Along with a few Windows PCs, I’ve been a devoted Mac user for almost 20 years. We have three Macs at home. An iMac and two MacBook Pros; one for me, one for my husband.
I’m finishing up two months of using an iPad 3G and a few days of using an iPhone 4. So many of my daily computing requirements have shifted to the smaller mobile devices that my Mac notebook is used mostly for synchronizing my iPad and iPhone.
The Future Is Clear And It’s Cloudy
We still use the iMac sitting on a desk for what I’ll call heavy lifting. My husband loves Final Cut Studio and I’m deep into Microsoft Office for Mac and we both use Adobe’s CS5.
That trio of Mac apps won’t show up on an iPad or iPhone any time soon.
What does that say about the future of computing devices? Ultra mobile is where it’s at (or, where it’s going to be) and Apple is leading the way with two very big hits—the lovely iPad and the hugely successful iPhone.
The future of personal computing is clear, right? It’s mobile. But, what beyond the obvious will we use mobile devices to accomplish, and what does that tell us about the future of our Macs? That’s not so clear.
Functions To Replace Your Mac
My intent is not to disparage the Mac. Apple may yet have some very cool surprises for faithful Mac users of the future. What I’ve found is that there is a rapidly growing list of formerly Mac functions which have been transferred to my iPad and iPhone.
Mail – Email can be almost everywhere and keeping email accounts in sync between Apple’s iDevices is easy enough (assuming accounts are using IMAP). Just a few years ago I would batch my email catch-up routine at night in front of the desktop glow of iMac or MacBook Pro.
Then, email usage began to move to my iPhone. Now it’s iPhone and iPad, the latter performing nightly duties in the living room while watching TV. Since the advent of the iPad 3G, which goes along for my out of condo experiences, the Macs don’t see much email duty.
Safari – Like it or don’t, web page browsing just isn’t the same on the iPhone, even with iPhone 4 speed and a somewhat less congested San Francisco AT&T network. I like Google’s Chrome on my Mac, too. And Firefox.
But plain old vanilla Safari on the iPad is pretty tough to beat for casual browsing. Add to it NetNewsWire and my mobile device web page browsing has migrated quietly and quickly from the desktop to Apple’s iDevices.
iCal & Address Book – The one advantage that a much larger iMac or MacBook Pro has when viewing a calendar is screen real estate. After that, the iPad and iPhone win hands down, no contest.
One or the other (or both) iDevice is always with me so I’m easily connected to both iCal and Address Book via MobileMe. Everything gets synced. But what doesn’t get used as much is the Mac.
See where the trend is going?
Games & Music & Photos, Oh My – My husband and I have a couple of dozen games on our Macs, but we’re anything but hardcore gamers. Our iPhones have about five dozen games. Is there a better adult game than Fruit Ninja? We play Scrabble, Poker, Paper Toss, Deep Green chess, Football, Pool, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies.
I’ve never had as much game fun on a Mac. Ever. And for much less money I can play almost anywhere I want. That trend is tough to ignore, my dear Mac users.
For music and photos on the Mac there’s iTunes and iPhoto. Ditto for iPad and iPhone and they sync nicely, thank you. We still use the iMac as home base for iPhoto and iTunes (editing and playlists and purchases), but actually usage—listening to music, watching videos, showing off photos—are done on the handheld devices.
App Exploration vs. Major Apps – Here’s where the trend to iDevice usage diverges. Our Macs run iWork, iLife, Microsoft Office for Mac, and Adobe’s expensive CS5 suite—and dozens of other useful but not essential Mac apps. My Mac360 connection means I try out more Mac apps than my husband.
Both of us try out dozens of apps for iPad and iPhone. Dozens. No, that’s not right.
A quick check of my iPhone 4 shows almost 300 apps and games installed. Every few days I look and find something new. My work apps run, for now, only on the Mac, so I’m a dedicated, die-hard Mac user who knows my way around iLife and Office and CS5. Much of everything else has moved to the iPhone and iPad. iWork on iPad gets a workout, though Office (particularly PowerPoint) is a mainstay.
What of Google? On the Mac search is basically Google 90-percent of the time, Bing and Yahoo! get the rest. And it doesn’t matter much what the search requirement. On the iPhone and iPad I have all three of the search apps—Google, Bing, Yahoo!—but most of my searching is done using dedicated iPhone apps like Yelp or iWiki or AccuWeather or Radar.
Are there more ways the iPad or iPhone can replace your Mac? Certainly. Many more ways. Both iDevices come with 3G built in. For the Mac, it’s an extra cost device to worry about. Whether FaceTime can supplant iChat video or Skype video remains to be seen, but the direction for personal computing usage is clear. We’re moving from the desktop and notebook generation to the handheld mobile device generation.