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Tuesday, 31 March 2015


When a company gets its hand into your wallet as effectively as Apple's gotten in mine ...
And you used to have a problem with Adobe's business model ...!?

The problem is we don't always start with a blank slate ;-)
For example, if you didn't have any of these devices you could have bought a MBP 15" retina, extra monitor for home and iPhone 6+ and a much older used iPad and you'd be set for half the cost. Besides you'd have your "power" computer with you all the time.

I don't think it's that far-fetched. I bet the answer comes down to a watch with cellular connectivity and a super powerful tablet (that can connect to a calibrated monitor at home).

Right now the watch can't makes calls by itself, but it can only be a matter of time before miniaturization catches up.

Right now the iPad isn't powerful enough to run full photoshop, but it can only be a matter of time et cetera...

Mike, I am in the same boat. I look at the Surface Tablet and wish Apple would make a similar lightweight product so I can Apple Share info from my iPhone & iMac to a portable device with USB &/or SD card ports capable of running Word and Photoshop (or at least Lightroom). The new Surface 3 sounds very tempting....

I have an iPhone, but I've used PCs since the days of the C: prompt, so I won't be switching to Apple for other things. I have a Kindle Fire that I use for reading and web surfing when I'm not trying to "create" anything. It's ok for that. I do most of my photo work at my desktop, but also need a laptop for travel. I recently bought this laptop in the hope that it will replace my old larger laptop and my Kindle for travel.


I have yet to see if that hope will be realized. There's a trip coming up next month, so maybe I'll find out.

Hi Mike!

Would something like the Motorola Atrix address your needs? (I don't fully understand why it is not popular.)


No, I don't think you can make one device that combines the pocketability of the iPhone, the larger screen (but still portable) of the iPad and MacBook, and the much larger screen of the desktop machines. Or, for that matter, the always-in-contact-with-your-body property of the forthcoming Apple Watch.

I am reminded of the old Dilbert cartoon where the marketing guy is so drunk on the power to define product requirements that he says, "It must have a 45 inch screen, yet slip conveniently into pocket or purse!"

I have a desktop Mac and an iPhone 6. No other portable computers (well, except insofar as cameras today are basically very specialized portable computers). An iPad is slightly tempting simply because my middle-aged eyes have trouble with the small text on the iPhone 6 if I'm not wearing my reading glasses. But if I bought an iPad, I'd have to figure out a convenient way to carry it around everywhere, and since I already carry a small camera bag everywhere (too small for an iPad), I don't think that's going to work.

I think the one bit of hope to what you're saying is to look at how many things smartphones have replaced -- once upon a time we had to buy all sorts of separate devices that are now contained in a single one.

But, of course, to your point those separate devices were made by different companies whereas all of these are made by one.

With all due respect, I'm hoping Apple doesn't take your advice. I also have a selection of Apple "appliances", but the only one I use every day is my desktop system (calibrated NEC monitor) which is needed for things like website design and audio production work. My laptop is simply an occasional backup -- the display always seems marginal for my needs.

I have to say I've never understood the MacBook Air and my tablet and phone are travel companions, but nothing more.

I'm sure we're going to get to using your device and data to display on whatever screen you're near fairly soon. Probably not completely automatically, but at least to a level where you can totally casually connect your portable device to your good screen at home, the screen in a hotel room, the projector in a conference room, and so forth. Quite possibly the same for keyboards, mice, graphics pads, and so forth.

Possibly bandwidth will get so high that you won't need much local data storage either. Maybe. We're not moving fast in that direction yet though.

The product you describe already exists. Try Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

"I think I could probably get by with a "super tablet." See what you think: I imagine an iPad of the future with sufficient power that I could use it as a desktop computer with the addition of a keyboard and mouse or trackpad—and which also works as a phone. (The iPad does work as a phone as long as I'm within Wi-Fi range.) Of course it would be much less portable than a pocketable phone, but maybe we'll be using our watches for mobile communication by then!"

Such devices exist now and have existed for a couple of years. They are, though, not available in the Mac world. Check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which is available with i5 or i7 processors and can run with "the big guys". There are many other "super tablets" in the 10-11" range running lower power chips but can still run Ps and Lr adequately. They're being joined shortly by the newly announced MS Surface 3 which uses an Atom processor and has an 10-11" screen.

> I don't suppose any company ever made money by consolidating its products

"Any customer can have a Ford T painted any color that he wants so long as it is black" ;-)

I understand it actually worked (for a while).

As for the computer of the future, I'm imagining something like a large virtual display implemented e.g. via eyeglasses with holographic optics, an Apple iWatch-like — but massively more powerful — smart watch-like computer unit proper, and perhaps a virtual optical keyboard module.

There are thermodynamic reasons that just 1 device is very difficult - basically your phone is very constrained by battery life and heat, while your laptop and desktop much less so.

There are at least some laptops (maybe not from apple) that serve as fine desktops driving very nice very large displays. The ability to compress desktop and laptop has existed for most workflows for some time, at least on Windows PCs.

The ipad/iphone split is largely about the size of human hands and pockets and the min size reading surface a human eye and brain need.

So yes, you can get to 2 today, getting to 1 is probably not feasible for your full work flow due to the thermodynamic issues.

You are describing a Microsoft Surface (with an added super camera). http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/Surface-Pro-3/productID.300190600

Surface Pro 3 by Microsoft - full laptop, full tablet, powerful enough as a desktop connected to large display.

I think it will be possible for you to get there (1 or 2 devices to do it all). For you have only to compare the iPhone 6+ to the time just before the original iPhone. That degree of progress in so short a time, for so many people, in so many parts of the world, is truly astonishing.
We are pretty close now in Function if you consider a 15" Retina MBP and an iPhone 6+ ( with a color calibrated display & backup at home).
But your preference for an iPad is not directly addressed.
In my case, I have all those devices but much prefer a laptop to my iPad for most things--I'd rather sit with my feet up, laptop on my lap. For imaging work I have a dual display MacPro.
Everyone will have their own preferences for some way of working.
So what you are really asking is for MORE overlap in functionality among devices so that you (and we) could pick the form factor first, and have the functionality be there. I think that would be cool too.

Apple makes great stuff, but they have had to work very hard to 'enforce' somewhat artificial distinctions between devices.
Your iPad IS a phone, with it's own number, and cellular plan if you choose it. It IS a fairly powerful computer, but Apple has gone to great lengths to not have us think of it as one. ( by eliminating a 'desktop' function or App as well as convenient and simple USB)
But artificial distinctions are not sustainable forever--you can see it in iPad sales. I'm sure Apple gets that too.
I would guess that the next iPad will get closer to being a computer, but we'll see. (and use the watch for phone calls ??)

Would you be happy with a slightly larger iPad & Watch combo to replace your current MBAir/iPad/iPhone ??

But from Apple's point of view, with so many different 'preferred ways of working' pairing down the Number of device categories would be difficult. So I think WE each could pair down the number of devices we use, but my guess is that Apple will continue to offer them.

What! You don't have an iWatch yet?

My current setup is a (getting-old now) iPhone 4s, and a new 13" MacBook Pro with retina screen, 16 gigs of RAM, etc. At home, it docks to a 27" Thunderbolt display, which also serves as a hub to connect my external large storage drives, backup drives, and printers. To hit the road, just un-dock the laptop: all the computing power, all my applications, and everything stored on my internal drive is ready to roll in a small package with a little but beautiful and fully calibrated screen. Don't feel any need for a tablet and don't miss having a dedicated desktop system.

You're trying to solve a hard problem -- one that is so hard that no manufacturer has invented the "one device" and few users can even describe "one device" that won't violate some law of physics.

Many product experts divide users into Creators and Consumers which is useful. Creators are further divided into writers, coders, graphics and video as are consumers with the additional category of gamers. Each has different requirements.

And then there are form factors (pocketable, tablet, laptop and desktop) and connectivity (Wi-Fi, wired/Ethernet and cell).

The closest we've come to a solution is a family of devices that will run the same applications and have access to the same files via The Cloud. The user owns more than one and uses the one appropriate at any one time and place.

Get rid of the iMac, get a good 27-inch monitor, and hook your Macbook to it. That's what I do (although I'm PC) and I'm very happy with this solution. When my last desktop computer played out, I didn't bother to replace it.You probably already have a wireless keyboard that will work, so you're good to go. If you're already keeping most of your data on separate hard drives, the hard drive in your laptop doesn't need to be especially big. If your laptop has an i7 chip and a reasonable amount of memory, you can do almost anything.

Combining devices . . . consider this before you make any decisions: Where are all those stadiums built to hold football AND baseball now? Most if not all have been destroyed or converted back to a single use. Anaheim Stadium was baseball only then baseball and football and now just baseball. It sucked as a football venue but as baseball only it's one of the best.

Back to computer - can't the laptop have an additional monitor? If yes then get rid of the boat anchor and use just the laptop,

Second Shadzee's thinking. The iPhone 6+, however, could obviate the need or an iPad, leaving you with two items instead of four.

"I don't suppose any company ever made money by consolidating its products"

Steve Jobs did just that when he came back to Apple around 1997. At that time, Apple's product lineup was long and confusing. He cancelled a whole lot of products (including the famous Newton proto-tablet), and made the simple two-by-two grid of products: laptop and desktop, each in a pro and a consumer version.
And I think we all know how that well. Well enough that I wish I could send a hunnert grand back to 1997 to buy Apple stock.

A little later came the iPod. Big success, but amazingly Apple/Jobs saw early that it would eventually be doomed by smartphones with MP3 players built in. So they did what very few companies dare: they ate their own children before the heyenas could get at them, and launched the smartphone, and by now the iPod is on its last legs (they recently to my sorrow cancelled the last one with physical buttons, the Classic).

The larger problem you outline is tricky, and I bet any high tech CEO would sell his daughter to know exactly how it'll look in ten-twenty years.
I loooove my iPad, but it has drawbacks. File management for one, and another is text-selection. It's just a pain in the ass to select and move text on a tablet. Even simple blogging sucks, the apps and browsers all are full of bucks when asked to do such works. Just trying to place a picture, good grief, it's like you asked it to calculate the size of the universe.

A theoretical iPad Pro with optional mouse and software advancement might handle that. And of course an optional keyboard. I handle most my mail in comfortable position on my tablet, but I could not do it easily without a keyboard. (dictation helps a lot, but I wonder if it'll ever get good enough to be fully useful to anybody who uses more than the 900 most common words.)

I'd like an iPad Pro for another reason too: reading art- and picture books, including comics and text books. I have a Samsung 12-incher, and it's wonderful for that. A thiriteen inch iPad would be even better.

I'm certainly with you on this one. I already had the iMac, MBP and an iPhone 5 and bought an iPad Air really just to see where it could fit in, apart from being an e-book. I now leave the MBP at home and when on my travels do quite a lot on the pad; once kitted out with the relevant apps for my needs. It's the wifi version only but most hotels oblige with the necessary connection. The USB photo adapter for checking my shots and all in the lightest package.
Picking up on the substitute for PS while on the go, I certainly recommend an app called Leonardo - if you're used to working with layers and many other tools of the trade I think you'll find yourself quite at home with it on your iPad.

Several commenters have mentioned pieces of it.

It's a future phone. When it's near a larger display, a keyboard, a sound system or a printer, it can make use of them. It can feed off of a larger battery or power supply (which is also powering the display and the keyboard, whether desktop or a portable, laptop, size.) It can route data over the cell network or over wifi or use the office's wired connection via the "display". It can transparently push intensive jobs to the cloud, whether that's some public cloud out on the Internet, the servers in the company data centre, or a machine in your basement (in the case of the geeky minority). It doesn't back up to the cloud; rather, the opposite: it just has a cache of some of your large volume of data which is permanently stored elsewhere.

It's still a phone, and it's always with you.

It will be some time before it's here, but it's what I think of as convergence.

Apple doesn't make commodity products. I'd expect to see some consolidation. Laptop computers replaced by Top End Tablets. Maybe the iPad Mini replaced by a Phablet (iPhone 7+ ?)

Software is also changing. Lots of excellent Photo and Sound Recording programs that run on iPads. Also Music programs like the Animoog Synth. As this trend moves forward, computers will become unnecessary for many things.

As long as the laptop has enough grunt, if all that's drawing you to the desktop machine is the bigger screen, just get a huge screen (a lot cheaper than an iMac) and connect it into the laptop.

I used to use such a setup as my main machine, allowing me to unplug and take the machine away on expeditions. However several years ago I diversified and got a smaller laptop (11" MBA) and a grunty desktop. There were some complications due to managing two machines, but that wasn't hard in the end, and each tool is very "fit for purpose". I'm very happy with this setup.

Tools like the Surface Pro might suit some, but to me they're not yet suitable tools for use in the field. The limited internal storage and the single USB port make it impossible to connect even one external drive at the same time as a card reader (not everyone uses only those tiny SD cards), let along an external drive plus a backup drive. At least not without external power, which is not a very portable setup.

We each have different needs and expectations of our gear. I wrote up my own needs of a photo laptop last month: http://khromagery.com/2015/03/07/what-i-look-for-in-a-photography-laptop/

Like you I do also have an iPhone (6) and an iPad (mini) but it's the iPad which is at the bottom of the pile. It's nice to have and use, but it's the one which I could probably do without if I had to cut down. Oops: I shouldn't let my partner read that!

I don't think anyone makes a Swiss Army Knife for computing. I just ordered a Lenovo workstation to replace my long-suffering Dell desktop (10 years), but I also have two laptops in the starting rotation, one a lightweight Lenovo for work (legal) on the road, a Lenovo "portable workstation" for photo-editing on the road. A BlackBerry for a phone and email when away from one of the computers. I think any device that filled all of these needs would do them all at a sub-par level.

I have a Surface Pro 3 for my work computer; it's pretty good, but has some serious flaws that keep me from really recommending it to anyone as a primary device

One the plus side, it works quite well, and is tiny for a laptop, so I take it everywhere now. The digitizer pen works really well, the screen is bright and crisp, and it's not too heavy. It's great to take meeting notes on, since I angle it really low and write in my normal cursive. The software does a great job of translating my scribbles into readable text. Editing PPT's is easier with a combination of touch, keyboard, and mouse, too, and showing people stuff on the computer is really easy with the big screen and pinch to zoom. Reading articles in portrait mode is really nice as well. As a work laptop, it's not bad.

But as a touchscreen device, it's still not fully baked because Classic Windows just isn't designed for touch, and the touch-dedicated mode in Windows 8 is not particularly intuitive. Hopefully with Windows 10 Microsoft will improve classic mode so it's more touch-native, instead of feeling like touch is a kludgy overlay.

And the Type Cover is just not good. It's too flexible to type fast or to give a good tactile experience.The integrated track pad is mediocre as well. It's better than the track pad on my old work laptop (a Dell), but that's not saying anything.

Perhaps the biggest problem is how the screen heaviness really restricts how it can be used. In laptop mode with the Type Cover attached, it has to be on a large-ish level surface since the weight is all in the monitor. It has to have support at three spots: the monitor edge, the kickstand, and the keyboard (and since the keyboard is so flimsy, the whole keyboard needs to be on a level surface or it'll be a miserable typing experience). A traditional laptop needs far less actual table clearance than the Surface does. The Surface is really just meant to be used either at a table top with the keyboard, handheld without the keyboard, or like a writing pad with the Surface laying on something. That limitation makes it less easy to use, and makes it hard to use with the keyboard in a lap or any place where table clearance is an issue.

I'm also surprised it doesn't have any cellular capability, which is very useful for a tablet replacement.

All that's necessary is for WiFi (or WiMax) to be ubiquitous. Of course the cellular providers will fight (have fought) this vigorously until they figure out a way to make net new revenue, i.e., not eat away from the net of the cellular/LTE revenue and disallow VoIP providers who do not pay them handsome carriage. Google is the elephant in their room unless someone else steps up.

While checking Amazon to see if Mike could make a few bucks from the sale of a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, I saw this, "Popular with photography enthusiasts"

I've owned and used many laptop computers and the Surface Pro 3 is the first that lets me do on the road everything I do at my desk. And apparently I'm not alone.

From where I sit, you actually have two systems--an IOS system and an OS X system. The two can "talk" to each other in some often amazing ways--but they are simply not interchangeable.

IOS lacks a user-friendly and manipulable file system. Yes there are work around but they are not fluid and mostly depend on cloud, local network or an OS X machine. Some are happy to struggle with it. I am not, nor do I think that you are (given your previous musing and struggle to use the iPad on the road).

There are many great apps, but most photographers need (or perhaps just desire) the horsepower and features of the traditional photo editors.

OS X requires machines that are larger than IOS devices and a certain amount of hardware power to work well, but deliver the goods for photoprocessing when coupled with a high quality display.

You're not comprehensive in your view that you can call from an IOS tablet, but only if you have wifi. If you have a 3G or 4G capable iPad, you can use Skype or Ringcredible over 3G or 4G (Ringcredible only does outgoing--but incredibly cheap.) There are other apps, I've just named my two favorites.

Using the choices available today, the best minimalist system for you would likely be as follows:

A maxed out spec Macbook Air 13", a good Thunderbolt 2 docking solution, a good external monitor, some outboard Thunderbolt drives and a CD/DVD, a MAC bluetooth keyboard with mouse and tackpad, and any other peripherals you've gotta' have.

Use the Air in clamshell mode (lid closed), as it really slows down the Air to do dual monitor because the video memory gets split on the Air between two monitors. With just one monitor it remains snappy.

An iPad Retina mini with 4g/LTE and max memory with a good data plan.

A small, ordinary phone (whatever you like, needn't be a smart phone).

You'd need to adjust your workflow to suit, but it would get you far along the path you seek.

These recommendations are based on the following factual observations:

-the Macbook Air screen is unsuitable as a photo editing screen (colorspace and viewing angle issues).

-the new tiny Macbook is too slow to serve as your only computer.

-you've demonstrated an inability to use IOS on the road for your needs.

-the iPad Mini retina is "old tech," but certainly fine for your stated needs.

Cheers JD

Where your four devices converge is in the 'guts' or chips and RAM and storage inside each one. Within reason, they are all about equal. Where they diverge, is in the screen size and peripherals (keyboard, mouse, ports). I have often pondered a phone-sized 'computer' that you can simply drop in to a larger 'dumb' monitor with, possibly, a range of ancillary devices (hard drives, routers, printers, etc.) attached to that monitor. Once the phone was connected to the large monitor, it would automatically behave like a desktop computer. Take it away from the large screen and it reverts to a portable/touch device. The one device (the phone) does all the processing with one set of apps, one processing chip, one operating system. Of course, how would any tech company benefit from that model?

You can get a ipad with cellular, use a headset for calls or use a speaker phone app to replace iphone. Then as others have said use a macbook as both laptop and desktop.

This is all part of a continually developing technology that could be radically different in ten years time and this might be a concern for photographers.
My first concern is storage media. This has gone from diskettes to hard drives to the Cloud I.e. It becomes less and less tangible.
My second concern is the storage format. JPEG, tiff, PSD exist and there will be others. My third concern is size. Digital photos were at one time a few KB but now I have photos that are 35 Mbs off the camera and 200mb after manipulation. They need massive storage space. My fourth concern is manipulation media. Apple has dropped Aperture. If you remember back it was the most commonly used easy access system at one time. The subscription system of PS concerns me because I no longer have control and Adobe can change their rules and I could have a problem.
All of this adds to my inclination to move back to the completely tangible and under my control method of film photography.

Let me be a contrarian here. I was a professional nerd for a bunch of years, but my computer knowledge is now 5 years old and i feel no need to catch up. I love, love, love, love, our iPads. It's a relief when I leave my PC full office and retire for the evening with my electronic pal's great screen and uber friendly user interface. I love being able to clip wise thoughts and ideas with a touch of my finger, and I'm (somewhat) successfully dictating a book. I download a lot of my pix to the IPad as the easiest way to share .. or just throw on to the TV with Apple stream.
I however cannot imagine doing real editing on it. Honestly - I gave up on Photoshop 15 years ago, and have been mostly using Elements, so my needs are quite basic. I'd like to spend as little time as possible at the computer, and as much time as I can taking pictures... my passion being photography, not editing. Gross overall adjustments and gimmicky finishes will work easily on the IPad - sure. But my fingers have never been as accurate or pointed as a mouse, and even simple cropping has no semblance of layout or accuracy.
As I keep repeating (past 60 so I'm allowed) "horses for courses".

Do not buy any mix product ... just don't. BTW, see


It's sort of like cameras, minus the all-from-one-company ecosystem thing. Some people have a DSLR for "serious" work; an APS-C or m43 mirrorless, then maybe an RX100 pocketable (maybe an RX10 in between) and maybe the smart phone for "better than nothing" times.

I'm slowing moving to the dark side. My wife has had an iPhone 5 for 2 years+. I just got my first smart phone (iPhone 6) in January. And I'm seriously contemplating a MacBook when it comes time to replace my desktop computer (which, I think, is now 4 years old). I'm leaning towards a laptop because I find I just don't like sitting up in my office.

Anyway, convergence is already on its way; I have relatives who use keyboards that double as cases for their iPads; someone else mentioned the MS Surface, and Lenovo has had convertible laptop/tablets for a while. Chromebooks have started to become popular as cloud computing reduces the need for installed software and fewer and fewer laptops these days even bother with DVD readers. On the other hand, convergence will always be thwarted by consumers who just want different things :)

I think the word "device" is loaded with legacy meanings, or an implied paradigm of progress being a convergence of functions into fewer devices. It used to be that all of your programs and data were in each device, perhaps even in a device-specific format. Each device was a power centre of intelligence and knowledge. Now that we have one global network of knowledge, and now that the advanced computer processing and data storage are done in the cloud (https://xkcd.com/1367/), these devices are simply screens and keyboards and touchpads. You might as well have a variety of them to suit the tasks.

I think you could most easily consolidate your computers into one 15" Retina Macbook Pro. Syncing between "normal" computers is much more challenging than between iOS devices... You can use a calibrated external monitor of your choosing with the laptop, as well as an external keyboard and mouse, and you'll quickly forget that it's not an iMac. And if you're not traveling by bike or on foot every day, the weight difference between the Pro and Air isn't so significant.

As for iOS... I don't see any good consolidation option there, not yet at least.

Well as for me the computer of the future should look like a small paper which can be folded and put in to the pocket. It should have super antivirus which can block any malware software and have a great backup/restore capabilities in case of system crash that could return the whole data as it was just before the moment of crash... that is how I see the computer of the future.

I've been using a variation on what's suggested above:

MacBook 13 Retina, large desktop screen, iPhone 6+.

This is actually suboptimal. The better flow is:

Surface Pro 3, large desktop screen, iPhone 6+. Improvements: better for travel, gain iPad-like functionality, gain stylus/touch-screen.

Surface Pro 3 is the superior travel device, practically replaces iPad while having all the functionality of the MacBook. Of course, you have to use Windows. For me this is a show-stopper because at this time OS X has a feature which makes small screens usable for work - multiple workspaces (very elegantly implemented at that) - but that gap is going to be closed with Windows 10, at which point I'll have reason to switch to Surface Pro. For a photographer there is the additional benefit of the touchscreen/stylus workflow for photo post processing (local adjustments). This is brilliant, and something that makes me think about switch to the Surface anyway.

Of course storage space is a downside, but that's what external drives are much better for anyways.

Have you never considered the cellular version of the iPad?

Admittedly, I have no personal experience with them; though, when I can afford to upgrade from my iPad 3, I do intend to get one.

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