Thoughts on the iPad Pro

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This year’s WWDC was the most exciting in recent memory for me. After a couple of years of apparent stagnation Apple showed us new Macs and new iPads pro together with significant OS improvements for the iPad in iOS 11 that will make the it a much more reasonable candidate to use as a solo computing device. I was particularly interested in the new iPad hardware and software.

My holy grail has been to be able to do 100% of my photography processing on my iPad while traveling and then seamlessly integrating the processed images to my desktop Mac. Ultimately the Mac could disappear from the process. Some of this is possible using the Photos app but the process is clunky with third-party apps such as Lightroom. We seem to be tantalizingly close to realizing this reality but it is still just out of our grasp. From a hardware standpoint, the new iPads Pro are reportedly as capable as Apple’s lower end laptops and even my current (now obsolete) 9.7-inch Pro runs Adobe Lightroom and Affinity Photo like a champ, so the metal seems capable of hauling the load. The uncertainty is on the software side.

Although I haven’t tried the iOS 11 beta yet it looks like a great improvement adding drag and drop, and direct access to documents stored on the iPad’s and cloud services. What I don’t yet understand is how my photo apps will integrate with the file system since most all of that is currently hidden from my view. The following are my Big Questions.

  • Will Apple’s Photos app continue to be the only app that can accept imports of images from external devices or will I be able to copy images to the file system or directly into other apps? This limitation is clumsy and time consuming for me. I don’t want my unprocessed images in Photos, I want them in Lightroom. Doing the Photos to Lightroom dance with hundreds of imported images is an irritating waste of time. My guess is that this is baked into the system and won’t change in iOS 11.
  • Will apps be able to open images directly from the file system or only through other apps?
  • How are files being stored by images processing apps? In some awful, inaccessible package file or as simple images in a directory?
  • Will I be able to offload images directly to another device through the file system?
  • What changes will Adobe make to their apps to take advantage of the new hardware and software, particularly improvements to Photoshop for the iPad? Affinity Photo showed what’s possible – time for Adobe to step it up.

My guess is that iOS 11 will make things better for me but won’t get me all the way to my goal. I am, however, guessing that the new operating system will significantly improve the experience of using the iPad for non-image processing apps and I’m totally jazzed to try it.

Hardware

I’m currently in the post announcement decompression phase of my hardware purchase decision making. I’ll wait to pull the trigger at least until mid-July. I’m planning on buying a new Mac and perhaps an iPad Pro. Although I love the idea of going all iPad the reality is that a Mac is still more capable, customizable and automate-able than the iPad and there is still a role for a desktop computer in my life.

My current Mac is a 2013 Mac Pro and it remains a great machine from a processor speed standpoint, its only weakness is the lack of the ability to drive a Retina display. Since there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade path, I’m considering getting an iMac. Not one of the Pro models, although I’m tempted, but I’m looking at maxing out a 27-inch iMac (1 or 2 TB SSD, fastest processor) so I can keep it as long as possible. Perhaps it will be my last Mac.

As far as a new iPad is concerned, I’m waiting. A lot will depend on the answers to the questions I outlined above and any new capabilities added to iOS photo processing apps (I’m looking at you, Lightroom and Photoshop). Currently I’m thinking of buying the 12.9-inch iPad since the big screen seems made for photos and holding on to my 9.7-inch model for use as a media consumption device and light-weight portable machine. But I need to to see some improvements in my photo work flow before I pull the trigger.

In any case it seemed to be an exciting time in the Apple ecosystem – let’s see how it pans out.

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