iPad Air and the next generation of highly mobile, highly accessible productivity

Finger-painting with productivity is not a term I ever thought I'd use. Working in enterprise for years, trapped behind a desk and a Windows PC and Microsoft Office, productivity was arduous. It was a chore. The software was bought because of the boxes it checked, not the efficiency it enabled, and was as chronically outdated as the hardware that ran it. Day in, day out, keystrokes and clicks counted down the hours until lunch, and again until quitting time. Then came the iPad — currently the iPad Air — and everything changed. The utter desolation of the cubicles, the endless cruft of the start buttons and ribbons fell away like blocks of shattered concrete, and we could reach out and delightfully, inspiringly, touch our words, our data, and our tasks, anywhere, any time.

If Apple has had one relentless purpose since its creation it's been to democratize computing technology. The Apple II helped put the command line in the home. The Mac helped put graphical interfaces into the schools. Now the iPad has put multitouch into the hands of everyone, everywhere.

For every person for whom a traditional computer was off-putting or intimidating, for ever place for which a traditional computer was unwieldy or unreachable, for every job for which a traditional computer was impractical or ill-suited, the iPad has provided a real, useful, enjoyable alternative.

A sheet of glass, though which people could reach out and directly manipulate the limitless potential of the web, and the hundreds of thousands of tablet-specific apps in the App Store, proved to be the key. Not only for children who could never figure out the complexity of a traditional computer, or senior citizens who'd never had the chance to, but for people in all walks of life who simply needed something more mobile and far, far more welcoming. (Thanks to Siri and iOS accessibility and, and you can add far more inclusive as well.)

In Apple's new iPad Air verse, Organizing a Movement, Slow Ride's Jason Hall shows how he got bike rallies going in a revitalized Detroit, all with the help of his iPad Air. The video above gives you the highlight, the link a lot more details including a longer video that explains how Hall uses his iPad. The apps he uses include:

These let Hall organize and plan his events, get the word out directly and socially, create marketing and presentation materials, and do it all at scale and while on the go.

As part of their Your Verse series, Apple has previously highlight the iPad Air's utility for travel writing, sports medicine, mountaineering, and sea diving.

It's hard to imagine anyone carrying a traditional computer or trying to use traditional computer software in the middle of a Guangzhou street, with an athlete down on the field, atop the highest peak in the sky, in caves deep beneath the water. The iPad, by contrast, not only removes the intermediation of the keyboard and mouse, but of the technology in the moment.

Sure, you can get detachable keyboards and stylus pens if you really want to, if you need to input a ton of text or scribble or sketch notes, but you can also simply tap and swipe your way through almost any task imaginable. Not while trapped behind a desk, but out where the action is.

The new partnership with IBM will let Apple better approach the traditional enterprise and increase the depth of their already broad deployment. Enterprise specific apps will no doubt make salesmen and financiers, technicians and executives more productive in more ways than ever before. But there's business beyond the enterprise, and opportunities for individuals that simply haven't been possible before.

Apple shows how, from your bike, or a crowded street, or a field, or a cliff, or a reef, an iPad can help you get things done. The same holds true from your home office, your coffee-shop credit card processing, your always on the road realty service, your fresh air food truck, your on-site consulting, your trade-show videography, your VPN from poolside, your little league team meeting, your boardroom, and so much more.

I've mentioned before how the iPad is now my mother's primary computer, and one of her favorite things ever because, for the first time, it lets her really use a computer in a way she understands and can relate to. Likewise I've mentioned how we used the iPad as part of our live broadcasting from CES last year as a close-up camera with an amazingly large view-finder to really show off all the gadgets and gear on stage. Those are just two more examples, albeit personal ones for me.

That's the new generation of productivity and the flexibility enabled by the iPad Air. It's the finger painting with data and words and tasks that not only free our bodies but our minds.

iOS 8 will be coming this fall and, along with it, new features not only for enterprise for everyone, including extensibility and Continuity.

Let me know — has the iPad Air helped you become more productive? If so, how?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPad Air and the next generation of highly mobile, highly accessible productivity


I use mine for delivering presentations. It's excellent for that and I love it.

That said, I do wish Apple would allow for more active digitizers like Wacom in the hardware. While devs have gotten quite creative with what they have at their disposal, (looking at you 53 and that wonderful Pencil) it still can't compare to the accuracy of the former.

I wouldn't say it's made me extremely more productive, but my college life is definitely more organized with the iPad Air. Perhaps it is because it is truly the first device I really worked hard to get that I finally appreciate it's true potential.

Technology being made accessible to more people so they can accomplish more things makes you want to puke?

That's a rather indefensible comment.

That's a remarkably dismissive comment for what is such an important topic.

Let's take Apple out of this. Say it's a Galaxy Tab 10. Doesn't the same thing apply? It's a new type of tool that allows for new types of craft.

It's opportunity.

Boner that.

To be honest much of this article seemed like a bunch of nonsense. The iPad did nothing to help me become productive. Office and windows don't merely check off boxes, they're essential for most professionals.

I like the iPad for what it is. For a few niches, it may shine but for the majority of its buyers, it's just an entertainment consumption device.

It's not there yet. There's still too much iOS has to fill in order to enable much more powerful apps. Memory issues have to be addressed to make it dependable.

100% agree with this. The iPad is hardly a productive or professional device. It's great for games, media consumption, and light browsing. Hardly useful or reliable for anything else. Typing a professional email on an iPad, for example, is a joke.

Rene being Rene.

It all depends on how you define or view productivity. If your idea of productivity is centered on tasks like complex documents or spreadsheets, then sure, the iPad won't meet your needs, but then it probably wasn't designed to. But that doesn't mean you can't be productive with an iPad. It depends on the job you're trying to do.

There are many professionals from artists to music composers to photographers, journalists, etc.. that are productive with the iPad and use it as a tool to generate income. All you have to do is look at Apple's iPad Business section, their ads, or even Google to find some great examples.

Just because the majority of people use their tablets for mainly consumption-oriented tasks, doesn't mean you can't be productive with an iPad. At the end of the day, it's about choosing the device that fits your needs. A PC and an iPad can both be very productive, just not at the same type of things.

Thank you.

That was entirely the point of the Verse segments and this article. The beige box may still rule the enterprise but it too isn't ideal for all kinds of businesses, especially the modern, mobile kind.

Though I'm probably offending some, I don't consider artists or musicians as professionals and couldn't care less what an iPad does for these folks. I consider that a niche.

Cook said an iPad is a favorite of his. It does 80 percent of what he needs to do or so he claims. But even that isn't good enough. It has to do 100 percent or it's simply not enough. Jobs called devices that aren't great at anything...netbooks. When it comes to getting work done, an iPad is even worse.

Unlike netbooks, an iPad is great at many things. But I'm not sure why we continue to see others ignore these great things and instead feel compelled to make up things the iPad is ideal for. Perhaps it will be someday. But not anytime soon.

Perhaps this is why tablets are declining. Schools are starting to abandon tablets. Perhaps too many have accepted the tablet myth regarding productivity in the past but they seem to have start realizing it now. Apple is still desperately trying to market its fun device as a productive one which it sucks at for most people. IMO they need to stick to what worked.

Well then I respectfully disagree. Artists, musicians, video producers, journalists, etc., are every bit professional as anyone else. As long as their tools to do creative work that enrich people's lives and they're making an income off of it, they're professionals, pure & simple. And it doesn't change the fact that the iPad is a very productive tool for them.

The old status quo idea of productivitiy, where one sits 9 to 5 in an office in front of a screen cranking away at Word documents or Excel spreadsheets is outdated. Don't get me wrong, it still applies to many people. But to borrow a phrase from MS, in a mobile-first, cloud-first, the rules, or at the very least, the idea of productivity is changing. It's about using any device or any tool, anywhere you want, and having access to your important content / data anywhere you are. For some that may be a laptop. For others a tablet.

Poor choice of words on the professional bit. That's what you get late at night with a cranky 6 month old..lol. Let me rephrase that to mean anything to do with music, pics, or art on iOS doesn't mean much to me in terms of being good for productivity.

I don't now of a single computer that does 100% for a buisness or a student.

People who work in my building who do the old desk type work (document and emailing work that "needs" MSOfice) still print out tons of pages.
They have files on their desks.
They have note pads to write notes in meetings.
They have a desk phone, a cell phone e.t.c.

The desk computer isn't supposed to do EVERYTHING, so why complain that the iPad doesn't do all of your work?
You will always want a note pad, or a dedicted camera, or a keyboard...or, or, or.

Pesonally I think the iPad is better then a "computer" or Laptop in many functions.
Once I first used an iPad to quickly remote to a computer and send a file to a client it was much easier then on a Macbook.
Reading email is much faster.
Tweaking photos is simpler.

The iPad is more productive in some jobs then a desktop computer.
I think your view on who is deemed 'productive' is too narrow.

If it doesn't do what you need, then get a tool that does.
I will stick to my iPad and be very productive.

I know a lot of artists and musicians who get paid very well. If things don't look or sound good, consumers generally don't buy them.

RE: "If your idea of productivity is centered on tasks like complex documents or spreadsheets, then sure, the iPad won't meet your needs, but then it probably wasn't designed to."

I disagree. MS Office for iPad is turning out to be better than iWorks.

I worked in enterprise for years. The prevailing logic is "nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft/Oracle/SAP/etc.

The decisions aren't made based on how great the software is for the end use. It's made based on site licenses and bundles and IT requirements, and yes, checkboxes.

Totally agree.. I work in IT at an engineering firm. It's all about budget, security, deployment, and learning curve/supporting said device.

Though, we are going more and more BYOD(All cell phones, looking at tablets and laptops).. and with that we see more Apple products because of it. Tons of iPhones, some iPads.. though core IT seems to be trying to push people to the Surface and the like.. not catching on as the higher ups wanted it seems..

The IBM deal might well sway some minds here.. we're all about portability and security.. and if they can make a solid security pitch, we'll likely at least do a few test runs...

Memory issues? Are you saying this from actual usage where you ran out of memory (as in 32gb vs 64gb vs 128gb) or are you talking about RAM? I've never had an issue with RAM and for its worth the only issues I've had with space I would have to blame on myself for not springing for the higher model. Can't imagine ever needing 128gb especially for apps (I have iTunes Match so real need to store music and videos. I know some will argue that's an additional charge but $24.99 a year is a cost I will gladly pay to not have to store 80gb worth of iTunes music).

I would say much of what Rene has said is true at least for what I've used the iPad Air for. I sold my 3rd gen iPad last year for the mini and enjoyed it, but didn't notice all I sacrificed until selling my iPad mini for the air a few months back. With iOS 8 apple will even lessen the gap in what the iPad can do. My buddy has the surface 3 and I can say I do find if intriguing (mostly just so I can run photoshop and Lightroom, but I have my retina Pro for that).

My iPad Air is the device I reach for most. As a college student and using Notability and Evernote I can record ally lectures while taking hand written (and surprisingly clean) notes, flip over to iWork apps (which I got free), and then open on my Pro for all the heavy lifting. It has saved me from having to tote my pro around class to class (and 9 hrs of work) while risking it getting stolen or broken. The iPad Air is the ultimate stop gap between the iPhone and my pro. You can't beat it. Sure the surface could do a little more, but I noticed in the month i took the surface 2 out for a spin it was a hassle to use apps made for a desktop or laptop. You can't beat the apps made for a touch screen and on such a slim and light device. I wouldn't trade it for anything. With iOS 8 right around the corner even more tools will be given to devs to make great apps that only run on the iPad. I think that is what Rene is talking about. It's ok to like something else and we all have our work flows (some of which the iPad can't handle) but that doesn't take away from what the iPad can do and no tablet or two in one on the market would fit that need for me.

Sent from the iMore App

Memory such as not enough ram. Not storage.

But I'm not advocating another tablet or surface. And I'm not putting down the iPad. I've bought every iPad made. I like them. But not for productivity.

And that's not to say that iOS isn't productive. I organize my life with iOS. But an iPhone takes care of that. Onenote keeps me organized on different engagements. Before that, it was palm that took that role.

A tablet doesn't really offer more to me than the iPhone in terms of being productive. I have a Mac or pc for that.

More memory & better handling of it would certainly help. Safari reloads the page every time I switch tabs. On the iPad Air. Ridiculous.

I also would like a digitizer & a larger screen. (Not to make a wishlist out of this post)

Besides that, most of my complaints are software related. Everything happened so fast with the ipad. Everyone was so excited to get their software ported onto the ipad that they cut corners or feature just so they weren't late to the game. It takes time and money to redevelope applications for a new interface. Even getting the info to play nice between the old way and the new way has proven difficult. I'm glad the ipad has forced devs to rethink how their software/services work and how people interact with them. I work with AutoCAD, I use AutoCAD 360 on my ipad. They both open the same file, but do two totally different tasks. I would never attempt to draw something professional on my ipad, but it's a great tool when on the job site for review, annotation & pictures. Adversely, I wouldn't haul my tower, monitors & webcam to the job site. If you expect the ipad to do everything a pc can do, that's your own fault. Apple doesn't attempt to try to replace the PC (or mash them together), they want to help bridge the gap for the sake of convenience and yes productivity.


As the hardware develops and software continues to be optimised for tablets, most of the negative comments posted here become moot. Sure, there are people who need a PC to be productive, no one is saying that the tablet will work for them, but there are hundreds of productivity tasks better suited to a mobile device. IBM and Apple are working to revolutionise enterprise software, I for one am interested in how this plays out.

Most of my complaints are software related too and it's also why the iOS updates are far more exciting than hardware. I'm not complaining that the iPad can't take the place of a Mac or pc. Im simply saying we're a long way off from the picture this article is painting.

In my experience the only reason Office and Windows are essential for most professionals is because the other people use them too. And really that's just another box checked off.

(We use LibreOffice to read / write most "office" documents sent to us by clients. I could use the Office web apps on outlook.com to do that except Microsoft won't license that for business use. I instead upload them to my iCloud online doc storage. And it's pretty much auto-converted. The only time any of this breaks down is with *very* complex documents that I have to modify and send back...and that is *very* rare.)

I can also do all of that office document manipulation on the iPad with iCloud-connected Pages, Numbers, etc... In fact the dog and I enjoyed the outside yesterday during a conference call on my iPhone, examining a few MS Word Docs converted to Pages docs. I conducted the whole meeting and made quite a few people quite a bit of money in the process...all on my iPhone and iPad mini. (The dog mostly ensured that there were no mice or gophers in the holes near the garden...which I also consider a *very* productive endeavor.)

Line 6 Sonic Port + JamUp Pro + iPad Air == Guitar/Bass bliss. (add some monitors for even more lovin). I don't really use Garageband nor a practice amp anymore.

I use my iPad Air in conjunction with the Alesis IO Dock to record and mix my music.
It's so much easier to work with than my PC. Also, it's portable, so I can take it to my friends house to record a track, for instance with a double bass, which isn't that easy to log around.

There's very good professional DAW's, (Digital Audio Workstation), now that can compete with PC DAW's. Sadly, GarageBand isn't yet one of them.
I use Auria in combination with a host of other apps like AmpKit and is very satisfied with the quality of sound output, and especially the workflow this setup provides.

This is one of my latest tracks my little duo have made:

This track would have taken twice the time and effort to produce on the PC, and with much more expensive programs.
Everything is recorded and mixed on the iPad.

I am an IT professional, managing my clients' small business networks which are all Windows. I bring my iPad with me everywhere (and occasionally my laptop, too.) I use my iPhone and iPad when I'm out of my office to read email, monitor and reply to my Help Desk, monitor the health of all my clients' servers, and remote into any computer I need to access. When on vacation I take only the iPad, which is enough for me to run most of my business. The laptop usually stays home.

I get that users like cardfan cannot fully use the iPad for their work, and neither can I.
That said I think the iPad is totally a Work tool for me, and a home tool too.

I edit video and film so I "work" mostly on high end computers that can handle mass amounts of data and video effects.
But I used to lug around a laptop-ibook-Macbook for scripts/emails/entertainment.
The iPad does all that now.

I don't need a "full computer" as my main device, and I think that the iPad Air is enough.
Without the portability and size of the iPad I would be less productive.
Now I can invoice on the go, or read a script and make revisions where ever I am.
I can even remote to an editsuite and do framegrabs or exports quickly.
I am more productive with an iPad then I ever was without one.

Add to that ALL my home life is done on the iPad (apart from a photo and video server I built from my old Macbook at home, but this is managed by the ipad using LogmeIn).
Maybe home life is 'not productive' for cardfan, but I think it is.

I work in international finance. I dont think in my business the right discussion is whether iPad can replace a PC - to create a complex company valuation model will be done in excel, no doubt about it. However a lot of work is not about creation but about review of the results, collaboration, distribution of tasks and ability to do it in a taxi between the meetings. Here iPad excels, the idea that you will try to fire up your corporate PC in a taxi to check your email or mark up a report is just as laughable as creating the model on iPad. So for me iPhone and iPad replaced not the PC but the blackberry but a at a completely new level - I can take a word or power point document on the go, change it ir read it, convert it ot PDF, mark it up with a stylus and send to my team to make final changes. I get a version back before the meeting starts. I have access to lots and lots of documents with my notes that are available to me instantly in a client meeting - the immediate switch on as opposed to two minutes start up of a corporate PC is a very big factor, not for the two minutes but somehow socially it just works as opposed to PC. Somehow also dealing with your email in a large meeting on iPad is acceptable in a way that it is not on either the PC or the phone. Also I will not review a document on the PC screen -I used to print things and mark them up with a pen (fountain pen actually;). I will happily read things on the retina display and mark them up with a stylus or or write quick riders in a writer. I dont take my computer home anymore, for work I do from home iPad is good enough. S I would guess that maybe 60 per cent of my work is done on iPad and 40 per cent on PC. But for other people especially if you primarily create complex documents the balance will be completely different.

I want to use my iPad more and start leaving my Macbook on the desk. Unfortunately I contract from a state whose web based services are optimized for IE 6. That's right folks... 6. SMH.