April 19, 2018

Why the iPad Is Changing Everything — Again

I’ve written before about how the iPad is changing the computing game. But that was about changing how we interact with computers (touchscreen) and consume media (more and in all kinds of places we wouldn’t have lugged our laptop). That remains true, but recently I’ve noted, as have others, that the game is changing yet again.

This time we’re talking about the iPadization of enterprise desktop applications. I first experienced this with the iPad app Filemaker Go. This application allows you to connect to a Filemaker Pro database on another computer or web server somewhere and use it like it was on your device. Since my wife is running for political office, this means I can have easy (trivial, really) access to her database of supporters at all times. I can even whip it out at an event and enter someone’s contact information right then and there.

I’m far from the only one to note this phenomenon. A recent post on Gizmodo talks about the soon-to-be-released version of Adobe Photoshop for the iPad. They were so impressed with what you could do in Photoshop on the iPad that they even predicted the end of the desktop computing era. The reason is that this new version of Photoshop is not some dummed-down version, it’s the real deal. It’s just re-engineered to take advantage of the touch interface.

I’m not sure I’m willing to go as far as Gizmodo in predicting the end of desktop computing, but it’s intriguing to contemplate. Will the desktop soon be dead, to be replaced by ever-more-capable pad devices? Let me know what you think.

Photo by Ted Murphy, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Apparently the recipe for this game-changin’ audacious fellow from Gizmodo was to: 1) pick current best selling gadget; 2) declare it to be the next ‘revolution’.

    Seems to be short-changing revolution if you ask me.

  2. Leo: Be careful of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I really do believe we are witnessing a paradigm shift. At first I thought the iPad was just a really fun media device, but my perceptions of it are evolving as I begin to use it for the kinds of serious work that before were reserved for my laptop (or desktop if you have one). Touch interfaces are here to stay, and they are beginning to evolve how we use computers in ways that are likely to be more transformative than most changes we’ve seen in computing since the Mac was released.

  3. 1. It’s from Gizmodo, they’re probably just playing kiss-up to Apple after the iPhone row.

    2. The iPad may have been the first largely commercialized tablet, but it isn’t for the general masses due to many factors, mostly the cost.

    3. If it’s all about touch interfaces, why not get a touchscreen monitor?

    Tablets are nowhere near the capabilities of a desktop and the resolution is lacking as well. If a tablet poses any major threat it would most likely be running Android and not iOS. Tablets are great for mobility and yes, they could replace some people’s laptops, but when it comes to desktops I disagree. But just for argument’s sake, define “soon”? It’s like people saying that libraries are useless because of eReaders.

  4. SolarSaves says:

    You’re too funny and rather incorrect about a few things.

    1. Gizmodo’s prediction is probably a bit hopeful, but they realize as soon as the heavy hitters of the desktop software world get reengineered for a touch interface- the walls will come a tumbling down. I doubt they’re kissing up to anyone.

    2. the iPad is the first largely successful tablet (their have been commercial tablets and UMPCs for a few years) and who do you think is buying a couple of million iPads a month if not the general masses?

    3. touchscreen monitors are not currently ergonomically viable and a vialble touch interface isn’t there on PCs, but having used an iPod Touch for over two years, I sometimes find myself reaching for the screen of my computers… Using your fingers is more natural than using a mouse, especially when you’re holding that screen in your hand. Not sure what you mean about the resolution being lacking, it sounds like you’ve never used any tablet…

    Correct that tablets do not yet have the capabilities of desktops & laptops and they are not supposed to, yet anyway… But they can do an amazingly large amount of what people do on a PC. And they are doing more every day and with each new iteration of sofware and hardware will only do more. And they do things that desktops and even laptops can’t.

    As for Android being a bigger threat than iOS, not likely in their current forms (and for several years if then) as currently, Honeycomb is a few years behind iOS development and where are the compelling android tablets with comparable pricing to iPads? Apple’s App store, and the hundreds of Apple Stores are an iOS eco-system that is out there and working now that the disparate androids can’t match. Where do you buy and find support for all of those android tablets now? And android tablets are not android phones, no one will be giving away 5 android tablets when you buy 1 – just saw that advertisement this morning for phones…

    Everything IS changing, faster than you think, whether you know it or not.

  5. Sorry for the delay (they only let me out every two weeks).

    In any case, I’ve got no problem with touch-screen interfaces changing the way we interact with computers (though for input-intense activities like writing a term-paper, I’ve got my doubts).

    My problem is with an article so intent on declaring (yet) another revolution that they use an app whose _chief function_ is to relay commands back to the full version of Photoshop you’ve got sitting on your boring old traditional workstation parked nearby.



    These guru-wannabes really give innovation a bad name.

  6. Young Librarian says:

    Will tablets replace desktops? Probably – if it wasn’t already done. I haven’t used my desktop since I was a senior finishing my undergrad in 2007. It’s currently under my bed gathering dust. Most of my friends and I all use laptops as our desktops. I attach my laptop to a large monitor only when I want to do precision design work or watch a movie on a larger screen.

    Will tablets replace laptops? My wager would be eventually, yes – and probably sooner than many would expect.