January 17, 2011

Why would you *want* to create on a tablet?

You need to take a picture, and I put in front of you a smartphone containing a camera. Next to it I put an excellent dedicated camera–say, a 5D Mark II.  Which will you use?

At one time that question would have been absurd: of course you’d use the high-end camera. In many cases that remains true, but increasingly I find myself choosing to use my iPhone instead of my SLR–and not just because it’s handy & the SLR isn’t. I choose the phone because of the slickness, the immediacy of creating (including post-processing), sharing, and getting feedback.

I mention this because I remain deeply interested in building creative tools for tablets, and I see a parallel. Today if you put my iPad next to my MacBook Pro & ask me to create something visual, I’m always going to choose to use the laptop. The precision, the horsepower, the screen size–everything makes it a faster, more satisfying option for me. I rarely use the iPad for creative work, instead doing standard consumer stuff (browsing, email, Netflix, etc.).

But can & should that change? All else being equal (i.e. factoring out size & availability), what would make me want to choose the tablet over the laptop?

I’m frankly uninterested in making a “poor-man’s Photoshop” for tablets. Good thing, too, as customers seem uninterested. We already have Photoshop, and the rationale for putting apps on tablets can’t simply be, “The device is smaller than a laptop.” If you just want a small computer, get a MacBook Air or similarly lightweight device & be happy.

Tablet apps have to be about something else–about a different spirit, a different ethos–to be worth doing. Otherwise it’s just the same stuff dumped onto more feeble hardware. I suspect that transformative apps be more about fun, about speed, and about the unbridled pleasure of creation than what we know today. They’ll certainly take advantage of a tablet’s differentiating hardware (accelerometer, location awareness, and of course multitouch).

I haven’t yet seen the app(s) that’ll make me favor a tablet for creative work–but I know they’re coming. And I’m going to try to be part of flipping that proverbial bit.

Your thoughts are, as always, most welcome.

Posted by John Nack at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2011
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