First of all, please forgive my poor design capabilities. I’ve tried to put the above mock-up together to help the words that’ll follow1.
So, what are we looking at? Simple, an iPad powered work station. Please allow me to illustrate the concept in all its glory.
The original idea came to me because of the horror that my work station instills in me every day. I’m working off a HP laptop, which is big, slow and runs Windows 7 (yeah!). Excluding coding, most of my job is spread across emails, spreadsheets and presentations. Starting from this point, you can easily see how an iPad could easily replace all of this functions out of the box (except for a bit of coding – more on that later).
I currently use my iPad side by side my laptop as a way to quickly take notes. I have a stylus and together with Penultimate they form a pretty powerful combination. I also use my iPad to deal with emails. It’s a much more focused machine for that kind of task and I find myself automatically picking up the iPad to read, reply and manage emails, rather than relying on my main machine.
From this kind of daily use, I’ve started wondering what could be the next step.
The first obvious one is the screen size. I own an iPad Air 2, which is an awesome machine, but even the 9.7″ screen is not enough for me. Every time I’ve connected it to an external monitor, I immediately felt home. The thing is that when you do that, you only get a a bigger iPad screen, but still all the touch input has do be done on the iPad screen itself, so you spend more time looking down rather than up. A bit pointless.
So here is my question: what if, when you connect the iPad to an external display, the iPad itself becomes a massive touchpad?
Now the mockup above is starting to shape up. Let’s say I’m using the lighting to HDMI connector to go to an Apple Cinema Display (or any other display for that matter). When I connect, the UI goes solely on the external display, while the iPad itself transforms into a massive trackpad and effectively becomes a mouse. Pair this with a bluetooth keyboard (as many of us already do) and voilà: an iPad-powered workstation is born.
The power of iOS has always been in the versatility of the software. That was the entire argument about having a software keyboard: a medium that could adapt to the current requirement, rather than being a static and dumb input medium.
Here I’m applying the same concept, just on a bigger scale. Let’s go even further. The iPad screen could gets split into two (using the same concept of split screen coming with iOS 9): one half being the trackpad2 and the other half being used for different shortcuts to different iOS functions3.
Being on the big screen, you could now make full of use of the new split screen functionality. Instead of being locked into a single app view, you could have the two side by side and really embrace this newly found flexibility4.
This is definitely a very edge case scenario of iPad use and I know I’m definitely in the minority. Still, the iPad keeps becoming faster and more powerful but Apple keeps underplaying it, leaving a massive potential untapped.
I’m guessing that now you might ask: why don’t you just use the new MacBook and shut the hell up?
That’s certainly a good question. My answer would be that the iPad is a much more versatile machine. I could be in workstation mode while in the office, then unplug it at the end of the day and go back to couch mode in the evening.
At the end of the day a MacBook is and will always be a laptop. An iPad is and will always be whatever you want it to be. The only limit is your imagination.