its in the same speed class as my iPad 3 and it doesn’t share the iPad 3’s retina screen which would no doubt make small text a bit more readable on it but still, for most of what I use my iPad for, I can use the mini easily.

For me, the iPad disruption is interesting and unsettling and great all at the same time: I’m a serious Mac user who, over the years has become comfortable with the slow evolution of Mac hardware and OS. When the iPod came out I was comfortable using it as an appendage of my extensive iTunes music library. As iOS has matured and iCloud and other cloud services have allowed us to synchronize lots of information across Mac OS and iOS devices, these devices have evolved into equal partners and even more than equal partners for many people. Most of us have been considering this disruption over the years the iPad has been out, but these new models change the speed at which this disruption is happening.

Check out these CNET benchmarks of the various models of iPad: iPad Air benchmarks show 80 percent speed bump over iPad 4. This latest bump applies to both the upcoming iPad Air and the new iPad mini which both share the same A7 processor. Between a processor speed bump and better antennas, these iPads are truly substitutes for computers for many people and according to Gruber, are better values than the MacBook Air for many people. This is significant.

So, I’m left with an older MacBook Pro that still works fine and I probably won’t upgrade until next year (if then), a 64 GB iPad 3 and a new (old) 16 GB iPad mini that I got to experiment with.

My plan is to not pre-order an iPad because I want to feel the weight of the Air next to the new mini. If it’s light enough for me, that’s the way I’ll probably go because the bigger screen will be better for movie watching on planes and can’t hurt for reading web pages. If it still feels awkward to hold relative to the mini, I’ll order a 64 GB retina mini. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’ll be recycling my iPad 3 in the next few days.

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