Leaving the Mac Behind

The rationale behind the first Radio Lanza challenge — or why leave the Mac behind and make of the iPad my main computing device by the end of the year.

Mactracker is kind enough to remind me that the first Apple product I’ve ever owned was a precious, gold, first-generation iPod Mini. That was back in 2004. Three years had to go by until I decided to treat myself with a Mac. A stunning, white, Intel-based iMac — 20-inch late-2006 for the nerds out there.

However, this post is not an exhibit of my unbroken devotion to the Mac — a topic I can go on for hours. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. But let’s not detour from the main thread, which is no other than explaining the rationale behind my first challenge for Radio Lanza v2.

Marc’s challenge #1: leave the Mac behind and make of the iPad his main computing device by the end of the year 🤯.

The fine print: this doesn’t mean I’ll throw the Mac away at once, but put myself in a position to effortlessly pull the trigger at any time during 2021. The project is more about attuning workflows to a mobile-friendly world, rather than simply throwing a laptop away.

Why do it

The reasons why are better detailed in the episode itself, but here’s the bullet list:

  • An aging platform. macOS has its roots anchored many years ago. Hence not taking into account modern computing paradigms such as mobility, touch screens, or ubiquitous connectivity. There have been efforts to calibrate for the modern times, true. It has recently received plenty of love, also true. However, it was not designed around these assumptions; it feels like bending an oak tree; and, like it or not, the Mac as a platform is slowly, but surely, fading away.
  • On the other hand, iOS belongs to a superior newer breed of devices with optimized interaction patterns and input mechanisms.
  • Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. We live in a mobile-first mobile-only world. Mobile has leapfrogged the desktop and for most mobile will be their first only device. In a mobile-dominated world, volume drives eyeballs, money, and developers’ attention. This ensures a richer platform in the long-term — however not absent of debate.
  • Lifestyle and minimalism. When faced with a random chore, I sometimes ask myself: “what would this look like if it were easier?” or “is there a simpler way to do it?“. The iPad is the answer to how computing should look like if it were easier and also sits better with my minimal approach to life.

This is one of the most bittersweet decisions I have ever made. It is a big deal. We are creatures of habit. I spend an unreasonable amount of time in front of the screen, hence the transition will imply a great deal of unlearning and cognitive unloading — if such a thing exists. However, it is a decision for the best. It is about time to leave the Mac and jump for once into the iPad van-wagon.

To track down the transition, I’ve jotted down the tasks, actions, workflows, and apps I regularly use or perform on the Mac. I’ve broken them down into “best”, “same-same”, and “still unsolved” categories — depending on how seamless its transition I predict could be.

Each item hides a lot of complexity in itself. This is just the bulleted version for the sake of simplicity. The full-fledged explanation is better described in the aforementioned Radio Lanza episode.

Better with iPad

  • Developer love: both from Apple and third-party developers.
  • The neatness and security of iOS (or “it just works”): an Electron-free platform in which apps are “native” and controlled by a “trusted” party through a standardized process. Not absent of debate, of course.
  • A simpler platform that fits my minimalist view of computing.
  • Fewer distractions and binging since the focus is on one task at a time.
  • One thing, one app: with macOS, some things are in the browser, others have its own Electron app… it is difficult to keep track and bring order to this chaos .
  • Enhanced and less abstracted input mechanisms.
  • Pencil: ability to readily create sketches and drawings.
  • Trackpad: I love its re-definition of the pointer-based interface.
  • The hardware: better front camera, long-lasting battery, stunning display… in short, it inherits all the iPhone goodies.
  • Cellular connectivity and mobility.
  • Integration with iPhone: assuming you’ve got one already, dealing with an iOS-only environment makes things simpler.
  • Apple scripts vs. Siri shortcuts: I have “collected” a lot of Apple Scripts and they probably won’t map 1:1 with Siri shortcuts. However, the future looks brighter in Siri-land (see the first point).

Same-same with iPad

These are more or less similar experiences with the iPad. Still, using a more modern tool not only makes them “better”, but also augur them a more promising roadmap ahead.

  • Communication: email, Messages, Slack, Discord… you get the idea.
  • Web browsing and media consumption: the iPad was built around this idea.
  • Writing: it also benefits from the focus mentioned above.
  • Notification management.

Unsolved with iPad

Finally, here’s the list that details the main flows that do not still have (or at least I haven’t yet researched enough) a clear-cut replacement for iOS.

Note that in the “unsolved” categories there are more apps than “jobs-to-be-done”. This reminds me of how spoiled we are from the tools we’ve been using for a long time without even questioning if we were just becoming masters of the wrong thing.

  • Web development: VSCode and Terminal for JavaScript and Python web programming. This is a world that still relies heavily on the idea of a local machine. There are many tools and initiatives out there that are trying to recreate online-based IDEs, but I’m still not sure if they are ready to go all-in with them.
  • Figma: here’s where both our team and I draw, sketch, prototype, and design the Hi-Fi assets that will be finally handed off to devs. This is a massive workflow that doesn’t have its own iOS app.
  • Notion: maybe the biggest one. Rarely happens, but Notion feels like the product that was deliberately designed around and for you. It is not that there is no iOS app, however, its capabilities have nothing to do with its desktop-based counterpart.
  • Setup with extended display: working with a large, second monitor and a standing desk is my thing. Maybe the whole point of “mobility” is about getting rid of this idea and embrace a single display setup. This one I haven’t figure out yet.
  • Podcast recording and editing.
  • Mail.app rules: despite iCloud has server-based mail rules, it is mind-blowing that the default iOS email client doesn’t have this feature — while its macOS counterpart does.

And here it goes the last thought: writing this post has served me well to structure my mind around all the “things to do” before jumping off the macOS platform. But most importantly, to discover that my beloved Mactracker, has an iOS counterpart 🙂.

First published on August 25, 2020