The iPad Can Be a True Mac Alternative

Ted Landau published an article for Macworld today, entitled “Why the iPad still can’t be a true Mac replacement”. In it, he lays out some of the differences between the Mac and iPad, and why, because of those differences, the iPad is not yet ready to be a Macintosh replacement.

Ted is correct in his reasoning for why the iPad isn’t a Mac replacement. The iPad runs a completely different OS with completely different apps. And it does not have the same hardware expansion capabilities as the Mac does, such as the ability to connect to external hard drives and monitors.

At the heart of Ted’s article, however, is this bit about why he is arguing that the iPad isn’t ready to replace the Mac:

[T]here remains a persistent undercurrent in the media predicting an eventual demise of the Mac at the hands of the iPad. Whoa!

I agree with Ted that this undercurrent exists. There also exists a current going the other direction (as Ted demonstrates) stating that there’s no way the iPad could replace the Mac. I think these two “currents” are black and white, overdramatized extremes.

The future of the Mac is not to shrink until it’s the size of an iPad and the two become one. Nor is the future of the Mac to die a slow and painful death as the iPad eventually gains so much marketshare that Apple just shuts down the manufacturing of all their iMacs and MacBooks.

Which is why I think Ted — and anyone else who argues that the iPad cannot be a Mac replacement — is missing the point. The iPad isn’t meant to be a Mac replacement.

The iPad is a Mac alternative — and only if you want it to be.

Nobody is forcing us to use iPads instead of a Macs. There is no law which requires anyone who purchases an iPad to then dispose of their Mac. When you walk into an Apple store to buy a new Mac, you are not asked to prove that your needs are sufficient enough to warrant the use of a Mac rather than an iPad.

Never has Tim Cook said that the Mac and OS X will be phased out and that we had all better learn to love our iPads. In fact, just look at what Apple was up to in 2012: Retina MacBook Pros, new iMacs, and a commitment to an annual update cycle to OS X. That doesn’t look like the demise of the Mac to me.

Arguing about if the iPad is a Mac replacement or not is a bit like arguing about your favorite color. Yes, there are people who would do quite fine with an iPad as their only computer. There are also those who can use the iPad for some work tasks, but not all. And there are those who prefer their iPad for watching videos and reading and that’s about it. And, of course, there are all those in-between scenarios.

It’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of using the iPad as a workhorse device as much and as often as possible. However, it’s not because I’m “training” myself for that fateful day when Apple stops selling Macs. Nor am I against using the Mac — goodness, no. I mean, I’m typing this on my Mac right now.

The reason I chose to work from my iPad when I can is because I enjoy it. I like the change of pace that comes with using iOS. I like aiming to do the same quality of work without all the fancy macros, scripts, and shortcuts I have at my fingertips when on my Mac. I like staying abreast of iOS apps and workflows. And when I’m away from my home office, I love taking the iPad because it’s such a lightweight device with long battery life and LTE connectivity.

But does my iPad replace my Mac? No. Is it an alternative work device when I want it to be? You bet it is.

The iPad is awesome. The Mac is awesome, too. Those two statements don’t have to conflict with one another. The Mac and OS X can be refined and polished at the same time the iPad and iOS are matured and strengthened.1

The iPad’s hardware gets better and more capable every year. And iOS gets better every day. But the Mac doesn’t have to become less in order for the iPad to become more.

It was through this weblog that I cut my teeth on Mac nerdery. It was for the sake of writing about the Mac that I even started shawnblanc.net in the first place. And, over the years, as we’ve come into the age of the iPhone and iOS and iPad, a lot of my affinity for fine software and hardware has shifted from OS X only to iOS as well.

Like others, I too am ever-increasingly interested in getting the maximum utility possible from my iPhone and iPad. However, this growing interest does not prove that the future of the PC is the iPad as it stands today. I believe the whole underlying principle is behind this argument is that the iPad is showing what the future of technology hopefully looks like. It’s a future of extreme simplicity coupled with extreme usability.

Instead of arguing for or against the iPad as a Mac replacement, let’s discover ways to use both devices better.

I want to know how to use both my Mac and my iPad to do my best creative work. And I want to do that work as often as possible while enjoying and exploiting each device’s respective workflows.


  1. There’s a whole lot of discussion about the future and importance of iCloud that could bunny trail right here.
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