I Wish My Computer Could Do What My Phone Does

Using an iPad on a train

When I got my fist-generation iPod touch a couple of years ago I was instantly impressed with its power and capabilities. The main reason I bought it was to use as a remote for my Apple TV and iTunes (the Remote app had just been introduced). The more I used it though, the more I fell in love with the UI, interaction, and amazing games and apps that were being introduced. Two iPhones and an iPad later I am still constantly delighted when using my iOS devices.

Occasionally I wish that the my mobile devices could do things that my desktop and laptop computer can do:

[pullshow id=”documents”]

  • I wish Apple would release ScreenSharing and Terminal clients for iOS — the third-party apps I’ve used just don’t cut it — then I could access all my other computers, all my data, from anywhere. (See update described below.)
  • I wish iOS supported OpenVPN either natively or via a third-party app (or that our company would switch to Cisco).
  • [pullthis id=”documents”]I wish it was easier to manage documents in iOS[/pullthis].
  • I wish I could install fonts in iOS, particularly for the iWork apps. (Seriously Apple, what were you thinking!)
  • I wish iOS would sync music, apps, and docs over-the-air (the way iTunes and AppleTV 1G did) — I should’t have to ever plug my iOS devices into my Mac except to perform the occasional back-up. (Rumour has it iOS 4.3 will feature over-the-air syncing of photos).

I don’t wish I had USB connectivity or any such nonsense. Who wants a bunch of wires hanging around? (BTW, the dock is USB, just with a proprietary interface).

Using an iPhone on the street
Using an iPhone on the street

This past fall and winter I decided to start traveling with only my iPhone and iPad, and to leave my laptop at home. After several multi-day business trips and three weeks in Europe to visit friends and family for Christmas I have grown quite accustomed to using only an iOS device for all my computing needs, day in and day out. I survive just fine thank you very much, and there isn’t much I can’t do, computer-wise. On an emotional level, I actually feel sad when I see someone pull out their laptop on a plane (even more so if it is not a Mac) — they just don’t know what they are missing.

On my return from Europe post-Christmas I was shocked to discover how hard it was to actually sit down at a desktop or laptop computer. I now loathe to be tied to a desk while I work. I need to be fluid and mobile. I swear I get more work done on the train to and from work than I get done sitting at me work desk all day.

Also, now each time I sit down at my desktop, I find myself wishing it functioned more like my iPhone and iPad:

[pullshow id=”moving-parts”]

  • I wish desktop apps were simpler. Had less clutter, and did what they do…better.
  • I wish my laptop had location-based services. For example, when I look at a map, I want it to respond to where I am at that moment.
  • I wish my Mac Mini and MacBook Pro would use less power! That’s an odd comment I know, since the Mac Mini is über-efficient as it is. But I just feel it in my soul that the scaled back, intimate experience of mobile devices is better for the planet.
  • [pullthis id=”moving-parts”]I wish desktop computers had zero moving parts[/pullthis]. Moving parts wear-out and break. Moving parts are noisy. Solid-state computing is bliss.
  • I wish my desktop screens were touch-enabled. Never underestimate the power that touch has to increase your engagement with content.
  • I wish all my iOS apps could run on my desktop computer.

Have you had a similar “desktop vs. mobile” experience. Will there be a place for desktop computers in the future. Will touch, voice, and motion input (e.g., Kinect) eventually render the keyboard and mouse obsolete. And if you can’t imagine the increased impact mobile technology will have on your life, can you imagine the impact it will have on the next generation? That is the future after all.

UPDATE (2011-01-29): On January 27, Splashtop Remote Desktop server for OS X was released. Splashtop Remote Desktop is an app available for iPad, iPhone, and Android that provides remote control screen sharing of OS X and Windows from your mobile device. Set-up of the OS X server and iPad version is easy, and the experience is great so far. It can be configured to resize the desktop display to 1024 x 768 to present at native screen resolution. An additional component installation on your Mac allows sound to be routed to the remote device too (even something Apple’s OS X Screen Sharing.app doesn’t do).

One thought on “I Wish My Computer Could Do What My Phone Does

  1. Just a few hours after I posted this article I was having lunch in a pub, reading some blogs on my iPad. The older gentleman at the table across from me gently cleared his throat and asked, “Are those things full-blown computers, or are they just for browsing the internet.” His wife sat by patiently. I let him know that the iPad is somewhere in between, that you can do almost everything a desktop or laptop computer can do. I wonder how long it will be before he owns one?


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