Real Computers Versus Toys, Part 1

I’ve finally encountered a real “microsofty.” Being primarily an Apple school it’s not often that I’ve encountered those who firmly believe in the Microsoft-way and more or less tolerate having to use Macs in our coursework. We’ve recently introduced an iBooks Author assignment into my course and the following course and this student confessed to not having access to an iPad, which is currently a prerequisite to testing out ones creation when using the iBooks Author app. More than that, the student expressed a preference for using Microsoft Surface devices and some negative feelings because he’s had to help others use their iPads on his network and didn’t like releasing privileges to these users. He didn’t come out and say it, but there was a definite “real computers” versus “toys” mindset expressed.

After taking the tutorial on using iBooks Author, I think that relegating an iPad to the “toy” category dismisses the power of the device and reveals a prejudice stuck in an 1980s definition of what’s required to be a real computing device. The latest iPad vs. Surface commercials repeat these “requirements.”

For those who live in a Microsoft-only world these things might seem like minimum requirements, but I cannot tell you the last time I needed to use a USB-key to move a file or data. I take that back, last time was when I was helping someone using a PC print out something because they couldn’t get the printer to work with their PC. Anyway, Dropbox, Google Drive and even Microsoft’s SkyDrive have made needing a USB port for data-transport seem very antiquated (in the floppy-disc era we called that “sneaker-net”). As for needing to run MS Office, I pretty much do most of my editing and composition using an online tool or app built specifically for the task at hand. I love the freedom to use any device at hand to do my work instead of having to “sit at the computer” to get work done. Finally, to call the keyboard sold for the Surface RT and Surface 2 a “real keyboard” is a real insult to keyboards. And it’s not as if I can’t purchase a much more functional Logitech Ultrathin keyboard/cover.

I wonder if those who insist that you have to have a “real” keyboard/USB port/MS Office to do real work would also say that the only real form of transportation is via trucks? Using the analogy cited by the late Steve Jobs, there was a time when if you wanted to buy a vehicle you bought a truck because it was the most useful and most available. I remember when I had a truck and how much I thought that the back portion was a real waste because I used it so infrequently. Trucks aren’t going away but most of us don’t need them and choose not to buy one. The world is changing and the need to sit at a keyboard is changing. Believe me, I love having my three-wide-screen-monitors, keyboard and mouse when I’m in that mode. But lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing, reclining on my couch or bed, using my iPad’s virtual keyboard. Having a kickstand in the back isn’t necessary and reminds me that some people seem to think they need to sit-up to work.

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