I'm in charge of software development, but I don't develop software. This often surprises people who don't understand how technology roles diverge as you chose a management track. We become experts on projects and technology direction, while the detail of those technologies often become less and less known to us. We've got teams who are experts in the technology. We have to be ever vigilent to ensure our skills are not rendered irrelevent by a change in technology.
Part of why I decided to make this change is to keep my skills, such as they are, current. They may not be the skills that create the next great product, but they do help me better understand what it means to get further out on the edge of technology change.
Even then, the things I do with an iPad are not all that different from what I did with my laptop. One of the jokes I tell to people who meet me is that my job consists of creating emails, slide decks and the occasional spreadsheet. Its my team who make the real magic happen.
Things I can't judge
In the Apple news and analysis blogosphere, there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about who Apple is targeting when they label a device as a "Pro". For the most part, what I do with devices doesn't fit the pro label in traditional means.
I don't create software. I don't create video content. I don't produce audio. In general, I produce things that cause other people to produce the actual products we make. Sure, I've made all three of those things at work, but only as an adjunct, when no one else is available to do it in my place. That's part of the job of management, to decide what gets made, not to make the thing itself.
The one area that I am a "pro" is in the requirement for a machine that works all the time. If my primary computing device isn't working, then its not just me who isn't working, but the many people who rely on me to be making decisions. If changing my primary computing device either stops me from working or slows me down significantly, everyone around me suffers.
I'm never going to be able to tell you what pros who create end-products need, but if you're wondering how to be a pro like I'm a pro, this has hopefully helped you decide if this is a decision you could or would make. If you're a different type of pro, I hope you find someone else who is your kind of pro that can help you make this decision.
Things that will take longer to judge
As of the time of writing this last (for now) entry, I've spent an entire 11 days with the iPad Pro as my primary device. Other than the first few days of the transition, I have barely even touched my laptop. That's very intentional as trying to switch back and forth will incur additional productivity costs and keep me from forming a real decision on if this will work for me or not.
So far, this is going to work. The question that remains is, for how long will this work? Is this the new normal, like it was the week after I got my first Mac back in 2006? Or is this just something that ends up a greater supplement to my standard computing life?
That is a question that can't be answered in 11 days. Ask me in three months, and then again in 6 months and once again at a year. Maybe even at three or four years. Technology changes rapidly. If Apple has something amazing up their sleeves for the Mac, maybe I'll move back after WWDC this summer. Time will tell.
Will I ever go back to the Mac?
I made the title of this section misleading, because in truth, I can't leave the Mac, even if it isn't my primary computing device. If I am completely honest, it hasn't served in that role for quite some time as my iPhone supplanted the Mac as the productivity tool of choice a long time ago.
No, I am nowhere near as productive using my iPhone as I am with the iPad, which isn't yet as productive to me as the Mac. 11 years ago, when the iPhone was introduced, it wasn't capable of me doing any work on it, yet now I can, if forced to do so, perform almost any task I do in my daily job (albeit slowly). Its the computing device that goes with me everywhere.
The iPad will likely be something in-between the iPhone and the Mac. Its highly portable, but sacrifices the power of the Mac to be that portable.
When Microsoft introduced Windows 8, the tagline they used was "no compromises." It was a funny tagline to those of us who care a great deal about design, because we know that every choice is a compromise. Nothing is without compromise. That operating system is one of the most maligned pieces of software to come out of Microsoft, precisely because no one in their leadership seemed to understand how it made entirely the wrong set of compromises.
Which brings me to my final (for now) judgement on the iPad for work. Is this a device which makes all the right or all the wrong, compromises? Will it be the failure of a Windows 8 or the success of a Windows 10? Is it an Edsel or a Camry?
People who consider me an Apple fanboy are going to assume that I'm blind to the limitations of this device, and in my fandom, think everything Apple produces is a win. This is far from the truth, as if you remember my whole reason for starting this journey was the poor options for my needs in Mac hardware right now. Not everything Apple makes is golden.
I see a great deal of promise in the iPad, but that wasn't always the case. When it was first announced, I knew that Apple would sell a substantial number of them, but didn't think it was a device for me. I was too far into the "pro" arena for it to be useful. It didn't take me long, after that first one came into my hands, to realize this is a device with a lot of utility and even more potential.
In the years since, Apple has fulfilled much of that promise that the iPad originally showed, but if I'm fully honest, there is a lot of promise still unfulfilled. That isn't to say that my experiment is a failure; quite the contrary, I consider it a large success. The iPad does essentially everything I need it to do, either natively or through apps that extend it in ways that easily circumvent its shortcomings.
Where the iPad fails is not in its concept or execution, but in it being what I see as a transition device, moving us closer to an ubiquitous computing experience. The iPad will get smaller, more capable and cheaper, to the point that it no longer becomes an iPad.
When that happens is how we will know the device succeeded in reaching its ultimate form; when it is no longer needed.