Showing all posts tagged ipad:

What's A Computer?

So there’s an Apple ad for the iPad Pro out there, which is titled "What’s a computer?". It’s embedded here, in case you’re like me and don’t see ads on TV.

tl;dr is that the video follows a young girl around as she does various things using her iPad Pro, signing a friend’s cast over FaceTime and sending a picture of it via Messages and so on.

It’s all very cute and it highlights the capabilities of the iPad Pro (and of iOS 11) very well.

However, there is a hidden subtext here, that only young people who grow up knowing only phones and tablets will come to think of them as their only devices in this way. Certainly it’s true of my kids; I no longer have any desktop computers in the house, so they have never seen one. There is a mac Mini media server, but it runs headless in a cupboard, so it hardly looks like a “computer". My wife and I have MacBooks, but they’re our work machines. My personal device is my iPad Pro.

My son actually just started computing classes in school this year, and was somewhat bemused to be faced with an external keyboard and mouse. At least they’ve moved on from CRTs since my day…

A Second Childhood

There is another group of users who have adopted the iPad enthusiastically, and that is older people. My mother used to invite me for lunch, and then casually mention that she "had some emails" for me to do. She would sit across the room from the computer and dictate to me, because she never felt comfortable doing anything on the infernal machine herself.

Since she got her first iPad a few years ago, she has not looked back. She is now a regular emailer – using the on-screen keyboard, no less, as I have not been able to persuade her to spring for a Pro yet. She surfs the web, comments on pictures of her grandchildren, keeps up with distant friends via Skype and Facebook, and even plays Sudoku.

That last point is particularly significant, as for people who grew up long before computers in homes, it is a major shift to embrace the frivolous nature of some (most?) of what we do on these devices.

None of this is to say that I disagree with Apple’s thesis in the ad. When it comes to computers, my own children only really know iPads first-hand. They see adults using laptops occasionally, and of course spending too much time on their phones, but they don’t get to use either of those devices themselves. As far as they are concerned, “computer" might as well mean "iPad".

I just think that they should do a Volume Two of that ad, featuring older people, and perhaps emphasising slightly different features - zoomed text, for instance, VoiceOver, or the many other assistive technologies built into iOS. Many older people are enthusiastic iPad users, but are not naturally inclined to upgrade, and so may still be using an iPad 2 or an original iPad mini. A campaign to showcase the benefits of the Pro could well get more of these users to upgrade - and that’s a win for everyone.

Microsoft Office - on an iPad? SACRILEGE!

If you follow tech news at all - and if not, why are you here, Mum? - you know that Microsoft finally got around to releasing Office for iPad.

Within hours of the launch, Word became the most downloaded application for iPads in Apple's app store.

The Excel and Powerpoint apps were the third and fourth most popular free app downloads, respectively, in the store.

Note that the apps themselves are free, but advanced functionalities - such as, for instance, editing a document - require an Office 365 subscription. A Home Premium subscription to Office 365 is $99 / £80 per year, which is a lot for home users. Fair enough, many Office users will presumably get the subscription through their employer, but many companies still don’t have subscriptions, so that is hardly a universal solution.1

In contrast, new iPads get the iWork apps for free, and even for older ones the price was hardly prohibitive - I think it was less than $10 per app when I bought them. Lest you think that the iWork apps are limited, I have successfully used Pages to exchange documents with Word, with change tracking too. Numbers also works well with Excel files, including some pretty detailed models. Keynote falls down a bit, mainly because the iPad is lacking some fonts, but a small amount of fiddling can usually sort that out too. I would assume that the fonts issue will bite PowerPoint on the iPad too, anyway.

The main thing though is that Office on the iPad is just too little, too late. Microsoft should have released this at least two years ago. By then it was clear that the iPad was the tablet in business. Far from the lack of Office killing the iPad, the lack of iPad support seriously undermined Office!

Anyway, I will probably never even download it, despite being an Office power user2 on my Mac. I think it will do okay, simply because of the critical mass of Office users that still exists, but Microsoft missed their chance to own the iOS productivity market the way they own that market on PCs.


A more detailed treatment of the pricing issue:

Apple makes their money on hardware sales. Therefore, they can give away iWork for iOS by baking its development costs into the overall iOS development costs.

Google makes their money on targeted advertising. Therefore, they can give away Google Drive because they’re scraping documents and tailoring ad content as a result. That’s pretty creepy, and might be against your employer’s best practices for confidentiality of information.

Microsoft doesn’t make money on iPad hardware sales, nor do they scrape Office documents for ads. Therefore, they charge you money to use their software beyond the basics. Makes sense to me.

Makes sense to me too.


  1. Of course Microsoft may still make more money on Office this way by avoiding rampant piracy on the PC side. The question then becomes: what does this do to their market share? Part of the ubiquity of Microsoft was driven by wholesale piracy, especially among home users. 

  2. Well, Word and PowerPoint, at least. Us marketing types don’t use much Excel, as a rule.