One year without a PC

About one year ago I kicked off my PC for private use.
This post is about my experiences on using solely an iPad and iPhone.
Could these two Apple devices replace my PC? Are there any disadvantages?

Answering and assessing these questions I first have to describe what I am doing with these two young electronic helpers.

Here are the tasks for me, the iPad and the iPhone …

  • Online – Banking
  • E-Mail communication
  • Writing letters
  • Archiving documents electronically
  • Capturing ideas
  • Organizing private long-term commitments
  • Managing photos, contacts and events
  • Online-Shopping
  • Creating images for blogs
  • Participation in forums
  • Writing blogs

All these tasks can be fulfilled by using an iPad. And others?

I started a topic ‘What iPad cannot do’ on iMore, Everything iPhone and MacTalk Australia forum to ask the members what their opinion is.

A member of MacTalk Australia forum should be separately quoted here because he hit that nail square on the head regarding tasks which are not important for me but for other users …

I don’t think it’s a question of whether you can or cannot do any given thing with an iPad compared to a computer, but rather, how well you can do such things. Like, could an iPad convert video? Maybe, if there was an app for that. But I doubt it’d be able to do it as well as a computer. And even though you can put together movies on the iPad itself, I doubt you’re going to see any serious productions produced entirely on an iPad.

Other opinions …

iMore (TurboTiger)
Accessing sites that require Java Applets. This is why I also have an MacBook Air.

iMore (Alli)
True Multitasking, Multiple Windows, Uploading files to websites (except photos)

MacTalk (Geoff3DMN)
RAW photo editing

MacTalk (glacierdave)
The biggest area where I think this conversion would fall down for many users is financial or business applications. In my area that frequently means finance apps customised for primary production and GIS-style applications for land management. While there’s iPad alternatives for these, they aren’t as widely known and accepted as the current crop of Windows applications and a conversion to iPad would involve some certain pain.

MacTalk (icant)
Can you swat a spider with an iPad? Yes, but not very well. A magazine is preferred. There are some tools to edit Openstreetmap on iOS. But the desktop apps are much better. e.g. JOSM runs on Java.

Everything iPhone (Mugwhamp)
I teach IB literature and theory of knowledge, and I use my iPad 10 hours a day. I make all spreadsheets, docs, and newsletters with the iPad, in addition to messaging and email. I regularly project my lessons on to a screen, use the iPad for note taking in meetings, video and audio record my students’ presentations, make my own presentations, edit PDFs, and edit photos and videos. The ONLY thing I use my laptop for is downloading music and videos and transferring them to the iPad via iTunes. When my laptop dies, I will only keep a home desktop for the aforementioned purpose. I’m definitely post-PC, and I love it. I understand that some technical professionals may need something more, but for the many and varied tasks that I engage in as an educator, the iPad rules. It is most definitely a powerful production tool.

Everything iPhone (Europa)
Running a server, Playing non-iTunes friendly videos (you need a computer to do the live conversion with Air Video and to move them to the phone for playback via VLC), Ripping and converting videos, Burning and playing CDs/DVDs, Updating the firmware on Bluetooth devices, Torrents, Photoshop, Audition, etc., Accessing the file system and making modifications, Running the full version of iTunes, Capturing/recording video that is playing on the screen, Hiding the pesky Newsstand app, Flash video content, Programming, Restoring or applying a full update to the iPad, Jailbreaking, Air Print to an unsupported printer, Computer games

MacTalk (Steeley)
I certainly can’t be a graphic designer with an iPad. The screen size is too small, I can’t use a graphic tablet or mouse, there’s no professional software and, the biggest issue, you cannot colour calibrate an ipad and the existing over saturated colours on iPads are next to useless when designing for print.

iPad in education …

The forum members told us what we cannot do with an iPad.
Here are some links about the usage of iPad in the educational sector.
What we can learn from this is that the iPad falls short in many cases but has substantial benefits in other cases.

Leeds University: Integrating iPads into Universities

Pepperdine University: Research Study on Using iPads

Here are my professional responsibilities …

  • Developing software based on Microsoft Access
  • Updating content of the company-website
  • UI and UX design
  • Software maintenance
  • Deployment of software updates
  • Maintenance of the LAN

iPad and Windows cannot be friends so none of these tasks can be done by the little brother. iPad may only be used for checking things via a remote desktop connection.

The benefits of the iPad …

  • Mobility
  • Use it at a time you need it
  • UI (the user interface)
  • UX (the user experience)
  • Quietness
  • Sharpness of the display
  • Size
  • Basically no need of any peripherals

When I go to the office it’s the way to work with hardware you have known for decades. The first IBM PC was released in 1981 and a bit later it got Windows and a mouse. Since that time there were basically no changes regarding this configuration, nothing what you would call innovative.
The whole machine with its peripherals was just for doing the things you have to do. Did the machine ever motivate you to do new things?

As to the immobility of a PC you have to have your ideas when you sit in front of your desk. But this often doesn’t work. There are ideas coming up just when you do not sit in the office. Even a notebook did not change this none-productive-environment basically.

But the iPad did.

It’s because a touchscreen is much nearer to human activities than any other device. What we do is mostly what we do with our hands. It’s our first approach to new things. Creating artworks, modeling new devices or writing down all the ideas leading to the E=m c c equation on a sheet of paper while walking through the room and reflecting our thoughts is almost always done by hand.

As to limited software capabilities you are forced to find out new ways to organize your work. And these new approaches of modern computing are often easier and more effective. So the machine motivates you to go alternative ways. That’s what we call creativity.

What do you think?
Would this man have been even more creative with an iPad?


Creativity has nothing to do with any activity in particular – with painting, poetry, dancing, singing or finding out E=m c c.

Anything can be creative – you bring that quality to the activity. Activity itself is neither creative nor uncreative. You can paint in an uncreative way and you can clean the floor in a creative way.

iPad supports creativity by forcing you to do things with your hand. That’s what we learned as we grew up and that’s to what we come back using this kind of machine where the mouse is just eating its cheese and not supporting us.

My opinion might look highly subjective and younger people growing up with these technical marvels cannot understand me. Then you should know that I grew up without any computer you could afford for private use.
My first PC was a Sharp MZ 80K (1978) followed by an IBM PC (1981) and everybody thought these machines are made for working while you first think of an iPad as a gadget just for fun.

Sometimes I boot the IBM PC still residing in our office (which, you won’t believe it, is still working!) and compare it with the iPad. If you had traced this long way you may understand me.

Last but not least let’s hear what EINSTEIN said …

Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

Summary …

Nobody would use a 40t truck to buy a bottle of milk and nobody would try to transport 20 pupils to school with a Smart. So it’s no rigorous YES or NO to a PC or a tablet. Use the device it’s dedicated for at the right time and at the right place. And that’s definitely not a PC for brainstorming in a coffee shop and it’s not a tablet for doing the relevant tasks in the office.
Like in all other parts of our life we are targeted to use the device which fits best for a task. The only requirement which must be fulfilled is the ability of seamless data exchange between both, the PC and the tablet.

(This post was updated on 2013-05-22)

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