It’s Not Just a Giant iPod Touch

April 15th, 2010  |  Published in mac and iphone  |  3 Comments

Pages, Keynote and Numbers have consistently been in the top five or so bestselling apps in the iPad store over the past few days. Also up there have been a couple of apps designed to make it easier to move files on and off of the iPad than the supplied file sharing provided by Apple via iTunes.

If you look around, there are signs that developers understand the capabilities they have to play with now: There are HTML editors, a programming editor and some interesting design tools banging around in the “productivity” section. As much as the iPad is a very nice data consumption device (I love Instapaper and Wikipanion), the carrying on about iPads being limited to consumption is just ridiculous.

In fact, when I come across “Tip Calculator HD” or “Super Big Machine Gun App,” I cringe, because Apple as good as said “this is a real computer you can do real work on” when it got iWork out there for the iPad on day one. I hate the thought that the iPad section of the app store might be overrun by apps ported only because the developer doesn’t have the imagination (or skill) to get past the absurd “it’s just a big iPod touch” line.

So I hope that the trend that eventually establishes itself is one of developers figuring out iPad editions of their desktop apps rather than iPad editions of their iPhone apps. I don’t need a super-sized tip calculator or Yelp client (Safari on the iPad is just fine for talking to things like Yelp), but I’d really like it if Gus would decide to take a whack at VoodooPad, Panic would look into bringing us a portable Coda, or BareBones would figure out something with BBEdit. OmniGroup has been planning to do just that since January, when Ken Case said “iPad or Bust!” I hope other developers follow OmniGroup’s lead.

These apps wouldn’t necessarily need to be the same as their desktop counterparts, but shouldn’t be “lite” versions, either, since that usually implies holding features back for marketing purposes rather than providing a scaled-down but fully functional version. It would be nice if they were accessory versions, I guess. For tools like BBEdit or Coda, some decisions are made already: You can’t run an interpreter on an iPad, so there go things like shell script text filters or a local PHP interpreter. But it would be nice to know that your choices in terms of syntax highlighting, macros, saved searches and SFTP servers were kept in sync between iPad and desktop.

In a hardware ecosystem with a smartphone, tablet and full-sized computer, I want my phone to be a portable window on my data and I want my tablet to be a place where I can easily accomplish basic creative tasks or data entry. I’ll save the big desktop screen for the times I really need to spread everything out across several applications on both screens and immerse myself. If I weren’t doing some work as a developer, the desktop would matter even less. I sure don’t need it for editing copy or handling e-mail.

One of the guys behind Things said:

“People are already telling us that they will use the iPad version as their main app for managing to-dos. In the future we expect less people to be interested in the Mac version anymore.”

That’s a strange future for me to imagine, but I think I can get behind it.


  1. “The iPad doesn’t need to do everything” :: dot unplanned says:

    May 18th, 2010 at 1:32 pm (#)

    […] laptop,” there’s no disputing that. But I’ll briefly go back to what I said about the iPad as a sort of satellite computer a few weeks […]

  2. iOS/Mac Cross Pollination :: dot unplanned says:

    December 5th, 2010 at 1:04 pm (#)

    […] spent my share of time wishing that favorite Mac apps would make some sort of appearance as iOS apps, but I hadn’t really considered going the other direction: Developers porting successful iOS […]

  3. Yes, the iPad is a real computer. Just not like that. :: dot unplanned says:

    May 30th, 2011 at 11:08 pm (#)

    […] when I think back to when I wrote about my hopes for the iPad as a satellite computer, I have to report mixed success. There are some pretty good text editors, but none meant to work as […]

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