Choosing the right computer for the job

“Jack of all trades – master of none”

I recently read a great article by Paul Thurrott [PC vs. Tablet: Use the Right Tool for the Job]. The article concisely articulates how I feel about the non-Windows tablet space these days. I was a little surprised to discover that the article was posted in December of 2013.

Paul brings up some interesting points about the use of tablets versus PC’s.(1) I’ve been pursuing the perfect machine for many years. Like Paul, I tried using a Palm Pilot with a folding keyboard. And later a slew of tablets – iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS – in a jaded attempt to find a single, perfect device. To date I haven’t found a device that meets all my requirements for both home and travel. The Surface Pro 3 (SP3) was nearly perfect, but not quite. I believe Microsoft has finally figured “it” out.

I’ve had reason to think about the singular-device theory again due to the large number of articles covering the new Apple iPad Pro. I’ve seen many articles comparing it to the SP3. I don’t read those articles because they’re nothing more than clickbait. I really don’t think anyone believes that a mobile OS can compete side-by-side with a desktop OS. I’ve seen many try, and they’ve all failed. The iPad Pro is quite literally the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 from January 2014, which is simply another attempt at creating a “real computer” out of a mobile OS. The SP3 is so much more.

I went down the iPad path a few years ago. I realized after several months that my three-year old tablet PC was much more capable. Unfortunately, I did the same thing with Samsung Galaxy tablets as well. Remember what Albert Einstein had to say about insanity, “doing something over and over again and expecting a different result“. It seems that that is applicable for those trying to use a mobile OS for “real work”. Anything I can do on a non-Windows tablet I can do on my phone. Why do I need a tablet running a mobile OS with mobile processors and mobile limitations? I don’t.

Thurrott states it perfectly: “Now, it’s certainly true that some people — many, in fact — can get what for them is “real” work done on a tablet or even a smartphone, phablet, or mini-tablet. That is, these devices provide access to email, calendar, contacts, the web, social media networks, various Microsoft and third-party services, and even remote desktop capabilities for the truly dedicated. They are simple and easily manageable…Of course, in our world—what we might call IT, or that of knowledge workers, but what I prefer to think of as the world of the “doers”—PCs aren’t going anywhere. And I think that many reading this, like me, have had that moment when we’ve sat with our hands hovered uncertainly over some other device—tablet, phone, whatever—and have simply gotten up, fished the laptop out of whatever bag it’s stored in, and gotten back to work. That is, we’d perhaps like to be able to get it all done on such a simple device. But our jobs are a bit more demanding.”

It’s strange, but after many years in search of a single mobile device to meet all my needs, I find myself slowly migrating back toward larger, more capable machine when I have work to do. I’ve even considered going back to a desktop machine for a host of reasons.(2) And like Paul, I believe that “I’m on the vanguard of something that will eventually occur to others…I’m not going to compromise my work or personal experiences for the other. I’m going to use the right tool for the job”.

Do I still want an ultrabook? Absolutely, but it won’t be my workhorse machine. Do I still want a non-Windows tablet? Sure, I like to tinker, but I won’t use it for anything more than surfing the net and playing games.

I’m really looking forward to the next round of Surface Pro devices because as I said above, Microsoft gets it.

1) Generic use of terms “tablet” and “PC”.
2) Bang for your buck. A Core i7 desktop with 8GB or RAM and 1TB hard drive can be had for around $500.

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