If you insist on looking at iOS 11+iPad Pro=PC you might miss the opportunity for this combo to live up to its full potential. I know for many PCs and Macs are synonymous of work and productivity, therefore my suggestion to start looking at the iPad Pro differently is missed on them. Yet, I promise you, there is a difference between wanting to replicate what you have been doing on a PC and wanting to understand if the iPad Pro can fit your workflow or even if it could help your workflow change to better fit your needs.
I have been using a 9.7” iPad Pro as my main “out of office” device since its launch. I do everything I do on my Mac or PC and some things are easier and some things are a little more painful but by and large, it serves me well.
I upgraded to a 10.5” iPad a couple of weeks ago and it has been business as usual. I enjoy the extra screen real estate and I struggled a little to get adjusted to the larger keyboard as my fingers had a lot of muscle memory in them that was generating typos. I did not use Pencil more despite the fact that, thanks to the new sleeve I was not forgetting it at home as often as I used to.
After 24 hours with iOS 11 and iPad Pro, it became apparent to me that the range of things I could do grew and so did the depth I could reach. These are not necessarily tasks I was performing on my Mac or PC and when they are, they are implemented in a slightly different way as the premise on iPad is touch first.
Let’s take a Step Back
Before I moved to the iPad Pro I had to embrace the cloud. This step was crucial in empowering me to use the best device for the job at any given time. When I travel, mobility trumps everything else. Going through a little pain that a smaller screen and keyboard imply is well worth the advantage of cellular connectivity, instant on, all-day battery and the ability to dump all in one purse.
What does a normal day at the office entail for me? Well usually I engage in most of the following: reading articles, reports, papers and books, writing, social media interactions, listening and recording podcasts, email, messaging, data analysis and creating or reviewing presentations.
I could perform all of those tasks on an iPad Pro as well as on a MacBook and a PC. What differed is which task was best executed on each device. Anything touch first was better on my iPad Pro or on my Surface Pro as was anything that supported pencil or inking. The MacBook Pro and Surface were slightly better with Office apps but mainly because of the larger screen and the better keyboard. The iPad Pro still offered a better balance of work and play thanks to the larger ecosystem and better apps and partly because Surface is held back by a Windows 10 jargon that makes it walk and talk too much like a PC.
iOS 11 Brings Richness to the iPad Pro
This is not a review of iOS 11 so I will not list all that is new with it but I will point to the features and capabilities that iOS 11 offers that struck me as changing the way I work.
Adds freedom to my cloud-first workflow allowing me to live in a multi-cloud provider environment which was possible before but not without any pain.
The New Dock, Slide Over, and Split View
Make for a faster, richer multitasking environment that you appreciate when you always must have your eye on social media or you are creating charts or sieving through data when writing a report.
Drag and Drop
This is possibly the best example of a feature that despite sharing the same name on the Mac is made zillion times better by touch. It turns something that is cumbersome to do with the mouse in something super intuitive.
Instant Markup, Instant Notes, Scan and Sign
Despite still preferring the Surface Pen I finally see myself being able to integrate Pencil in my workflow. I read many reports and I used to print them out and annotate them, highlight them and then take pictures of them so that I would not file them somewhere safe and never see them again. All those steps are now condensed for a much more efficient and equally productive experience. In this case, it is not about being able to do something I was doing on my Mac. It is, instead, the ability to fully digitize a workflow. It also allows Apple to catch up with inking on Surface – and I specify Surface as I have not found another Windows 10 2in1 that offers the same richness of experience.
I am still not a fan of the physical iPad Pro keyboard. I do not like the texture of the material and the lack of backlight limits the usefulness on planes and in bed, sadly two places where I often work! Because of that, my default has always been the digital keyboard and the new update makes it a breeze to touch type on iPad Pro both for speed and accuracy.
Screen Capture and Screen Record
We have already started to experiment with the video record function to share an interesting chart with some live commentary. This is something we could have done in the past but required specialized apps and a pretty convoluted process. Screen Capture coupled with Instant Markup also offers a new way to interact with content that Samsung Galaxy Note users have already been addicted to.
All new features that will make my work on iPad not just more efficient but more pleasant because it better fits me. I am sure this will result in more time spent on iPad when I am in the office not just when I am on the go.
The Best Tool for the Job
If you think about other technologies innovations there is always a degree of compromise at least for a given period. Think about the clarity of a voice call on a fixed phone vs. a DECT phone and then a cellular one. We were happy to sacrifice quality of sound for the freedom to walk around the home first and always have a phone with us later on. The same can be said about fixed broadband vs. mobile broadband.
I feel though that with computing we are getting to the point of not having to compromise as long as we do not let habits hold us back and we feel empowered to reinvent our workflows. Millennials and Gen Z have the advantage of not suffering from the limitations muscle memory imposes, but there is hope for us old dogs too.
Worrying about installed base has destroyed companies such as Nokia and Blackberry and has held back Microsoft. Apple has had the advantage to have a very loyal and forgiving installed base of users who gave them the benefit of the doubt when they started to experiment with computing. Microsoft has stepped up and with Surface has been able to deliver a richer experience that comes from a deeper integration of software, hardware, and apps. Yet, while the goal of these two giants seems to be very much aligned, I cannot help but wonder if Microsoft decision of going all in with Windows 10 will always hold them back somewhat vs. an Apple that has chosen a two-pronged approach to computing.
For me Surface Pro today is the best productivity device on the market but it’s being held back to be a true creativity device by Windows 10. As a user who wants to both be creative and be productive iPad Pro is the choice for me today. I am, however, keeping my eyes on Windows 10 S as Microsoft’s opportunity to create a two-pronged strategy that frees them of the legacy ball and chain.