iPad vs Mac: Episode 7

21 August 2017

From Monday Note:

With the sophisticated user interface and powerful system apps afforded by iOS 11, the iPad feels like it’s finally reaching maturity. But what does the device’s clarified identity say about the Mac’s future?

The iPad is a strange animal, a Chimera that has had trouble finding its place in an Aristotelian classification of computing creatures. Is it a smaller PC, a bigger phone, something else? During the January 2010 iPad unveiling, Steve Jobs briefly departed from his usual razor-edged storytelling to admit ambiguity about the identity of his latest creation:

“[iPad] has to find its place between the iPhone and the Mac”

Jobs’ hesitancy proved to be insightful. In fact, exceptionally so: Seven years later we’re still debating what the iPad actually is. The meteoric rise followed by a three year slump didn’t help clarify the iPad’s place in the world.

. . . .

Tim Cook has long professed his faith in the iPad’s future:

“The iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.”

Does the iPad’s rebound prove him right? Does Cook’s proclamation mean that the iPad is destined to replace the Mac? This question — perhaps I should say ‘agitation’ — was raised when the iPad came out and continues to this day.

In the Socratic spirit I referred to in last week’s Monday Note, I’ll take both sides of the argument…

It’s abundantly clear that the iPad will continue to replace the Mac.

. . . .

By offering flexible user interface choices — touch only, Smart Keyboard, Pencil — iPad Pros will not only compete with the Mac, they’ll surpass the laptop.

The iPad also wins the price war. Prices range from $329 for an entry-level 9.7” iPad to $1099 for a 512Gb 12” iPad Pro. Add a keyboard and a Pencil to a fully decked 10.5” iPad Pro — it has a better screen than its larger cousin — and you’ll top out at $1212.

. . . .

Although the Mac still brings in more money-per-device — the Mac’s ASP of $1,303 is three times that of the iPad’s $435 — the company’s mobile devices make it up in volume. Last quarter, Apple sold more than 55M iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), compared to 4.3M Macs.

. . . .

As it becomes a more general-purpose machine, the iPad will continue to steal uses and users from the Mac. As often stated by its execs, Apple isn’t worried about cannibalization. More important, the iPad’s ever-improving UI and functionality will wrest users from its competitors.

This leaves the Mac line doing nicely for two disconnected reasons: High-end “truck-like” applications, and the estimable population of users who, as a matter of personal preference, opt for the traditional “horizontal-hands” UI.

Link to the rest at Monday Note

With due respect to all his Mac friends, PG says Apple is mostly a phone company. A quick check discloses that the iPhone has represented over 50% of Apple’s revenue for almost five years, nearing 70% during several quarters during that time period. The iPad and Mac aren’t what make Apple the company it is today. If the iPhone misses a beat, Apple will shrink quite rapidly.

PG started in DOS when dinosaurs roamed the earth, then transitioned to Windows. A few years ago, with the help of one of PG’s Apple-bedazzled offspring, he bought a top end Mac laptop with appropriate software, but, despite using it as his principal computer for a few months, the magic just wasn’t there for him.

One of the problems was finding Apple versions for the zillion little non-mainstream software programs PG has built into his daily workflow and which either save him lots of time or provide extra security for the confidential information he has on his computer.

An example? Autohotkey , an open-source macro program.

PG’s use of macros dates back to WordPerfect, a perfectly lovely word processing program (far better than MS Word is, even today, in PG’s stunningly humble opinion) that was acquired by Novell, another essentially extinct company, and died a quick death thereafter. (PG knows Corel still produces a product called WordPerfect, but it bears as much resemblance to the real thing as a dinosaur skeleton does to a living velociraptor.)

PG had over 150 WordPerfect keyboard macros that he used in his daily work. With them, he could move like a rocket in his law office. In some cases, he could literally finish a document for which lawyers typically charged the equivalent of a four-figure fee in today’s dollars before the client finished writing a check to give to PG’s paralegal to pay for the document.

Any legal documents PG produced on a frequent basis were macro’d to the max.

He practices a much different type of law today than he did in that day, but still uses Autohotkey keyboard macros for his legal work, his blogging and to make things a bit zippier in the Lair o’ PG. Examples of macros used frequently on TPV are ltr – “Link to the rest at”, ttt “and thanks to ______ for the tip.”, tpv “The Passive Voice” and lwsj “Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)”.

One of the earliest macros PG remembers reading about was used by a prolific author who used an ancient word processing program called WordStar. The macro inserted a period, then a closed quotation mark, than an Enter key, then a tab for the next paragraph, then an open quotation mark. He used it for finishing one paragraph of dialogue and beginning the next:

words, words, words[.”

“]Words words words

If you type at 65 words per minute, you are using approximately 20,000 keystrokes per hour. If you can make some of those keystrokes instantly produce much more than a single character each, your productivity could increase.

Apple, PG's Thoughts (such as they are), Writing Advice

60 Comments to “iPad vs Mac: Episode 7”

  1. It all depends on what you ‘need’.

    I can write my stories and upload them to Amazon on a little Raspberry Pi (typing this on it in fact. 😉 )

    But my digital art covers require more ‘horsepower’, so I have a desktop system with a lot more speed/power.

    I’t’s like cars. If it’s just PG and his SO (and she packs light!) a little sports car is all he needs to get around. More warm bodies/pets/groceries or roads not often travelled? He may be driving a SUV.

  2. I’m the opposite of PG here. I hate Windows with a passion any time I have the misfortune to run into it.

    I specifically DON’T want all those little extra programs floating around, and would remove the ones that ARE there if I could figure out how and that the thing wouldn’t implode.

    I want a writing and personal communication device only. I run Word and Excel when I absolutely have to (they take forever to load) because I have them, and they do certain things I occasionally need exceedingly well.

    Lately everything seems to conspire to demand time and energy, and I want my computer to be as close to a blank piece of paper I write on as possible.

    • Well, like most things PC, there are multiple ways to get where you want.

      1- the easiest is not to turn the PC off but instead, tell it to hibernate. It shuts down fast, wakes up faster, and not only remembers the apps that were open but also where you were in each. It’s what I do. Turn it on and Word is right where I left it.

      2- you can easily and safely turn off unwanted bootup apps and add the ones you want, like Word, Libre office, or Word Perfect.


      If you’re not password protected it will turn on straight to the app in one step. Two if you need to enter a password to unlock.

      3- if you really want to, you can replace the windows shell with your Word processor. At that point it will run nothing else. (Until you invoke the task manager with ctrl-alt-del)

      It’s your computer.
      Windows lets you run it your way.

      Considering how cheap the low end Windows laptops are (~$149) it might make sense to set one up solely for word processing.

      • NO thank you. I’m a true-blue, Mac forever user!

          • Or this:


            Macs Hbernate, too.

            • Thanks – don’t need to. The set of applications I use on the Mac stays open all the time, and I sleep the computer when I’m not using it (hibernate?).

              I’m fine with my Mac (except I think some of those other applications chew up storage space) and I have managed to self-publish using nothing but what I have already. No changes planned. But I appreciate your links.

              Having heard from daughter just this afternoon how Windows 10 hijacked her computer, then caused all kinds of problems, and then she found out the problems are well known on her PC (Asus?), I’m even more happy that I don’t have a Windows machine. It took her hours to un-hijack it.

              I only get a couple of hours a day of usable brain time; I don’t want to have to deal with the computer’s random decisions during that time.

              • Hibernate is different from sleep mode.
                In sleep mode the computer is still running and consuming power.

                With hibernation, the computer takes a snapshot of the system–memory, app states, and hardware connections–and writes that snapshot to the hard drive. And then it shuts down. No power consumption at all. Most useful on portables.

                But what is useful on portables and desktops is that powering up from hibernation is much faster than a boot up because at bootup the computer runs code to to determine what the hardware looks like and then builds up the computing environment, drivers, gui, and all.

                Hibernation just snaps the image into place. Zoom.

    • Alicia, if you can find somebody (not me!) to put a “vanilla” version of Linux on your machine, that would probably be ideal for you. The UNIX / Linux “philosophy” is that you have all of those little extra programs there on your hard disk – but they don’t ever do anything unless you tell them very specifically to load and execute. (Very early DOS was that way too.)

      The “OS Wars” are something I pretty much stay out of. At least until the last few years, each OS was really for different people. For people like PG (and me) that produce words, but frequently the same words over and over again, or numbers to bedazzle the Board of Directors – Windows is the thing. For people that produce visuals (static art, videos, etc.) – Macintosh, despite the horrendous monopoly pricing there. For you (and for inveterate tinkerers), Linux. Social media people, that are always out and about and need to handle things wherever they are, the “pads” (where there are fans of both IPad and WinPad, or Android-types).

      Note that I say until recently. All of the OS makers seem to be trying to be all things to all people these days – which makes their systems equally annoying in different ways to different people. (Windows 10 is completely unusable for me; I’ve been forced by hardware to go to Windows 7 – which is not as good as Windows XP for my purposes – which was not as good as Windows NT.)

      Edited out “the the” in the above; second time in as many days I’ve done that one – wish that Firefox caught those as well as spelling. Sigh…

      • Thank you, but no. These details are exactly why I stay awy from Windows machines – and if possible, Microsoft products – I’m fine with Scrivener, Pixelmator 3, and what I already have. Apple would have to go belly up completely, and I’d probably just go back to paper.

        You don’t understand the strength of the aversion, which is reinforced every time I go near one of those.

        • Al the Great and Powerful

          And I feel the same revulsion for Apple OSes. I try periodically to run in an apple environment, but I never last more than a few days before the ways it won’t do what i want and the odd missing pieces I expect to just BE THERE that aren’t present in the other OSjust drive me to computer-cidal rage.

          I think its a variant of the uncanny valley… they are similar enough that the differences are REALLY jarring.

          Linux I don’t use because I don’t need another hobby at this stage of my life.

          So put me down for 2 or 2.5 of the OS choices; I’ll happily run Windows 10 (switched from 7 when that finally EOLed as far as work output requirements) and Android, and I’ll use an iPad (and iOS) if somebody else pays the apple tax to buy it for me.

          Al who is somewhat set in his ways

        • Robert Burton Robinson

          I agree, Alicia, except for the part about going back to paper. That, I could not do. But I do hate Windows. Microsoft Office offers a powerful set of tools, no question, but I don’t need those tools anymore since I’m no longer working in an office.

          I mostly use Scrivener, Gimp, etc., and Logic Pro (for creating music), and once in a great while I’ll bring up the Terminal app and issue a few UNIX/Linux commands for old times sake. I was a software engineer for a NASA contractor for many years, working on the UNIX and Linux operating systems, and the Mac OS is based on UNIX.

          I get why most people prefer Windows–although many have never given the Mac a try–but I just hope the Apple “phone company” continues to thrive, because I don’t want to ever give up my Mac. 😉

  3. The law community where I’m from loved WordPerfect. I hadn’t thought about WordStar though in [mumble] years[decades].

  4. Unit sales:

    iPhone – 200m per year
    iPad – 45m
    Mac – 4.5M

    Dollar sales:

    iPhone – 70%
    iPad – 9%
    Mac – 8%
    services -7%

    Yup, it’s a phone company.
    There’s a reason they dropped “Computer” from the company name.

    • The phone is a computer, too.

      • In that sense, so are TVs and microwave ovens.

        But tbat is not why people buy phones.
        People buy phones to communicate–by voice, text, video, etc.
        Computers are purchased for productivity.
        Whch is where the iPad quandary comes from.
        You can squeeze productivity out of an iPad but not as much as out of a $200 PC. And with voip you can use it to communicate but not as well as with a phone.

        It’s a tweener.
        It has it’s uses but it doesn’t pigeonhole neatly.

        • well said felix. I kept hating my ipad when trying to do real work, but loving it to draw with, and to pick up email on the road and check websites and do pretty basic things. But post production, mss, no. I roll with our dual 30″ cinemas as nowhere else. Creating on a cell phone, ok. But no. Not for me, way to tiny in terms of seeing large picture all at once..

  5. When I first started in a production art department 15 years ago, I was blown away by the macs. I was a huge Windows fan but the usability and performance of the macs was much, much better; then Windows 7 happened. After Apple switched to Intel-based Macs and Microsoft introduced Windows 7, the usability and performance seemed to even out. Now I only work with Windows PCs and Android/Windows tablets, partially because of the cost and partially because I’d rather not be locked into Apple’s ecosystem.

    • For those not in the graphic arts, Windows 7 was a big downgrade. Windows 10 even more so. “All things to all people” may be the best business strategy for the OS makers – but it is very annoying to those who simply want to get their daily tasks done with the least effort.

  6. Before WordPerfect (and all my lawyer friends) I was using EMACS for most of my (un-styled) typing pleasure (tech editors or nothing). WordPerfect did truly have a nice take on macros.

    But what I really miss is Lotus Notes, sold out by its founder to Microsoft so they could kill it and bury it. I wish I had it today (suitably up-to-date) — I could kiss MS Outlook goodbye, among other things.

  7. Am I missing something here? All I do if I want a shortcut for a long word or phrase is to enter it in Word’s Tools>AutoCorrect feature. I use this for characters’ names, descriptors, etc. Example: I can type sisl and it types out sister-in-law.

    Simple to do. No extra program needed. Or did I fail to grasp the finer points?

    • That’s cheating, that is…

    • Now, that is the most valuable thing I have learned today. Very elegant.

    • Nope.
      But you might be dating yourself. 😉

      (So I won’t say how old that trick is.)

    • I used that same trick in WordPerfect, except for foreign symbols. I had a character in a story named Zoë. I simply set up autocorrect to change Zoe to Zoë so I didn’t have to fuss over her name.

    • PG’s description of AutoHotkey emphasizes its use to create macros for text-expansion, but that’s only the simplest thing it does. With effort, you can use it to create macros that can automate almost any procedure that requires keyboard or mouse input, even procedures that involve multiple programs. And those text-expansion macros you create don’t have to be limited to a specific word-processor or text editor; the same one can work, if you want it to, nearly anywhere you can enter text.

    • ALso, one of the most useful customized keyboard shortcuts I have implemented in Word for Mac (I guess it’s the same for other Words) : how to change (expand or condense) spacing between characters. By default you have to do Cmd+D, then Advanced, then go into the spacing etc. very long and repetitive. By assigning the keys F1 to F4 to “condense 0,1 pt to 0,4 pt” I have saved myself a LOT of time, especially when formatting documents or books for print, which I do quite often.

    • I did that when I was a transcriptionist. It’s very easy to set up.

  8. PG said: If you type at 65 words per minute…

    Here’s where I depart from most people. I handwrite and type a thousand words an hour, which works out to 16 words a minute. I have never been able to write or type faster.

    – So when I see somebody say that they type 65 words a minute, I boggle.

    BTW, When I make the mistake of using IM on a website, trying to interact with a help desk, they disconnect before I can read and type a response. They think that I’m not there. HA!

    • Here’s something that might help speed up your typing: Write (in ink) on your fingers the letters that each finger types. Look at your hands from time to time for a few weeks and the information gets recorded in your brain. That’s how I learned to type and I’m quite speedy now. But if someone asked me — when my hands aren’t on a keyboard — what keys an individual finger types, I wouldn’t have a clue.

      • HA! No, I literally can’t handwrite or type faster. I know where every key is, my hands just can’t move faster. Decades ago at work, we took typing classes on computers. I learned to “touch-type” but my speed has never increased despite writing millions of words.

        It’s like I can stride fast, but I can’t run. It drove people nuts, because here they were jogging along and I had no trouble walking and talking beside them. Then the person I would walk beside would break into a run, and leave me in the dust. They would run laps past me saying, “Come on, run with me.” HA!

  9. I’m so onboard about WordPerfect. And it had a manual that was written in *gasp* Plain English. I actually taught myself how to do macros from the manual all by my little ol’ self. With Microsoft Office, you pretty much have to be able to program to set up a Macro.

    Why is it that the best products never seem to win out?

    • Because the quality of management matters too.
      In Word Perect’s case, their managers bet on everything *except* Windows. They ported WP to Atari, Commodore, NextStep, DEC, twenty flavors of Unix, and OS/2 but not Windows 3.x.

      And they did this at the time that the DRM cartel was colluding to hold memory prices high which is why Windows beat OS/2 like a drum in the migration from MS-DOS to GUI OSes.

      (Wingz and Lotus made the same mistake.)

      In the meantime, MS ported Word and Excel from the Mac and bought Powerpoint, creating Office. By the time WP and Lotus saw the huge DOS installed base had moved to Windows, the battle had shifted from productivity apps to Suites. And by the time they lined up suites, Dell and Gateway had convinced Microsoft to bundle Office with their new PCs and make money through regular upgrades.

      One stumble is all it takes to lose a red queen’s race.

  10. I recently read an article that argued the iPad Pro was a better productivity tool than a Linux desktop computer.

    To prove that wrong, I’m going to write, edit, layout, do the cover, and publish my September book entirely from Ubuntu Linux.

  11. I suspect you and I are the same person, PG. I couldn’t sell my Mac fast enough, and I miss WordPerfect.

  12. I recommend the small Windows app “Breevy” for keyboard shortcuts that are application-independent. I use it for URLs for all my own websites and email addresses, and several other things. It’s technically a “text expander”.

  13. At least in education, the IPads biggest threat at this point has to be coming from Chromebooks. Apple’s share of the education market is plummeting, due to high cost, the extreme inflexibility of the platform and the fact that the front end Google offers for education dusts anything Apple offers or is likely to offer any time soon.

    Recent numbers from consulting firm Futuresource paint a similar picture, with Google commanding 58 percent of U.S. K-12 schools. Windows is in second with around 22 percent and the combined impact of MacOS and iOS are close behind at 19 percent. It’s a rapidly shifting landscape. Three years earlier, Apple’s products represented nearly half of devices being shipped to U.S. classrooms.


    • Yup.
      Chromebooks in Education is what Windows 10S is built to fight. It’s going to be a tough fight. Anybody caught between them is going to hurt.


    • I see that in our local schools. Google makes it so that the administration only needs to upload a class list into their interface and every student gets a google cloud login that is good on any of their chromebooks and even on students personal computers. They automatically get word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software without anything needing to be installed or upgraded or… anything. email is turned off (at least it is for grade school students) and I believe safesearch is forced on. They do not need to administer student logins, and with this setup one chromebook functions just as good as any other. With a windows or mac setup it’s not unusual to have to have an expensive full-time sysadmin type person on hand. This eliminates that significant cost, and it’s just… easier.

  14. “Lair o’ PG”
    That just made my day. 🙂

  15. I am firmly on the Windows side in the Apple v Msft wars, but for different reasons than most of the people here. My experience is as a developer of applications, not so much as a user of applications. I have never felt that Apple welcomed my efforts to develop applications to run on Apple products. Microsoft, on the other hand, gives developers free or cheap training with free Coke (Coca Cola, not the other stuff), provides extensive documentation, and designs APIs that ease the work of developers building on top of Windows. This explains PG’s many little applications that make life easy for users.

    My true love is Unix and Linux. Linux is the ultimate developer friendly system, but it suffers because it is so developer-centrist; Linux developers often don’t understand users who are not interested in looking under the hood and tweaking code here and there. Although I prefer using my Linux box to Windows, I don’t recommend Linux to my non-developer friends.

    As a matter of fact, Apple OS-X is a Unix operating system and I ought to prefer it to Windows, but Apple has so thoroughly strapped it down, I find it harder to work on than Windows.

    Ironically, I sympathize with users who like Apple products. My tastes and prejudices are not yours. Apple offers consistent and simple user interfaces that resemble the inflexible physical interfaces of pre-digital products. The Apple approach makes life easy for users who rank simplicity over flexibility and extensibility.

    However, this accommodation drives me crazy. I have never accepted what is handed to me; I always want to change whatever is offered to me to reflect my tastes, not the tastes of some whacko product manager who could be from another planet as far as I am concerned.

    • Ironically, I sympathize with users who like Apple products. My tastes and prejudices are not yours. Apple offers consistent and simple user interfaces that resemble the inflexible physical interfaces of pre-digital products. The Apple approach makes life easy for users who rank simplicity over flexibility and extensibility.

      And this would be me. I used to be a geek. I enjoyed learning how to modify config files and tweak my Windows systems. I was shocked, and then excited when my Gateway PC needed a new motherboard and Gateway sent the part and a set of instructions. I had a real sense of accomplishment when I finished installing the new motherboard and everything worked correctly.

      Not anymore. Now that I’ve retired, I want to write books, play with creating memes, and connect with people via social media. I’ve retained enough of my geekiness to figure out Gimp, but I have absolutely no desire to go under the hood at this point in my life.

      I like the simplicity of taking photos on my iPhone and having them just there in Photos on my iMac. I don’t miss the endless Windows updates that often made things worse rather than better. I now use my computer to do stuff and not as a time sink to fix stuff.

  16. All these years later, I still miss WordPerfect for DOS.

    • Me too. First word processing system I learned, and I especially loved ‘show codes’. It was never as easy again to fix wierd snags in a document.
      But what really makes me sad is that PC File has not been upgraded for any operating system past Windows XP. I so want to be able to use it to create a writing database. It was simple, uncluttered, easy to modify, easy to learn.

      I feel there is a lot of added crap on these new versions that don’t make them better, just more complicated to learn and slower to run. The upgrades are to justify selling new product, and learning the new configuration saps time and energy.

      If it had been up to me, I’d still be using WordPerfect and PC file.

  17. I’m not an iPad fan. I had a company-issued iPad for a while, but I eventually turned it in because I didn’t use it enough to justify having it around.

    However, I now treat my laptop as if it were a desktop and my laptop has been replaced by a Surface tablet. The Surface is lighter and easier to transport. I dumped the iPad because it failed at content production. Setting it up with a BT keyboard was an annoyance, stylus input sucks, handwriting recognition was poor, I couldn’t find a word processing program I was comfortable with.

    A Surface tablet with a keypad cover and a pen is as good as a laptop for content development. Adequate handwriting recognition actully makes it superior to a laptop. iPad may have advanced to equal a Surface, I don’t know.

    A Surface tablet is still not as good as a desktop with a big display and nice keyboard (IBM Model F, thank you), but I’m not always at my office desk when I want to be productive.

  18. With all those consonantal macros PG was listing, I was waiting for him to say that he used to use “lsmft”.

  19. I run Word and Excel when I absolutely have to (they take forever to load)

    Then something’s lacking in your set-up. I have an older Macbook Pro 17 from late 2011 (2.4 GHz processor) and it loads any of my Office 2011 apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in less than 2 seconds. (I just now timed it.) What made a huge difference was when I upgraded it to 16 GB of memory. Maybe that’s what you need.

    • I think it’s because Word and Excel load so much junk – the ribbons and the options and the color choices and the… I would go with a simple interface that gave me almost no choices, but every time they have upgraded they have added more ‘features’ – none of which I need, and none of which I’m going to learn to use. And that’s the main reason I would never go to a subscription model: they’re always changing, and I need my writing platform to be rock solid and stable, like my pen and paper. I do not want an elaborate desktop publishing company that color-coordinates the perfect stationery for my product.

      Black marks, white page, thank you.

      I probably have to simplify my fonts, too, but all that takes time, time I’m not willing to invest.

      • “… so much junk – the ribbons and the options and the color choices and the …”

        Which is why I’m happy the MS Word from Office 2000 will still load/run/work on my Windows7 netbook. LibreOffice Writer isn’t bad, but it’s not what I’m ‘used to’.

  20. Of interest only to the Apple fanboys/girls… the ones with deep pockets and lotsa disposable income.

    Apple used to have a monopoly on computing ease-of-use, integration, and high functionality. No more; the Win/Android/Linux/yada world has long since caught up… and at significantly lower price points.

  21. You have rekindled my nostalgic love for WordPerfect’s keyboard macros. Man, I miss those things.

  22. PG

    Replacements for Autohotkey for mac are:

    1. Textexpander
    2. Keyboard Maestro

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