"You’re not going out there in that are you?”
We’ve all heard it, or at the very least thought it. On some frigid morning we’ve all put one foot out the door while still clinging to our summer shorts in hopes that it’ll warm up later in the day. Or, we’ve stepped into the spring sunlight in that favorite sweater and know within five minutes that it was definitely the wrong call. And yet we try. It seems like every year I try. Why is that?
Comfort. Convenience. Probably a great deal of sentiment. I love that sweater or that pair of jeans or that t-shirt. Even the forces of nature can’t change that. Now, in the world of clothing and fashion, I don’t have much of a choice but to surrender. One day it will simply be too hot outside to justify that favorite jacket. And so it goes back in the closet for another time.
My technology, however, doesn’t have to be this way. I can select a general purpose computing device that accomplishes all (or nearly all) of my current and even possible goals. Up until a few years ago, the choice was even more clear cut. But with tablets and smartphones closing the performance gap, there seems to be fewer and fewer reasons why our mobile devices should not be capable of completing the same tasks as a laptop or desktop.
In his article, “An iPad, a Computer, a Holy Grail,” Linus Edwards makes the case for simply settling for a coat closet full of tools that only come out for their specified purpose:
Anytime you consolidate devices, you are making compromises. If you decide to get rid of your camera and only use the iPhone to take photos, you are getting a lesser experience, as most stand-alone cameras can take better photos than the iPhone. If you get rid of your Nintendo 3DS and only play games on the iPhone, you are missing out on a more specialized gaming experience.
These would all be true if I were the kind of person that would carry each of these specialized tools. In reality, I’d say it’s more likely that most would prefer to just have one device fill the place of three. Before the iPhone, and even as an avid gamer, I never owned a handheld gaming device. Before the iPhone I never (or very rarely) kept a camera on me. I have countless images of my children, or just the scenery around me, that I’ve shot on the iPhone simply because it was there. In its absence, I wouldn’t have taken a better picture with a point-and-shoot or DSLR, I would have taken nothing. The moment would just be gone.
So there are obvious utilitarian reasons for going with a smartphone or tablet, but what about my earlier comparisons to fashion? That sweater I just want to keep wearing? That’s the iPad. It’s comfortable, predictable, fun, and pleasant to me in a way other devices aren’t. I want it to be the device I get to use, just like I want the weather to be right for that sweater. The difference comes in the application.
Weather is weather, but digital tools and digital tasks are not the same as the physical problems of hammering nails, driving screws, or staying cool on a hot day. At this point, the processing power of the A7 rivals that of laptops from only a few years ago, certainly not the pinnacle of computational performance but clearly enough to get most jobs done in a reasonable timeframe. Even so, we are forced to deal with workarounds and awkward situations to accomplish some of the same tasks on a tablet that would be much easier on a traditional desktop operating system.
The two just don’t make sense. Physical limitations, such as Edwards’ example Swiss Army Knife used to build an entire house, are virtually insurmountable. Building a house with a Swiss Army Knife is never going to make sense, but each year, building and operating a website using only an iPad makes more and more sense. The capability is there, the implementation just hasn’t quite made the leap. And if people like Federico Viticci and others who try to be exclusive iPad users don’t push the limits, who will?
The right tool for the right job is a nice sentiment if you want to carry around a sack full of toys like Santa Claus. But when the hardware is growing more and more capable every year, why not consolidate as much as possible? It’d be like getting to wear your favorite sweater every day of the year.
I mean, it worked for Steve, didn’t it?