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iPad's a Cracken' Good Computer

Tech writer Harry McCracken isn't known for making outrageous statements just to get clicks. This is one smart dude. So when he said that he uses the iPad as his main PC, I took notice.

My take is that the iPad, while built like a computer (OS, memory, display, input, apps), is no PC. Having bought one only reinforced that take -- it's superb for what it does and is one heckuva oversized camera, but I can't get any real work done with the thing. It's a fine e-mail machine for traveling, but so is a BlackBerry.

McCracken does real work on his and the former editor-in-chief of PC World claims it is his "favorite computer."

To Harry the iPad is a PC replacement. The key, and this is a big key, is having an accessory keyboard. The touch pad is the main stumbling block to real use. In fact, Harry has me intrigued enough to consider buying one. But then I'll have buy some productivity software, figure out where to store my files that is as good as my PC hard drive and divine some way to print. Seems like a lot of effort and expense to duplicate what I already have.

Do you use the iPad for real work? How does a real keyboard change things? What do you use for software and how the heck do you print?

Answers to any and all welcome at

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/26/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Sun, Jan 13, 2013 Dan Canada

I might do that if it was my first computer and I lived in a 500 s.f. apartment. Otherwise I think Harry is McCracking up.

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 sasforge United States

I guess I live in some alternate universe. I love the iPad 1 that was a present. I have my entire business on it, I use DocsToGo for "real" work (I have yet to find a WordPerfect version) and I do not use an external keyboard. I put together time for invoices interfacing directly with QuickBooks and I can print to almost any printer using PrintCentral. So...I'm a happy camper!!! The only time I carry a laptop is if I need to physically connect to a network or demo & support Win8

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 William Virginia

Of course, whether one can use a tablet for work or not depends on what one does -- there are at least thousands of professions. I won't give away all of my secrets; but here are a few work applications: AudioTools(these types of apps can only be accurate when designed to run on specific hardware); Wordpress; Dragon Dictation; misc vendor catalogs and/or mobile ordering apps. A wireless keyboard can be very useful for many devices -- magic word 'Multi-Link'. BTW: if you happen to be blind, iOS has built-in support for braille displays. I don't use AirPrint for printing; for photo printing and scanning, I use Canon Easy-PhotoPrint; and, for general printing and scanning, I use Brother iPrint&Scan.

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 Donny V

I think the problem everyone is having on here is that your all using the wrong tablet. Yes iPads are everywhere now but the soon dominant player will be Android tablets. Google has put together a fine suite of services to bring the enterprise into the tablet world. Google Docs, Spreadsheets & Drive are great examples. Tying everything together with GMail. Plus they have there Google Cloud Print service that lets you print from any device to any device.

Tue, Nov 27, 2012

I have a case with a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. Adds a little weight and thickness but still ways less than a laptop. Most data-entry is enhanced but the narrow keyboard takes some getting used to. Still, I have cut my PC usage by 90%. BTW, I store my files on DropBox and use and use QuickOffice Pro HD as my MS Office replacement.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 Dan Iowa

Obviously an Ipad without a keyboard is simply not going to function as a real work device. (Can't create content.) After you've added a keyboard, the next step is to consider the content you're creating. Most of us have to worry about security. Maybe PC Mag editors don't, but most of us do. If you're using a consumer device, like an Ipad, for doing work that requires any security at all, you are probably using a Citrix or RDP session. Your productivity software would not be running on the Ipad. It would be running at work.on trusted systems. The strategy is not to replace the PC with the Ipad. It's to replace the PC with virtualized sessions running on a server, like Citrix or RDP sessions. All of the productivity software is actually running on trusted systems; not on your Ipad. If you're familiar with terminals of the mainframe days, another way of looking at it might be to replace your PC with a dumb terminal.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 Rob ACT, Australia

I use my work issued iPAD3 as a secondary device - even with Citrix and a bluetooth keyboard their are some things it is not ideal for. I do hhowever find it a good portable solution for taking notes at meetings and access to e-mail, calendar etc. Originally I tried using a stylus and handwriting notes, but found I was faster with the bluetooth keyboard. I also use the Camera to capture meeting diagrams from whiteboards , better than printing from the whiteboard, as I end up with an electronic copy. I have run presentations using the VGA adaptor to a projector from the iPAD - works wuite well.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 Jerry Hollingsworth US Northeast

Early this year I was working on a project at a client location when my Lenovo V series decided it was time for a nervous breakdown. I was forced into rapidly learning how to use my iPad to do everything from email (which it is okay at) to mind mapping, generating reports with spreadsheets and presentations that would have to go on the client's network. I purchased the Apple keyboard and with the use of a stylus was able to do everything I needed to do - including some simple video editing! Since our company has also engagedin cloud computing for some applications and services I was also able to connect (thanks to the free Citrix App) and get some pretty high power work accomplished as well (database and application design). I wouldn't want to rely soley on this little guy but I could.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012

Doug, looking at the two comments before mine, and many feedback from gurus in our industry, no one seems to be using iPad for real production work, of course besides Harry. He might be a smart dude as you said, but you don't have to always take notice of whatever he says. iPad is nothing more than a consumer toy. You have the percentage of Windows used at work versus Apple products including the iPad. What is it? 90% Microsoft versus 3% Apple or something like that?

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 Network Admin / Video Editor Ohio

I find it interesting that iPad users are busy adding keyboards, while Win 8 is trying to add touchscreens. These are 2 different devices serving 2 different purposes, even Apple is using different operating systems for desktop versus portable. I like tablets for checking e-mail, looking at web sites, and other information gathering tasks. I am test driving Win 8 on my dual monitor desktop at work and find it to be clumsy on a non-touch system. I find it hard ergonomically to picture spending a day reaching across my desk to touch a monitor without increased shoulder injuries. I can't imagine editing video using a touchscreen. My point is, for me, workstations and tablets are different tools for different jobs. Sometimes you need the right tool for the right job.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 alex California

iPad? Well, I would say it is a nice, well-crafted expensive toy, I won one, but I would regret if I had buy one...

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 Ross Modesto, CA.

I have had a iPad 1,2, and 3 provided by the company. Other than being a handy email tool (as long as I don't need to manipulate MS-Office files) I find very little use for them. I have given each away to fellow employees who have had a 'requirement' for one. I find my Windows mobile 7.5 phone much more useful out of the box than a iPad or iPhone and I don't need to spend money on apps to be productive.

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