Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jan 2020

Evolving the iPad Workspace

Perhaps what was admired as a teen drives adulthood after all Captain Picard and desk full of tablet computers called PADDson Star Trek TNG

This could probsbly be considered a response to @brooksreview.net’s 13 Jan member journal; and it’s also a “state of the workspace” piece

When fall of 2019 rolled around without an announcement of a new iPad Pro, I was left at something of a crossroads. Having been waiting earnestly for the next evolution in iPads — to push my own visualization and implementation of computing — I was left somewhat disappointed. Apple’s hardware releases are very consistent. Offering both fan and buyer alike a chance to let rumors stoke fires, while the eventual reality a chance to evolve and reset expectations for personal and communal computing. It didn’t happen like that this fall. Slightly disappointed… just slightly.

Yet, that didn’t deter purchases. The 5th generation iPad Mini entered home-based usage. An evolution of the Kindle Paperwhite for weekend reading, while also a harder break from the iPad Pro’s use during business hours. The Mini and Apple Pencil combination has been a pleasant, and contrary addition. It puts pressure on the larger, older iPhone, asking “what is social and necessary about the larger screen phone versus the smaller screened tablet?” And still, has found a neat niche. It works, and doesn’t get in the way, even if carried with only the Apple Watch during café sessions.

It has also found a niche as a better device for video than the larger iPad Pro. So much so, a purchase of an external screen seems to make more sense than having the larger iPad nearby as an AirDrop recipient of what’s found in home’s moments. Conjuring another screen when the smaller Mini isn’t immersive or dismissive enough sounds like a case of “why not use the larger iPad or a TV,” yet misses the instances where personal becomes a context of “just for a moment of difference” rather than always needed. Scaling up, versus removing to scale down.

An opening to acquire the iPad Pro in Jan 2020 adds to the multiple canvases used across productive contexts. The latest iPad Pro, purchased alongside the Pencil 2 and Brydge keyboard, shapes a picture for something more. The initial thought of feeling like Captain Picard at a desk full of PADDs (defined by fans) hasn’t gone away. In fact, it feels almost right — mainly for the inability of most software to extend as fast as the hardware is allowing. Agreeing with @ben, a workflow utilizing two iPads at the same time doesn’t seem unproductive. In fact, it seems “best case” because of the inability of iPadOS apps to enable casting non-mirrored instances to external screens. It still doesn’t feel correct — just more correct than what I’ve been doing.

That said, the Star Trek TNG reference rolls strong. I’m almost in that posture of saying “yes it makes sense for tablet interfaces to adapt to the needs of the person holding it.” Seeing this when my niece FaceTime’s questions about her iPad (she also moved up, from Mini to the full-sized). There’s this context or multiple iPads and their shaping of a more personal computing context which seems to just fit. Star Trek TNG came out during my teens, and I argue this viewpoint comes from Gene Roddenberry and his team’s keen messaging to my subconscious.

Whatever the shaping of those evenings spent with mom watching her feed her Trekkie nature, what is true is that multiple iPads does manage to reset an expectation around screens and interfaces. Watching Avengers again recently brought this to light all the more. Casting information into space, assuming all who are in that space can interact with it, has been something of a dream for productivity spaces and fictional models for a while. It gets more real as devices like iPads show up not simply as accessories to the tools we have, but begin becoming default states for the worlds we are shaping. These default states offer us a glimpse into the very realities which used to entertain us. Realities I’m noticing a chance to act upon, and become something of a canary for what might be yet another shift.