Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Nov 2015 13:53 UTC
Apple

The reviews for the Apple Surface are coming in. There's two reviews at The Verge, one at the Wall Street Journal, and John Gruber's got early access from Apple as well.

The general gist? If you've ever read a Surface Pro review, you've read all the iPad Pro reviews. Well, mostly - the complaints leveled at the Surface Pro are being tip-toed around a bit now that they apply to an Apple product, of course, and suddenly, the magic argument "but it will get better in the future" is now completely valid, while the same argument is never considered valid for the Surface Pro (or something like the Priv and its early bugs).

That being said, all reviews dive into just how uncomfortable the iPad Pro is to use as a laptop - and the problem, of course, is iOS itself. iOS is a mobile, touch-first operating system that Apple is now trying to shoehorn into a laptop role. iOS provides no support for mice or trackpads, and the keyboard and iOS lack most basic shortcut keys, so in order to do anything other than typing, you'll need to lift your arm and reach for the screen to use touch. This is something Apple has mocked for years as the reason not to include touch on laptops, and now they release a device which requires it 100%.

This is what happens when you run out of ideas and try to shoehorn your cashcow - iOS - into a role it was never intended to fulfill, without being gutsy enough to make the changes it requires. The iPad Pro is clearly screaming for a touchpad (and proper keyboard shortcuts), but it doesn't have any, and according to John Gruber, it never will (a comment I filed away for later when Apple inevitably adds mouse support to iOS).

Microsoft's Surface may not be perfect, but its problems stem almost exclusively not from a lack in hardware capability or a faulty concept, but from Microsoft's Metro environment being utterly shit. The concept of having a tablet and a laptop in the same device, seamlessly switching between a tablet UI and a desktop UI, is sound - the only problem is that Microsoft doesn't have a working tablet UI and applications. Meanwhile, trying to shoehorn a mobile, touch-first UI into a laptop form factor is just as silly and idiotic as trying to shoehorn a desktop UI into a mobile, touch-first form factor - and Apple should know better.

Or should they? Paul Thurrott, earlier this week:

While the iPad Pro was in many ways inevitable, it also points to a crisis of original thought at Apple, which has been coasting on the iPhone’s coattails for perhaps too long. At Apple, the solution to every problem is another iPhone. And the iPad Pro, like the new Apple TV and the Apple Watch, is really just another attempt to duplicate that singular success in other markets.

Thurrott really hits the nail on the head. The iPhone became a success because Apple sought - and succeeded in - designing an interface and interaction model that was specifically designed for the iPhone's input methods - the multitouch display, the home button. Ever since that major big hit, they've been trying to shoehorn that exact same interface and interaction model into every major new product - the Apple Watch, the new Apple TV, and now the iPad Pro. However, if there's one thing we've learned from Palm OS (pen-first, mobile-first) and iOS (multitouch-first, mobile-first), it's that every form factor needs a tailored interaction model - not a shoehorned one.

When you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail - which sums up Apple's new major product lines ever since the release of the iPhone, and the iPad Pro seems no different. It will do great as an iPad+, but beyond that? It's not going to make a single, meaningful dent, without considerable restructuring of iOS' UI and interaction models - and lots and lots of crow.

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Some alternative views
by Tony Swash on Wed 11th Nov 2015 17:31 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

Ben Bajarin at the Daily Techpinion has an article musing on the iPad Pro after using one for a week

https://techpinions.com/the-ipad-pro-the-start-of-something-new/4233...

A couple of interesting points from his article. One is where he talks about the power of the Apple designed ARM chip in the iPad Pro which allowed him to edit multiple 4K video streams very fast. And second when he talked about how much more accomplished his 12 year daughter was using the device - why? - because all young people are growing up using touch devices as their main computing devices and unlike older folks more used to WIMPS GUIs (i.e. including everyone who actually knows what that acronym means) they can exploit the new touch based computing paradigm to its fullest potential. This produced an echo for me (because I am that old) of how easy it was for my young daughter (now all grown up) to use my early Mac while older techie people I knew who were more used to the command line interface found using a mouse award and limiting.


Benedict Evans also has an interesting article on the broader context entitled "Mobile, ecosystems and the death of PCs" here

http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2015/11/7/mobile-ecosystems-and-...

The entire article is worth read (his stuff always is) but for the impatient here are his conclusions:

First, iOS and Android are a step change in ease of use over Windows and MacOS. Microsoft has arguably matched this on phones, but on 'PCs' all the complexity to support the old way of doing things has to stay - including things like supporting interchangeable hardware. If you like tinkering with your computer this step change is bad (just as the move from command lines to GUIs was), but it enables far more people to use these things.

Second, iOS, ChromeOS and (debatably) Android have a fundamentally better security model. This comes with reduced openness, but now that the threat is not a floppy with a virus-infected copy of Leisure Suit Larry but 500 people in a foreign country hacking your Financial Controller's assistant's child's preschool to send spear-phishing emails, that's a much more valuable tradeoff.

Third, the ARM ecosystem has a fundamental power-consumption advantage over x86 and a fundamental advantage in the scale of the industry investment around it

And fourth, the broader scale advantage - the ARM/iOS/Android ecosystem is moving towards selling 10x more devices each year than the Wintel ecosystem. That's a similar disparity to that between PowerPC/Mac and Wintel 20 years ago. So this is where all the innovation is - in semiconductors, in components and in software. No-one is going to found a new company to make Win32 applications (though enterprise Windows apps will be worked on for a long time, just as mainframe apps were).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Some alternative views
by winter skies on Wed 11th Nov 2015 18:27 in reply to "Some alternative views"
winter skies Member since:
2009-08-21


Benedict Evans also has an interesting article on the broader context entitled "Mobile, ecosystems and the death of PCs" here

http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2015/11/7/mobile-ecosystems-and-...

The entire article is worth read (his stuff always is) but for the impatient here are his conclusions:

"First, iOS and Android are a step change in ease of use over Windows and MacOS. Microsoft has arguably matched this on phones, but on 'PCs' all the complexity to support the old way of doing things has to stay - including things like supporting interchangeable hardware. If you like tinkering with your computer this step change is bad (just as the move from command lines to GUIs was), but it enables far more people to use these things.

Second, iOS, ChromeOS and (debatably) Android have a fundamentally better security model. This comes with reduced openness, but now that the threat is not a floppy with a virus-infected copy of Leisure Suit Larry but 500 people in a foreign country hacking your Financial Controller's assistant's child's preschool to send spear-phishing emails, that's a much more valuable tradeoff.

[...]

"

The "death of PCs" is a really tiresome argument.
I disagree with points 1 and 2.

1. "it enables far more people to use these things."
BUT it does discourage people from understanding how things work, and it increasingly promotes the idea that a computing device is a magic box which converts input into output in some mysterious ways noone but its creators should be concerned with. I think that is ultimately an impoverishment for our minds.

2. I'm having a hard time trying to follow the chain of Saxon genitives up to the starting point, but oh-it-involves-children, so that the argument can't be answered back without looking like cynical bastards. I see this trend as trading freedom for a false sense of security. Hardly the first time we're doing so anyway.

As for point 4, that's stating the obvious. But for how many years is the ARM/iOS/Android ecosystem going to keep this pace? I think we're progressing towards saturation. And then? I wish those Sybils would try to dive into less obvious things.

I love PCs because they are imperfect, run into hiccups, but let you do almost everything you want. I grew up with this openness in mind (e.g. installing GNU/Linux, FreeBSD and NetBSD on everything I had on hand, including a PowerBook G4 and a Sun Ultra 5, just for the sake of it - nothing special, but nice!), and I'm not prepared to give it up "because mobile".
"Mobile" as a tightly controlled environment where software and hardware are inextricably bound and the boundaries of what you can do have been defined from the start by the vendor has nothing to do with empowering people and everything to do with giving back control to corporations.
I am frankly fed up with analysts pushing this "new world" as the best thing ever happened to computing.

Yeah, anyway, all I care about is Apple keeping OS X alive without turning it into a kindergarten-ready iOS clone - or some high-end CAD and archviz software being ported to Linux, but that's less likely, alas. I wonder what software is used to create the graphics in those nice Andreessen Horowitz slides. Excel+Powerpoint on an iPad? Aligning stuff with fingers?

Edited 2015-11-11 18:29 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by puenktchen on Wed 11th Nov 2015 19:44 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

BUT it does discourage people from understanding how things work, and it increasingly promotes the idea that a computing device is a magic box which converts input into output in some mysterious ways noone but its creators should be concerned with. I think that is ultimately an impoverishment for our minds.


Not for those 99% of humanity which never cared to know how a computer works.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by galvanash on Wed 11th Nov 2015 20:41 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

1. "it enables far more people to use these things."

BUT it does discourage people from understanding how things work, and it increasingly promotes the idea that a computing device is a magic box which converts input into output in some mysterious ways noone but its creators should be concerned with. I think that is ultimately an impoverishment for our minds.


I share the same feelings to a degree. As a developer who grew up during 80s it is hard not to. That said though, I believe that this viewpoint is just plain wrong and should be avoided.

Why? Because it isn't realistic.

Yes, mobile devices (particularly iOS) are simply not like the PCs we grew up with. They offer extremely regimented environments in which to run applications, and tinkering with it in an effort to "discover" how it all works is pretty much futile. As a conduit to further one's knowledge of how computers work, they are useless and a step backward - no argument. They are, as you said, magic boxes to most users.

But... There is a place in the world for magic boxes. Most of us have a TV. Few of us know how to actually build one, or much care how they work. We don't need to in order to use one. If you really, really, want to learn how to build one it is possible to do so - but unless you plan on designing TVs for a living there is little practical reason to. TVs have become a transparent tool to such a degree that you can actually make TV Shows without needing to understand how they work... This exact same logic applies to lots of things in our everyday lives - cars, microwaves, washing machines, etc., etc.

Why should computers be different? I get the sense of loss, really I do, but our fond memories of the good ole days are really immaterial to the vast majority of people. What we see as backwards and limiting they see as a tool they can finally use without needing to understand how it works.

That is what I think most people miss in the equation. Conventional PCs cannot be used without a fair bit of knowledge as to how they work. Even if you do understand them they tend to break horribly - things go wrong all the time (bad drivers, botched software updates, unexpected incompatibilities, viruses, malware, etc. etc.)

To use one, you will need to deal with these things at least every once in a while. Sure, it has gotten a lot better over the years, but even now if you don't know how to fix them, and don't have access to someone who does, getting through even a single year without any loss of productivity is probably nearly impossible (and the less you know about them the more likely things will go wrong). They are just too brittle and it is too easy to shoot yourself in your own foot.

All the things that make iOS and Android "bad" to us are the very things that "fix" this. Severely restricted software distribution, complex security, dumbed down interaction models, a heavy reliance on cloud computing resources, limited hardware resources, application signing requirements, etc. - those are the very things that make it possible for a complete novice to buy and use one of these things for years without any help from anyone. They just work. Like TVs.

That isn't impoverishing people's minds, it is giving them access to something genuinely useful that they simply did not have access to before, not without a whole lot of mental investment. Independence like this is very powerful - it is not something we (as developers) should be flippant about. The price for that is unfortunately turning computers into magic boxes, because there really isn't any other sane way to do it.

I certainly don't think that PCs are going to go away any time soon, and lots of people that start with tablets will hit the capabilities wall and graduate to real computers. I think there is a place for both kinds of devices. I just don't think it is fair to fixate on what was lost without considering what was gained. There are two sides to the story.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by leos on Wed 11th Nov 2015 21:11 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
leos Member since:
2005-09-21

BUT it does discourage people from understanding how things work, and it increasingly promotes the idea that a computing device is a magic box which converts input into output in some mysterious ways noone but its creators should be concerned with.


Technological advancement depends on an increasing number of increasingly complex things being treated as black boxes, with only the inputs and output being important for the vast majority.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by kristoph on Wed 11th Nov 2015 22:30 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
kristoph Member since:
2006-01-01

I drive a fuel injected, turbo, something, something car. I couldn't fix it if my life depended on it. Heck, I can't even change the tire. I understand how to drive the thing but I've really no ideal how it works.

Nevertheless I am quite a good driver on the road and on the track.

You don't have to understand a thing to be able to use it well and be very productive with it. Indeed, if we had to understand all the things we use we'd still be stuck in caves trying to puzzle out fire.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Some alternative views
by smashIt on Wed 11th Nov 2015 18:42 in reply to "Some alternative views"
smashIt Member since:
2005-07-06

while older techie people I knew who were more used to the command line interface found using a mouse award and limiting.


but thats the problem with touch-devices
with a mous there are only a few cases whre you have to fall back to the cli
but with touch-devices simple tasks like selecting a bit of text are a chore

Reply Parent Score: 7

RE: Some alternative views
by dpJudas on Wed 11th Nov 2015 19:18 in reply to "Some alternative views"
dpJudas Member since:
2009-12-10

And second when he talked about how much more accomplished his 12 year daughter was using the device - why? - because all young people are growing up using touch devices as their main computing devices and unlike older folks more used to WIMPS GUIs

Ah the classical "the young people understands [insert new tech here] narrative". It never gets old.

This produced an echo for me (because I am that old) of how easy it was for my young daughter (now all grown up) to use my early Mac while older techie people I knew who were more used to the command line interface found using a mouse award and limiting.

Except of course for the fact your daughter didn't use the Mac for the same things as those hypothetical people preferring the command line. If anything, history has shown that the graphical user interface could not fully replace the command line. Just like touch can't fully replace a quality keyboard and mouse.

And fourth, the broader scale advantage - the ARM/iOS/Android ecosystem is moving towards selling 10x more devices each year than the Wintel ecosystem.

Apples and oranges. All those sold phones are not going to replace the desktop no matter how many of them you sell. And the iPads stopped selling now that we're at it.

Reply Parent Score: 9

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by tylerdurden on Wed 11th Nov 2015 20:33 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

The argument is more like "Many techies continue to not understand they're an infinitesimal fraction of a market which is now commoditized at large."

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by Tony Swash on Thu 12th Nov 2015 00:58 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

Except of course for the fact your daughter didn't use the Mac for the same things as those hypothetical people preferring the command line. If anything, history has shown that the graphical user interface could not fully replace the command line. Just like touch can't fully replace a quality keyboard and mouse. .


I think you may have that inverted. What's so striking about mobile devices is how much more they can do than PCs can not do.

Once computers shrank so that they could fit in a pocket and had batteries that lasted all day, and had a built in array of very powerful sensors (GPS, Gyros, compasses, motion sensors,) and built in video and still cameras, sound play back and recording, telephony and bluetooth, they became way, way more powerful than desktop PCs.

Sure editing a spreadsheet on a smart phone is bit more fiddly than on a PC but can you use any PC do this: stumble out of the pub late at night pull out your phone to check the football score, use the map to check the nearest metro, discover you just missed the last train, use Uber to call a cab, while you wait post the funny photo you took in the pub on Instagram and then in the cab call your wife to say you will be home soon and then settle back and listen to some music whilst browsing though your photos from the day. Try that with a laptop ;)

PCs are the best for a few things but mobile computing devices are much more powerful for many more things. And the things that mobile devices are good at are actually the things that make up the fabric of most of our days and lives.

I quite liked this cheeky video from Horace Dediu called "The Desktop Computer"

http://www.asymco.com/2015/11/11/desktop-computer/

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Some alternative views
by REM2000 on Thu 12th Nov 2015 07:56 in reply to "Some alternative views"
REM2000 Member since:
2006-07-25

Totally agree and was going to post the same,

When i chat to staff at work who are under 25 touch devices are their computing devices. Plenty of them only own phones and tablets, a lot their phone does everything they need.

I believe it is a future paradigm of computer interaction.

Personally i love my Desktop and Laptop, it's what im used to and work well with it, in the environment i am locked into.

However through a lot of meetings i use my iPad, i can take mindmaps and enter notes into onenote at the same time (Air2). When i am at home, where i might have had a laptop next to me i use my iPad for surfing the net, emails etc..

I recently had a wake up or realization. I am changing jobs and as such i will be handing back my company issued iPhone. I brought a new personal phone (iPhone6S+, amazing phone!! ;) . As my company iphone backups also contained all of their profiles and settings i decided to start my new iPhone as a new device (i.e. not import anything), then download apps, wallpapers, get my settings right etc..

It was then it hit me, this is my primary computing platform, 10 years ago i would be going through the same motions on my desktop, format Windows/Mac, install apps, setup wallpaper settings etc.. Now my PC is pretty quick to reinstall as i primarily use it for games, so reinstall, download steam, job done, it's no longer as personal, it's more an appliance for games.

All my time and effort goes into my phone which i carry with me everywhere, where i purchase items through amazon, do my banking, check my social stuff etc.. It was a little shocking as to me it kind of snuck up and replaced my desktop without me really noticing.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Some alternative views
by shotsman on Thu 12th Nov 2015 10:39 in reply to "RE: Some alternative views"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Well Said!
I was at a financial presentation last week in the Heart of the City of London. None of the attendees were under 50 years old. (Well, it was to do with Pensions). The woman sitting next to me had her life on her iPhone. This included access to her pension plan. One of the speakers asked for a show of hands for thos who had the Pension Co App on their modile devices. Around 40% of the 80-100 people put their hands up.
These are not people who have grown up with touch devices like smart phones. Many of them were like me and started with ASR-33 Teletypes and acoustic couplers. Yet this modern tech has been adopted by my generation. Many of them with gusto. Most were not in IT but it has empowered them enourmously.
My move to a touch only environment is very sloth like compared to many at that meeting.
Oh, and most were using iPhones. Hardly hipsters more like aging hippies but for them it does what it said on the tin.

Reply Parent Score: 3