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Why the iPad still can't be a true Mac replacement

Ted Landau | Feb. 25, 2013
For some folks, the iPad is enough computing power. But for Ted Landau, the iPad still has a long, long way to go to replace his beloved Mac.

Still, there remains a persistent undercurrent in the media predicting an eventual demise of the Mac at the hands of the iPad. Whoa! For people like me to even consider giving up their Macs altogether, some fundamental changes to the iPad would be required. At a minimum, here's what needs to happen.

Better external storage and backup options

More than anything else, a Mac-killing iPad needs local, easily accessible external storage--for backing up and archiving data. The current top-of-the-line iPad has 128GB of storage. Even if that were adequate for all your data, how would you back it up without a Mac?

While Apple touts iCloud as an iPad backup, the company acknowledges that iCloud is best for users who don't connect their iOS device to a Mac very frequently or "don't own a Mac" at all. For the rest of us, the company still advises backing up via iTunes on a Mac. One important reason is that "iCloud Backup does not back up music, movies, and TV shows that you did not purchase from the iTunes Store."

For me, that's a lot of stuff to skip over. iTunes Match can help fill in some of these gaps, but it's not really designed to be a backup medium.

Even if iCloud backed up everything, it still wouldn't be sufficient. A good backup must allow you to search for and restore specific files. Suppose I accidentally deleted a document from my iPad and wanted to quickly retrieve it from my iCloud backup. There is no way to do this. You can only do a full restore.

Consider also the matter of archival storage. With my Mac, I have external drives that house many gigabytes of data, including a large collection of music, video, and photos. They add up to much more than 256GB, so there's no way I could store all of that on an iPad, even if I were content to do so. While I rarely need to access these files, I don't want to delete them. On the contrary, I want to be able to periodically view and edit the files. Again, doing this with an iPad is nearly impossible.

Third-party cloud solutions are not the answer. For one thing, there's the matter of cost. Storing 500GB of data to Dropbox, for example, will set you back $500 per year. That's more than I am willing to pay.

In any case, I wouldn't want my only backup and archival source to be something that requires an Internet connection to access.

Increasingly popular are devices that allow for wireless drive connections. Several such alternatives were on display at Macworld/iWorld this year. These include Hyper's iUSBport, Kanex's meDrive, Seagate's Wireless Plus, and Connected Data's Transporter.

 

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