Limited Computing

Here’s a quote from John Siracusa from Episode 50 of Accidental Tech Podcast about his reason for the “iPad Pro” to be both bigger and more complex (some time in the future):

It can’t be the thing most people use for computing and remain as limited as it is now.

That quote is from about 5:29. The discussion then moved onto whether the iPad will ever actually gain the things Siracusa was talking about or if people actually even want that.

That statement above is, I think, key. It really is a look into the minds of current desktop users and what they are looking for in a computer replacement. That’s the rub, looking for a direct replacement to what they currently have. I hear, see, and read this sort of thing quite often when talking about the iPad in general as well.iPad Air

I think there are assumptions being made that our current workflows or the way we currently do things is somehow innately better than what might be coming. It is the idea that our usage (thinking of power users or long-time desktop computing users) is somehow better than everything else.

I would challenge that idea. The workflows created today are tailored for windows-based computing. Trying to pry apart our current workflows and shoehorn them into a touch-oriented systems is going to be painful and, possibly (or probably) fruitless. So far, no one has cracked that and Apple has admitted as much by not adding touch screens to their Mac lineup and stating time and again that OS X and iOS are going to be separate and complementary operating systems.

However, even more than the above (that our assumptions are holding us back), I think that the limitation of an operating system like iOS is the very thing that allows many people to finally be able to use a computing device without constantly muttering “I’m not a computer person”. Every time you add complexity of any type, even when you hide it (like the multitasking switcher), it is going to bite users in some unknown way. When you added multitasking and a switcher, all of a sudden people thought they needed to police their device and clear themselves of all of those icons in the multitasking switcher (for the record, no you did not).

Being able to have more than one app on-screen (which has been discussed when thinking of the future of iOS) will ultimately mean that people will abuse that feature and cause them to get into trouble. People can’t handle multiple applications on desktops computers and we’ve been working with this for decades!

I don’t disagree that iOS is going to get improvements, that much is inevitable. What I DO disagree with is the idea that complexity is needed to make iOS more powerful. I think that the power of iOS is actually housed in its simplicity. If you chip away at the simplicity, you’re going to have a substandard product.