The Problem With the iPad Pro Isn’t Hardware

Apple announced a new iPad yesterday1. It’s a bump up from the iPad Air 2 and removes the name Air from the lineup. It’s a nice bump up and is a good iPad for people who don’t need the Pro features.

There is a thread on the Macrumors forum titled: New iPad an Accountants Vision of a Product(sic). It’s another tired argument with the usual implication that this wouldn’t have happened if Steve Jobs was still alive, along with Apple doesn’t innovate anymore. I replied:

The thing is, other than True Tone display on the 12.9, or fast charging on the 9.7, the Pros don’t need a hardware upgrade.(1)The issues many of us have with iPads are OS and software constrained. For example:

  • Poor support of storage devices via the USB/SD dongle
  • The Split View interface is a joke
  • iCloud Drive extension auto expands ALL folders on iCloud Drive
  • No drag and drop between split view
  • Apps don’t support the 12.9 (Facebook)

I’ve never once felt like my 12.9″ iPad is slow. I don’t really care if the iPad hardware is on a 2-3 year upgrade cycle since that’s usually when I buy them. iOS updates for iPad, however, need to be on a yearly basis.

The new iPad is a good device for people who don’t need smart connected devices or the pencil.

(1) I wouldn’t throw a USB-C port out of bed, though.

The last year an a half have been tough for us iPad Only folks. iOS 9 had a lot of promise for using iPads for productivity. Split view was nice, and the extensions and document pickers were great. The iPad Pro with the Pencil and Smart Keyboard were amazing. At the beginning of 2016 I truly felt that iOS and iPads were trending towards the ability to truly become primary devices. Then iOS 10 came along and didn’t fix obvious issues, like the Split View and Slide Over interface being impractical when you have a ton of apps that support the feature. No drag and drop. It introduced more challenges with the iCloud Drive extension auto-expanding every single folder and sub folder making it impossible to find the folder you might want to store a file. I’ve resorted to creating an @XFER and @Reading folder to dump items into. The @ prefix ensures that it’s at the top of the list.

So, it’s not concerning that Apple hasn’t announced new hardware for the Pro line. The lack of software is. WWDC 2017 will be a telling year for me and my iPad. If another major update fails to move the iPad forward for “real work” then I will know Apple isn’t serious about the iPad as a Computer, no matter what a catchy ad might say.

  1. I find it interesting the URL name is ipad-9.7. I wonder if a non-Pro 12.9″ is in the future.

Plan, Do, Study, Act

At work, we are Lean practitioners (I’m a Green Belt). One of the tenets of Lean is Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA). I’m a big fan of the saying: No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. PDSA is a way of admitting your first try to get something done may not be (and likely won’t be) the correct path. In PSDA, you plan the work, do the work, study the results, and then act upon any changes. Rinse, lather, and repeat as necessary.

As a workflow geek, I’m constantly looking at my own workflows and seeing what works and doesn’t[1]. As part of my writing workflow, I’m examining Ulysses’s place in my workflow. I’m very happy with the app, but I also want to make sure that perhaps there isn’t a better method to handle my writing. So, I’m writing this post in 1Writer instead. In Ulysses, all of my scrivenings reside in one large repository. I’ve never experienced any sync issues – or heard of anyone experience in them – but I have a deep-seated nervousness about this. That said, I use Ulysses on both macOS[2] and iOS, it’s nice having a common toolset between the two. Ulysses on the Mac works exactly the same as Ulysses on my iPad. I don’t have a Markdown editor on the Mac I like as much as 1Writer on the iPad. I use footnotes extensively in my writing, and I like that both Ulysses and 1Writer handle the formatting painlessly.

I’m also working on a collection of essays that I may publish into a book later this year. Ulysses is great at this sort of thing. What I may prefer is to have each essay sit as its own text file in Dropbox and decide which ones make the cut for publication. Those will get sent to Ulysses for compilation.

Scrivener is an interesting choice for fiction. I don’t need my fiction to be in Markdown. It’s not going to end up on the web. Sometimes, writing in rich text can help. Matt Gemmell has a long post here, where he talks about using Scrivener and Ulysses on the iPad. He posits that writing in Markdown vs. rich text is something we as writers should just get over. In the end, he choose Ulysses because it supports an all-in on the iPad lifestyle better than Scrivener. I agree with him on that point. Scrivener for iOS is a perfectly fine editor, but its compilation and exporting tools are lacking. It doesn’t support ePub. The <$titles> variable to insert the document title into the export doesn’t work on the iPad. It assumes you’re ok with doing that sort of heavy lifting on your Mac. Scrivener for iOS is definitely more of a companion tool. I’m also not completely sure how often it’s really saving the files. You can set it to sync to Dropbox on project close. It just seems ripe for some sort of an error to make my life miserable. Ulysses, on the other hand, is constantly saving and syncing back to iCloud.

So, where did this PDSA lead me?

For my blog writing, I’m sticking with Ulysses. The posting interface is cleaner, and I like how it handles the footnotes and links a tad batter. For my long-form writing I’m still leaning towards keeping it Ulysses, but I’ll be testing out Scrivner a little more. I really want to try breaking the Dropbox sync before I truly trust it. My essays, that can sit on their own and have minimal formatting I will keep in a .txt file I can edit in 1Writer on iOS and Byword on the Mac.

So, after all that examining, I still ended up back at the beginning anyway.


  1. It’s tempting, yet dangerous, to spend more time examining the workflows than executing them. Work with them for a while before changing them.  ↩
  2. It’s going to take me years to not type OS X. Old habits die hard.  ↩

The Mac

Lost in all this shuffle over me going iPad-primary is that I still love the Mac. There is a lot of dogma and rigidness from the iPad-only crowd regarding the Mac and I don’t share it. Steve Jobs famously said that (paraphrasing) that PCs are trucks and iOS devices are cars.

I still drive a truck. Both a physical version and electronic.

My 11″ MacBook Air doesn’t get used on a daily basis anymore, but it’s still one of my favorite devices of all time. There was a brief period of time recently where I regretted getting it and not a MacBook Pro 13″. I missed it because I really couldn’t play games on it, but I realized that playing games on my Mac didn’t add much value to my life. After that epiphany I felt much more comfortable about the purchase. I do wish it had a retina screen, so when it comes time to upgrade it I will likely get the baseline MacBook 12″

There are some things I do that I either flat out can’t do on iOS (like de-DRM my Kindle collection for archiving) or are a gigantic pain in the ass on iOS (like copying a ton of PDFs from iCloud to OneDrive. Plus there is iOS development which I want to I get into.1

iOS still has enough roadblocks for it to replace my MacBook completely. I expect I will still need some form of Mac for the next three years, at least.

When I upgrade my beloved Air at some point, I’m not a traitor to the iOS-primary cause, but simply a realist who believes in the right tool for the job.

  1. My gut feeling is by WWDC 2018 some type of native development environment for iOS apps will be available on iOS.

enough (the hardware edition)

I was working on an article about my goals for 2017 and I had a bullet point: Reduce my technological footprint. There were a few lines about the number of devices I have and how I wanted to be more efficient and minimize the number of devices I use.

There’s a new Netflix show on Minimalism (in which Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac is mentioned). Patrick also tweeted this link to another piece on Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. The show is great, focusing on getting the rid of a lot of the crap we as humans tend to collect. The documentary hit at a good time. I was on vacation and I was going to dump out a ton of stuff from my home office. At the same time, I took a hard look at some of the electronic devices I have floating around.

What is Digital Minimalism?

From Cal Newport’s article above, he defines Digital Minimalism as:

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Tech Products I use at least 4 times a year:

So, I have a ton of devices. Here are the ones that get used heavily1:

  1. iPad Pro 12.9″
  2. iPhone 6+2
  3. Alienware Alpha
  4. MacBook Air 11″ (2014)
  5. MacBook Pro 15″ (2011)

Getting to One

At work, we are combining some groups and services. The marketing language for the initiative is “Getting to One.” It’s a great slogan and one I’m trying to mimic with my devices. It’s impossible, of course. Not one of those devices listed above can do all of the things the other devices can do. So, there are two mantras that may somewhat compete:

  • Getting to Less
  • The Right Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job is the presiding mantra. Saying I’m going to cut back to just using my iPhone doesn’t let me perform the tasks I need the other devices for. Similarly, abandoning all the devices but for the iPad Pro (my favorite of all of them), leaves out a central communication device (the iPhone) as well as most of my game playing needs.

Patrick Rhone, who I mentioned earlier, used to have a great podcast called Enough. It’s sadly gone, and the files are gone to the internet. There is a torrent file, but it’s dead also. [UPDATE; It turns out the podcast is archived on iTunes. You can find it here.] He also has a book, Enough, which is not dead. In the podcast, they talked about what is enough. What do you need to get life done, but not more than that. One of the segments I loved was they would talk to someone about what it would take to life their digital life on an 11″ MacBook Air with 64 gig of storage. It’s the digital version of a Tiny House. The cuts people would have to make were interesting to listen to.

My goals was to get my Every Day Carry (EDC) down to two main devices. Two devices to do 80% of my day-to-day stuff. It also all needs to fit in my Tom Bihn Ristretto.

The first to go was the Alienware Alpha. I’ve moved gaming to the PlayStation 43. The only thing the Alienware really did was serve up my Plex Library. The library was on a portable drive anyway4. So, during the Big Purge the Alpha got placed on the shelf. The monitor is in a closet.

Deciding between the two MacBooks is easy. The Air is smaller and fits in my bag. It doesn’t have the processor power of the Pro, but it’s enough.

That got me to three. Not bad. An iPad, and iPhone and a MacBook Air. But what do I really need that MacBook Air for every day? I’m not talking about replacing it entirely, mind you. This is an 80% rule. I believe I can actually do 90% of what I need the MacBook for on the iPad. Working from home requires me to to log into our Virtual Desktop system via Citrix Receiver, and while it’s fine for a few things on iOS, it’s not a great interface. So, I’ll use the Mac for that.

So, the MacBook Air got placed in its sleeve and was laid (to rest) in one of the now empty drawers in the desk.

That’s two. An iPad and an iPhone for 80% of my non-gaming needs.

This is part of a series on using the iPad Pro as my primary device. For more posts on this series, click here.

  1. I’m leaving out my Amazon Kindle and my Xbox. I consider those appliances, and, anyway they are hardly used.
  2. I also have an Apple Watch, but I consider it an extension of the iPhone.
  3. It’s semantics, but I classify the PS4 as a single-purpose appliance rather than a device.
  4. As a side effort, a lot of these files are .MKV files. I’m going to convert them to .M4V files. That way I can read them directly from the iPad if I want to.

iPad Pro Apps I Use and Love

As I work on making the iPad Pro my primary computer, I thought I’d share some of the apps I use on a daily basis. There are many more apps installed on my iPad, but these are the ones I use often.

The iPad Pro

I have the 12.9″ 128 gig model with a Smart Keyboard. It’s a great setup, and I’m writing this article on it. I also have a 16g iPad Air that’s more of a reading/test environment.

Writing:

Ulysses: This is my go-to app. About 98% of my personal writing goes through this app. All of my blog posts originate in here. I also have drafts of my long-form fiction in here.

Scrivener: I’m testing this out for my long-form work. I’m not sure I like Ulysses’s all in one bucket structure for my longer bodies of work. I’m also not thrilled with Scrivener’s export functions on iOS. Ulysses can export as an ePub cleanly which Scrivener can’t do. If I do adopt Scrivener for this work, compiling my output might be something I still have to do on the Mac.

Word and Pages: I’m likely starting my Master’s degree in April. School work will probably not be something I use Ulysses for. I’m not totally thrilled with how Word on iOS handles exports, but for submitting papers and assignments it might be the best option.

Email

Gmail: I’m not in love with the Gmail app. It apparently can’t send attachments from anything but the Photos library and Gdrive. I use Google as my primary email and I don’t need to send attachments that often. It’s faster than the iOS Mail app. So, I just use the iOS Mail app when I need to send an attachment.

Outlook: Work stuff only. I keep a clean separation of church and state when it comes to work and personal email. I don’t even keep Outlook on a main screen. If you suck both your work and personal emails into one app, I strongly discourage this. It’s way easier to disconnect from work if you can toss an app into a folder. It’s on a folder on my main screen, but it’s very easy for me to ignore it when I’d rather not check my work email.

Calendar

Calendar: For most of my personal needs, I use the built-in Calendar linked to my Google Calendar. I don’t really need a powerful calendar app so the default one works fine for me.

Outlook: Again, work calendars only. I hate how Outlook handles calendars, actually. I can’t change if an appointment shows as free, busy, or out of office, and I also can’t view free/busy information for invitees. I only use the app to see where I need to be at a given time.

Drawing

Procreate: Hands down, my favorite drawing app for the iPad. I love the custom brushes and it’s pretty much a dream come true for digital artists. They also seem to have some big things planned for version 3.2 that should be out soon.

Graphic: Autodesk Graphic is as close to an Adobe Illustrator clone as I’ve found for the iPad. It’s great for when I need to do precision vector artwork.

Reading

Instapaper: It’s still my favorite Read Later service. I’ve floated between it and Pocket for a bit, but over the last year I’ve just settled on Instapaper and never looked back.

Kindle: I buy all my ebooks through Amazon. Periodically I’ll download them and deDRM them so I can have an archive or read them in iBooks. At one point, I felt that iBooks had superior typography to the Kindle app, but once Amazon introduced the Bookerly font I much preferred that. I also get books out from my library to read on the Kindle.

iBooks: I pretty much just read PDFs in iBooks. I think I’d use it more if I could have a book in more than collection. I also don’t like that it doesn’t shove the book I’m reading to the top of its list like the Kindle app does.

Reeder: I don’t often hit RSS, but whenI do it’s through Reeder. I have it set to sync my Feedly account via Google. I probably follow about 100 sites on it from photography to tech to art. I probably open it once a week

Social Media

Facebook: I am not a fan of the Facebook app. It’s not optimized for the 12.9″ iPad. To be frank, I’m also not a fan of the entire Facebook service, but it’s where I stay in contact with my friends.

Tweetbot: I prefer Twitter to Facebook, although on Twitter I tend to initiate the communication more than on Facebook. I interact with some other writers and tech folks who don’t follow me on Twitter. I don’t have a problem with this. Twitter is also my primary way of finding out tech news.

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only. For more in the series click here.

Shutting Down and Eating My Own Dog Food

Part of this is epically failing in my 2016 Creative Goals. Part of this is encouraging people to go iOS-primary while still often reaching for the security blanket of a laptop at night. Part of it is admitting I’m far too likely to spend the night fucking off on a virtual world.

Matt Gemmell wrote about social dark. It’s a great piece about limiting distractions while working from home. Matt recently switched to an iOS only lifestyle and I asked him how he handled distractions without the scripts he used to run. He replied:

@crumpy I don’t have notifications on the iPad. With every app being full-screen, that’s enough.

Tonight when I got home I did the following things (outside of dinner and after-work greetings with T.):

  • Admitted to my creative failures in 2016
  • Finished the inking on a sketch
  • Got on the treadmill for 15 min at a brisk walk. Watched half an XOXO Fest talk while I was at it.
  • Caught up on some threads I’m following on MacRumors.1
  • Fucked off online for the rest of the night. Some of it in a video game, some of it on Twitter. Some if it’s just gone.

I came downstairs and thought about another blog post I’m working on. It’s a long post about the Mac, what I still use it for, and if I’ll get another Mac eventually. There’s a line in it that I’m not sure will stay, but I wanted to post it here anyway:

This year when I got the 12.9″ iPad and the Smart Keyboard I made a commitment to iOS. It was a slow process. I got it and the pencil so I can draw. I was out with a friend getting her a Smart Cover for her iPad and she talked me into getting a Smart Keyboard for my iPad. I love the combination. Almost all of my writing happens via this setup. The screen is large, gorgeous and crisp. The Smart keyboard isn’t my favorite keyboard of all time, but it gets the job done.

I can do about 90% of my personal-computing daily tasks on iOS. At dinner last week, someone commented that I’m an iPad Pro pro user.

I’m active in forums and discussions encouraging people to look at the iPad as a serious productivity tool. But, I give myself the fallback position of a Mac too often. This is getting in the way of my productivity at home.

So, I went back upstairs, shut down the two MacBooks and placed them on a shelf in my office. I took the keyboard to my gaming console and put it behind the monitor. That PC is also the media center for the house so I can’t I shut it down.

My goal is to find and the live the pain points of using an iPad as my primary personal device. There are a few outs I’m giving myself:

  • There is a weekly personal task I need a Mac to perform for the next 3 weeks or so. So, the Mac will be turned on to do that task and shut down
  • I might be playing a video game once a week with my friends, so the PC or Mac will be used for that
  • If I work from home, using my 27″ monitor and my PC is the best way to connect to our VDI solution. I will not live like a savage and try to spend 8 hours doing that task on my iPad
  • If I want to work in Xcode, obviously I’ll need a Mac
  • On the nights when I feel like I’ve earned some game time, I’ll treat myself to a night of World of Warcraft

If I hit a wall where I can’t do a task on iOS, but need my Mac to complete the task, I’m not going to bang my head against the wall fruitlessly and not complete it; I’m going to fire up the Mac, do the task, and make a note of it.

I need to get on my surfboard and ride this wave of iOS and iPads Pro as far as it will take me. I need to step over the line and see if I fall over a cliff.

 

This is part of a series on using the iPad Pro as my primary device. For more posts on this series, click here.

  1. Some of the posts I write there are almost blog posts. There’s a lively thread on using the iPad as a main device I’m involved in. Some of my comments have ended up as the basis for a post here.

Farewell, Sierra; Hello iOS-Primary on Mobile

I’ve used OS X as my primary personal OS since OS X 10.3 (Panther). I might have used 10.2 Jaguar but Panther is the first one I have still have a memory of. I also used Classic OS, but that was so long ago, it’s not really relevant.

In those 13 years I’ve never downgraded from a release version of OS X to the previous version.1That changed last week when I wiped my MacBook Air from Sierra and went back to El Capitan. It was the battery life that got me. My 2014 MacBook Air 11 saw a marked decrease in battery performance. Prior to Sierra I’d get 8-9 hours no problem. With Sierra, sitting idle not doing much the performance dropped to 4 hours. If I ran a 3D game, about 1 hour. A few Google searches showed that even a clean install of Sierra did not solve this problem. The replies are either “me too,” or the usual recommendation to let the post-upgrade Spotlight and Photos indexing occur. Because their battery life isn’t affected, you must be computing wrong. Here’s the thing though: waiting on indexing doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of difference.

So, even though I rarely use my MacBook off the adapter, I downgraded to El Capitan and got my old battery life back. On iOS, typically doing a Reset All Settings clears up the battery life issues. The only inconvenience is having to re-enter your WiFi passwords, but I keep those in a Notes file anyway. There’s nothing similar on macOS.

I mentioned back in February I was leaning towards going iOS-Primary for my mobile usage. Since February I’ve been pretty much iOS-Primary when not at the house. I’ve taken a few road trips and left the MacBook at home on all but one. Most of the time when I go to work I just toss my iPad Pro into my bag. Last weekend I was away but I brought my MacBook to play World of Warcraft on. The hour I spent playing it really didn’t justify hauling it around.

Right now, the use cases for bringing (or even using) a MacBook are:

  • I need to use custom filters in Lightroom2
  • I need to edit a Tableau Report3
  • I want to play World of Warcraft

Those are pretty narrow use cases. I can wait until I get home and use Lightroom on my Mac or PC. I don’t really edit Tableau reports away from my work PC much. World of Warcraft is just a leisure activity and not something I need to do away from my desk. I might play it downstairs while a game is on, but that’s still pretty rare.

With the iPad Pro I can draw, write, play a game that’s not WoW, read, and cover most of my productivity tasks. I also have a retina screen, amazing battery life, and a charger that can charge it to 80% in 1.5 hours.

But what about the Mac — and desktop OSs in general?

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of shutting down my OS X computers and unplugging the monitor from my gaming PC4. I’m not making much progress on my creative goals for 2016. I’ll write more about this at the end of year, but I am being more creative, Just not in ways I wanted. I’ll be moving the goal posts pretty heavily on my end of the year report.

Going iOS-Primary even at home would probably help eliminate some distractions. Not all, obviously, but maybe I will be just a little more focused. I tend to drive home with all these creative ideas in my head, but when actually sit down at my desk I just surf. The seasonal change isn’t helping this at all.

When I got home tonight I powered off the 15″ and put it on a shelf. The 11″ is plugged in, powered on, but with the screen closed. I still have some Lightroom plug-ins to reinstall, and I think I will always have a powered on MacBook on the table to at least make sure all my cloud files are synced to it. The desktop PC is turned on but it’s only seeing light usage.

I am so close to being able to follow Ben Brooks with going iOS Primary. In that post Ben comments: “I lost 30 minutes to just managing my Mac that morning.” Now a lot of these issues were probably related to him running a beta of macOS Sierra, and some notifications he didn’t need to clear right then, but I can sympathize with that.

It’s clear that iOS is Apple’s priority (even if there weren’t many iPad features in iOS 10). I’m happy with iOS 10. I wasn’t very happy with Sierra.

As time goes on, the hooks I have to macOS become weaker and weaker. I was chatting with a friend this morning about MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros and how I’d like to have laptop with a retina screen. With how great the iPad Pro is, it will probably be a long time before I get a retina Mac, and it wouldn’t surprise me if by that time, I won’t even need a Mac.

  1. I’ve gone back to the release version when using a beta, but that’s a different argument
  2. There’s a very interesting post here about a workaround to get some presets on Lightroom Mobile
  3. I use Tableau to edit reports at work, but at home my Tableau use is incidental. I don’t even have it installed on my Macs. So while it’s something to think about when going iOS-only, it’s such an outlying case it’s almost not worth mentioning.
  4. The gaming PC is also my Plex server, so it needs to stay powered on.

iOS-Primary

A few weeks ago, I made some changes to my home office to support an iOS-primary lifestyle. Now that it’s been a little over a month I wanted to report on how it’s going.

THE OFFICE REDO
The office redo went smoothly. There is now one 27″ (down from three) screen off to the right. My MacBook Air sits near it for the few things I require OS X for (more on that later). My general game-playing is down. I still surf more than I’d like, but I think 50% of my fuck-off surfing is tech- or art-related. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do when my beloved Red Sox start, but I’m inclined right now to not move a TV back into the office for that. I might use the TV in the family room for that.

THE IOS-PRIMARY MENTALITY
Ben Brooks wrote about going iPad Pro-only here, and I echo a lot of his comments. For me, though, going iPad-Primary is about reducing the path to creative laziness. Creative people are forever coming up with ways to not create: the muse left me, Mercury is in retrograde, I don’t have my favorite pencil, my sketchbook is at home, waaaaaaaaaah. Since my iPad and iPhone are always near me, my excuses dwindle. Now, when I feel a waaaaaaah coming on, I can tell myself to suck it up buttercup and create something.

It’s been working. I set up some creative goals for 2016 and I’m making progress on most of them. I’ve been drawing with the Apple Pencil (nothing worth showing off, yet). I’ve been writing. I’m not big on taking lunches at work, but I’ve been using the transition time between eating my lunch and getting back to work to get some creative work done. Not much, but even 5 minutes lets me get a quick sketch done. Once the weather gets nice we have a decent sitting area outside I can draw at.

The only creative goal I haven’t rally made any progress on is fiction. That’s why this year is the real test. If I don’t get close to 40k words of fiction done this year, I can take “write fiction off” the to do list and focus on other areas.

Mid-February I was at TotalCon. A few years ago, I would bring both my Mac and iPad. At one point in time, having my Mac bailed me out of a huge jam. I forgot I needed a character for my D&D game and I was able to export him from Wizards online tool and create a PDF to use on my iPad. Other than that, my MacBook just served to act as a battery for my iPad. This year, the pro came in handy. I used the Arkham Toolkit to help run my Arkham game and I had stored all of my rule books into iBooks. This made search in rules a breeze since finding a specific rule on the spot can be hard.

WHERE I RUN INTO PROBLEMS
I am having a very hard time adjusting to the on-screen keyboard on the Pro. I’m not sure if it’s just relearning the keys on the larger screen, but every sentence I type has at least two typos the autocorrect can’t handle. I don’t want to start using a Bluetooth keyboard, because the virtual screen is plenty good enough and I need to get used to it so important not chained to another devise I need to drag along.

I still need to use OS X or Windows for a few things:
* Gaming: I play an online game with some friends once a week. There is no iOS version of the game. When we go back to using roll20 to play D&D, I could use iOS, but the virtual tabletop is still an area where the larger screen rules.
* Converting ebooks: I buy all of my ebooks on the Kindle, but I read them on iBooks. To do this, I need to break the DRM via Calibre. I read them in iBooks because the Kindle app on iOS is still a shit-show. It doesn’t support split screen, which is a pain in the ass if I’m working through an example in a drawing book. I’ve also had a problem since iOS 9 launched where the iPad app keeps loosing covers to my side-loaded .mobi books. So, it’s just easier to convert them all into iBooks and call it a day. My chief complaint with iBooks is I can’t have books in more than one collection. On the Kindle app I can and it’s handy.
* My taxes: TurboTax is on iOS, but it was just easier to go through it on my Mac.

THE FUTURE
I really hope iOS 10 optimizes the home screen for the Pro. The amount of space between the icons is almost comical, and I’m a little surprised iOS 9.3 doesn’t at least allow for more apps. I really want to be able to clear all of my notifications in one gesture. Downloading from Safari is still awkward. I’d like to see better downloading and the ability to extract downloaded zip files into iCloud Drive. The split screen picker needs work too. Right now, scrolling through the list of apps that are split screen capable is tedious. I’m not exactly sure what the optimum solution is, but right now it feels more like a tech demo than a feature.

One of the nice – although frustrating – things about iOS is it’s still a relatively new platform. It’s fun to see it evolve from year-to-year.

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only. For more in the series click here.

Apple and organizational change

There’s one thing about Apple that has been in the back of my mind since WWDC: Apple has done a fantastic job at organizational change in the last year or so. Every organization I’ve worked at has handled change poorly. Either people refuse to accept the change, or the leaders don’t change enough, or, sometimes they change too much.

It’s pretty much a given: Large organizations handle large changes poorly. Look at Blackberry and Microsoft. Both of these companies saw their markets were being disrupted, but still did a piss-poor job at reacting to it.

Apple, on the other hand, is a market leader and on the outside had little need to change how they did things. Yet they did, in some key ways.

Opening up the betas

Up until earlier this year, it was laughable that Apple would ever open up the OS X betas. Yet, starting with a dot release for Mavericks they opened up the betas. Even now, there is a public beta for their new OS, Yosemite. Hopefully, this will clear up some issues like the whole Gmail Mavericks issue.

That said, I don’t think Apple will open up the iOS betas. There are too many risks for key systems. Apple had enough problems with a small subset of users having problems with a failed 8.0.1 update. Imagine if a bad beta got out for an OS Apple isn’t actively supporting.

Opening up iOS

I don’t’ know if iOS 8 extensions and keyboards would have happened if Jobs and Forestall were still with Apple. Part of me can see it happening if Jobs were still alive (he did accept that sometimes Apple needed to change). If Forestall still stayed on after Jobs died, I doubt it.

At WWDC, it was announced that now 3rd party keyboards would be available for iOS, and now apps can talk to each other in a more logical manner without the need for some crazy workarounds.

Gizmodo is off the shit list

Gizmodo got an invite to the September 9 event. This is the same organization that got their hands on a stolen iPhone and told Jobs to shove it. I thought the odds were better I would get an invite to an Apple event before Gizmodo would. Lo and behold, both Gizmodo and Brian Lam got invites. Even with Jobs and Cotton gone, I thought someone at Apple would have a long enough memory to still stick it to them.

Final thoughts

I look at some of the changes other organizations have tried to make and seen how they have failed first hand. That so far, this hasn’t blown up in Apple’s face is remarkable. So far, a few bugs in iOS have given them egg on their face.

Egg is far easier to clean up than shit, though.

ComiXology and the Curious Case of the App Store

I’ve long thought of ComiXology as the Amazon of comic books. It became a truer statement when Amazon bought Comixology a few weeks ago. Andy Ihnatko summed up my inital reaction with this Sun Times post in which he said:

“I’m hoping that this ultimately ends with ComiXology making comics on Kindle better, and not Amazon making ComiXology’s comics … like Kindles.”

This week, Amazon dropped one hammer by removing in app purchases from the ComiXology app. Now, ComiXology behaves exactly like the Kindle app: you have to go outside the app to purchase content.

Some background on the matter at hand

In July 2011, Apple began enforcing in-app purchasing restrictions for e-reading apps. The Kindle, Kobo, and Nook apps released new versions that removed bookstores from their iOS apps. These restrictions said that 30% of any in-app purchase (IAP) went to Apple. Some people viewed this as Apple collecting a rent, similar to the rent a brick-and-mortar store pays. The other end of the spectrum had people feeling like Apple was acting akin the Corleone family, where they simply “didn’t want anything bad to happen to the developers app.” My opinion was that Apple was taking the view that any exception granted opens a can of worms they don’t want to deal with.

Policies work best when they are applied to everyone equally. In this case, everyone is treated equally by Apple. If you offer an IAP, pay Apple 30%. I don’t generally have a problem with this policy but almost three years later it’s still a little jarring when I have to quit the Kindle app and go to Safari to buy an ebook.

In this Tech Hive article Moises Chiullan has this quote from Chip Mosher, ComiXology’s VP Communications & Marketing:

“As we move to complete the acquisition with Amazon, we are shifting to the web-based purchasing model they’ve successfully used with Kindle, which we expect will allow us to strike the best balance between prices, selection and customer experience.”—Chip Mosher, ComiXology

IAPs work for me because it limits the sites that have my credit card and I can buy a couple of gift cards to Amazon or Apple to use as an allowance of sorts. In this case, the balance of customer experience has not tipped in my favor.

Changes to ComiXology

Comics are a somewhat unique form of content to consume. For the most part, comics don’t take as long as say, Game of Thrones, to read a volume of. In my case, I’d buy the first comic in a series and when I got to the end of it, ComiXology nicely told me there were more issues in the series and did I want to purchase it? This was incredibly convenient for me, but perhaps not so convenient for my bank account. The one saving grace is that I don’t generally buy a lot of comics – enough $2.99 purchases and soon you’re taking about real money. In my case right now, about one purchase – but it was certainly nice to have. If it was a series that’s in the middle of its publishing run I could tell Comixology to auto-purchase the new issues.

Now, when you reach the end of a series of which you don’t own the next issue, Comixology simply stops. There’s no clue there are any more issues; not even a hint to go to the ComiXology web site and purchase it. It simply has a button “back to Library.”

I don’t foresee ComiXology’s changes affecting how I buy comics. I’ve always thought long and hard about any comic I buy anyway. Going to a website as opposed to an app isn’t likely to change the amount of comics I purchase. The big problem, though, is ComiXology’s site doesn’t have a lot of search refinements. As a consolation prize for removing IAPs, ComiXology credited everyone’s account with five bucks. I figured I could buy about 5 $.99 comics. I went to the Top Sellers page, but I couldn’t sort by price or average rating. This is something that I’m a little surprised that ComiXology doesn’t offer.

The Apple morality clause

In that same Tech Hive artile, Moises states something that has been on my mind for a while:

ComiXology also found its content running afoul of Apple’s rigid guidelines about what could be sold through the App Store. Take the case of the series Sex Criminals, banned from being sold through the in-app purchase feature on ComiXology, and yet, still available for sale within Apple’s own iBookstore.

Remember that line I had earlier about policies working best when they are applied to everyone equally? This is a case where Apple violates their own policy of acceptable content they hold developers to. It’s absolutely ludicrous for Apple to ban something from a 3rd-party developer’s app while selling it on the Apple store. Note: This fell off my radar screen after it happened and I can’t find out if the decision was ever reversed.

The problem gets even worse. A quick search through the iTunes store yields plenty of erotic fiction, unrated movies, and season one of the Starz show Spartacus, which has the rare scene where there isn’t a decapitation or a naughty bit doing the things that naughty bits do.

There are many things I think Apple does very well, but this is one thing with Apple that drives me nuts. If they don’t want adult content available on their platforms, fine. Just don’t also sell it through your own in-app store.

Is this problem solvable?

In the case of ComiXology, they had two problems: Apple taking a 30% cut and the worry that another comic would run afoul of Apple’s censors.

Apple eliminating (or even reducing) the 30% cut, well, isn’t really going to happen. The issue surrounding most ereaders is that they are middlemen in the distribution chain and the margins probably aren’t there to give Apple a 30% cut. Back to my comment about policies, if Apple created an exeception for resellers you possibly have the problem of a lot of developers trying to get lumped into that. Apple will continue to stick to thier belief that they get 30% of anything bought on an iOS device for consumption on an iOS device. By and large, I don’t have a problem with this. If a game developer releases an expansion for an iPad game, Apple should get their cut.

Apple being the final arbiter of content is a thornier issue. While this is something that I’m not overly fond of, I think I’d like to see what would happen if Apple didn’t curate this content. The mens rooms of truck stops comes to mind.

The best solution is probably the one ComiXology took: decide that paying 30% for the headache of them curating their content was too much.

Now lets just hope Apple doest take away the ability for apps like Amazon and Comixology to download content from outside the app store. I doubt that will ever happen, though.