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Summary:

For a long time, I never thought I’d be able to give up my Mac as my primary personal computing device. But thanks to some advances in hardware and third-party app development, I’m ready to center my personal computing around the iPad.

Anandtech iPad mini display comparison
photo: Anandtech

Ever since I bought my first iPad in 2010, I knew it was a matter of when, not if, the iPad and iOS would become my primary personal computer. A combination of small size, ease of use, quick startup, and the ability to use Bluetooth keyboards made it a very appealing package. Up until now, my primary use of the iPad has been content consumption. I’m a voracious reader and also store all of the sheet music and lyrics for my band rehearsals on it.

By the end of 2013, the scale between consumption and creation started to balance out a little more. First, though, I had to dispel a few myths about what I use my MacBook Pro for, as well as take a look at Apple’s plans for the OS X devices.

Now, I’m going to surrender one point up front: It will never be possible for me to do my day job on an iPad. I deal with incredibly technical documents and need the full might and power of Office to do my job. So when I refer to my “daily driver,” I’m talking about my general personal use.

Dispelling my own myths

My MacBook usage

I will admit to a bit of gear lust when Apple released the new MacBook Pros last summer. I have a mid-2011 MacBook Pro, and for someone who earns a living writing about tech it’s getting a little long in the tooth. However, none of the new MacBook Pros are ones I feel I can use. Because my 2011 MacBook Pro has an optical drive in it, I’ve replaced the drive with an Ultrabay and placed a second drive in there. My primary drive is a 256GB SSD drive in the main slot, and a 500GB drive in the bay. If I bought the MacBooks with the 512GB flash drives, well, we are into a decent chunk of change. That said, 512GB isn’t enough space for me. I’m not a big fan of dragging portable drives around with me.

This made me take a big step away from my previously-held conviction that I needed a truly mobile OS X computer. While I do use my personal MacBook at work, I could use the company-supplied laptop and just use my iPad as a supplemental device. So, after asking myself the question: how often do I really need to leave the house with a laptop? The answer is: not often. So, my next Mac will likely be an iMac with a very large drive and my mobile needs will be met with an iPad.

I need to be able to do everything on my iPad

Outside of work, I’m a freelance writer and a musician. Part of my belief that I couldn’t give up my laptop concerned the ability to publish Gigaom articles when I’m not at my Mac. About the only thing I can’t do is post images to articles. There are ways around this, but the reality is I can’t remember the last time I needed to post an article when I wasn’t near my main computer (for various reasons, Gigaom’s setup — WordPress — doesn’t play well with the blogging apps on iPad from my experiences). I don’t travel to trade shows, and I can write the post wherever I want. The low-percantage chance I’d need to write and publish an article solely from my iPad isn’t worth worrying about. There are also ways around this using programs like LogMeIn Ignition.

Once I got my mind free of that burden, I could accept my mobile needs are most likely able to be met my the iPad in 2014.

What I can do on my iPad now

Each year, instead of giving myself resolutions I’ll never follow, I give myself goals of what I’d like to get accomplished. On the list for this year, amongst others, is write and play music more. With some advances in 2013 and into 2014 a lot of my restrictions have been eliminated.

Music-making

Of the two goals, music making on the iPad has been the hardest to accomplish. By the the end of 2013, I was able to start making significant progress.

I’m forming a new classic rock band with a friend. My main stage rig is a pain to drag around if I don’t need it. A few months ago, I wrote about replacing my pedal board with the iLoud and Blueboard.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to eat my own dog food when I went to rehearsal with the bass player. Since it was just the two of us, I threw the BlueBoard, my iPad, and the iLoud into my gig bag. I was very pleased with the results. Using Amplitube and the Soldano in-app purchase I got a great classic rock sound that was perfect for my needs.

At the time I wrote that article, the only apps that worked well with the BlueBoard was Amplitube. Since then, JamUp and AmpKit have released new versions that work with CoreMIDI. Also, Positive Grid has a BlueBoard competitor coming out in March that looks like it’s a little sturdier and road-worthy with an all-metal chassis. I look forward to checking it out. I’m also looking into using something like the Apogee One to have a 30-pin input/output that will go direct to

With the 64-bit processors in the new iPads, I’m really looking forward to seeing music apps become more responsive. GarageBand can now record up to 32-tracks on a 64-bit iOS device. I was very shocked earlier last year when Apple included support for AudioBus in GarageBand, allowing you to send audio from other apps to GarageBand. It’s not a feature I’ve used a lot in the last year, but it’s great to know its there if I need it.

Bringing the iPad sure beats lugging all this around. While I fully expect I’ll be recording music on my Mac the most, this is a great way to make and record music on the go.

crump_guitar_rig_001

Writing

Writing on the iPad for me hasn’t changed much over the last few years. I still use Pages as my daily writing program, and I use the OS X version to take notes in meetings. I use iCloud for my syncing. After a few rough spots at launch, I haven’t really had any problems with iCloud syncing. I use an Incase Origami Workstation keyboard stand with my Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

One of the few writing related-tasks I can’t perform on my iPad is exporting and uploading a book to Amazons Kindle Direct Publishing service, but that’s not a task I’m likely to perform on the iPad. Again, this is about being realistic about my mobile needs.

crump-ios-pages-1

What I hope the future holds

By far, the biggest hassle for any of my iOS tasks is how the apps are required to sandbox their data. I keep hoping Apple introduces some sort of a way to allow apps to access data, even if it’s something like a document version of iPhoto. This way I could use any music or text editor that fits the needs of a specific task, rather than one that I think satisfies most of the tasks for a project. For example, if a music editor has a great reverb effect, or handles a certain edit better than GarageBand, I’d like to do that one task there, and go back to GarageBand. The same holds true for writing apps: some do a better job at formatting than others.

On the hardware side, I’m actually sitting out this rev cycle. By the time I can afford to get a new one, we’ll have crossed the line where it’s better to just wait for the next iPads. I also really want to if the next release has more memory, which will be handy when editing large music files.

  1. infinitefreetime Sunday, January 19, 2014

    I’m confused– how are you able to use an iPad as your primary computer if a 512gb hard drive on a Macbook Pro isn’t enough space?

  2. Kinda short sighted to only focus on apple products. But hey if you can spend too much money. Be my guest, throw it away. :)

    1. Sir Topham Hatt Ger Sunday, January 19, 2014

      Kinda short sighted to pretend iOS isn’t far and away the best mobile platform. OS X has no equal. Where you and a few other unfortunates view Apple products as merely an expensive alternative, the savvy recognize the complete experience. Spendthrift shoppers who simply can’t perceive quality–either functional or design–are not Apple’s core customer.

      I can make an Android phablet out of wood or junk plastic and install the latest open source iteration. How many are there now? By the way, tune in to the security industry for weekly Android malware updates. Is all the vitriol just because you didn’t work hard enough? Or let me guess, you need root. LOL

      1. Balls, Win8 on the new wintel tablets are proper mobile computing. Enough of this half assed ‘apps’ talk. You can’t even pick your own keyboard on iOS. I have just got the iPad air and it feels like plastic, the bezels are too thin, the speakers are placed where you hold it in landscape, terrible design all round. not to mention iOS 7 crashes often and is laggier than my android devices.

        Can’t wait to get my Dell venue 8 pro and run visual studio and Civ 5 on it. You can keep your ‘apps’

      2. Lmao, obviously you know very little besides spending money and trying to be a hipster. Expensive apps, works with the NSA, still no flash, iPhone is the same size again, building a more powerful computer is cheaper, closed source development, not compatible without iTunes installed…..

        Ya spending an extra $1,000 seems justified. Stupid iSheep.

        1. The FBI enjoyed Android access a long time ago. Speaking of the NSA, you would do well as a paranoid person to regard all US cloud storage services as suspect. No flash? You mean, like MicroSD (lol Android phones probably have a slot) or the inward facing camera. I’m guessing the latter. Look, that’s just Apple helping people take better selfie’s without the fugly LED effect. iPhone is the same size because it fits in most pockets–and hands–not just your Panama Jack cargo pocket.

          And you know what they say about app prices…if you have to ask. Android apps are cheap or largely free so you’ll install the their malware. Also, you can plug an Apple device into a Windows PC and manipulate files. I know, it’s crazy.

          I see that you’re the street cred type. I’ve built my own PC. It was cheaper and fast. But people grow up and platforms evolve. My time is worth more now and the aesthetically pleasing, secure and dead reliable experience of OS X makes all the difference. Maybe you get your jollies from the latest CPU overclock benchmark, but dorking around with hardware, or worse, troubleshooting a Windows PC at home is the last thing I’m going to do.

          You’re the cheap consumer guy. Let’s just agree to disagree. Tomorrow is Dr. King’s birthday so don’t disgrace his legacy with hate speech. These are not the devices you’re looking for.

          1. I’m not sure I agree with you, Sir Topham Hatt. I’ve owned several Apple products and I’ve liked them all. However, I wouldn’t say they are the only reliable machines by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not the best in every field. My previous iPhone stopped working after a rainy day, yet the same did not happen with my current HTC One (which, by the way, is made of metal). Also, the iPhone is smaller, has half the storage on the base model, and has a lower resolution, which in my opinion does not justify the iPhone being the same price as the HTC One.

            Also, although I really liked the design of my last Macbook Air (2012 model), I did not appreciate the experience of using MS Excel (which I use for work) on OS X by any means. That software is just much more functional on a PC laptop (more formulas available, better macros, multi-windows support, etc.). And Apple’s Numbers software is a poor replacement.

            I agree with you that time is very valuable, and I really find some Apple products to be leading their sectors (like the iPad, for instance, but only as a media consumption device). But as you can see, I don’t think that Apple products, whether iOS or OS X products, are definitely the best.

  3. Seems to me if you really need something light and fully powered that the 11 inch MacBook Air with 512GB flash storage may be more practical. One can contort workflows to suit an iPad up to a point but there’s no question a fully functional MacBook is far more useful than an iPad for creating.

  4. Soooo, your iPad is now suitable for your mobile computing because you have limited yourself to what you can do on the road. If you limit yourself a bit more you might find you could get away with just carrying a paper clip around.

    Check out the dell venue 8 pro if you want real mobile computing, maybe the logo won’t sit well with your ‘musician/writer’ friends.

  5. Nicholas Paredes Sunday, January 19, 2014

    I have an Macbook Air and an iPad Air. The iPad gets the bulk of my attention in motion. I am likewise thinking of moving to a Mac Pro workstation. Most of my work is thinking and communicating.

    As a designer of mobile products, services, and apps, my needs are met by a decent workstation with good storage. A terabyte is reasonable. I bet we are not alone in considering a move back to the desktop.

    My aging eyes will be happier with the screen real estate as well!

  6. Nice article. :)

  7. Windows 8.1 tablets are so much more of a tablet than any iOS products are.

    Why do you need to spend money on apps when you can have all your desktop software you already own at your fingertips on a much more powerful and expandable tablet family with Windows 8.1?

    up to 8GB of ram, real hard disks, docking station options, and the option of connecting USB peripherals.

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