To reinforce the problems an iPad presents to users who wish to make it their primary computer I thought I'd share an illustrative experience which one of my colleagues has 'enjoyed' since being swayed from his Surface Pro 4 to the original iPad Pro 12.9" earlier this year.

His own use mostly mirrors mine. Citrix Receiver to a corporate desktop, local access to OneNote for extensive note-taking and the use of a number of local tools for day to day activities.

My colleague is a very Apple-oriented consumer, having both an iPhone 7 Plus and an Apple Watch, with an older MacBook Pro in use at home. The Surface Pro 4 was a step out of his comfort zone and he loved it. Until the point when the iPad Pro waved its Apple sauce under his nose and his partisanship took him down the road of the iPad Pro.

Now he finds himself in a particularly hamstrung position. 

For note-taking he is back to using a paper pad and pencil. Complaints about the Apple Pencil's battery life and usability for note taking have prevented him from continuing to take electronic notes. This retrograde step makes him hugely less efficient straight off the bat.

Then there's the desktop access part of the equation. Previously he used the same setup as mine. A single USB plug to a DisplayLink dock offering two 1080p monitors and a full size keyboard / mouse setup. With all that screen estate it was easy to drive Citrix across the two external screens and keep OneNote running on the Surface Pro's internal display. 

Now he is stuck with using the Apple Lightning to VGA adapter to mirror the iPad's single screen - not actually filling the larger monitor because of the difference in aspect ratios and with some loss of quality resulting from the scaling down of the iPad's internal display to 1080p on the external monitor.

This means using Apple's Smart Keyboard on the desk (which is a frankly horrible experience) together with the Citrix iPad mouse (which isn't and that because it's not an Apple product) to access the corporate desktop in Receiver. And having to toggle between apps each time he needs to use a local application. For example bringing up OneNote pages for review or editing.

Even leveraging the power of Citrix to drive a real computing experience the iPad Pro comes up short of the Surface - or indeed any other Windows 10 2-in-1 hybrid device. 

So whilst Apple is on the journey, it's starting from a long way behind. If anything its fair to say that the gap between the Surface Pro and iPad is greater now than it was when the original Surface Pro launched back in 2013.

That's a result of three years of complacency at Apple. And now it needs to work twice as hard to start reducing the gap. 

For my colleague I'm expecting a switch back to a Surface sometime in the near future. Despite his protestations of the iPad's adequacy, every day he becomes a little less defensive and a little more honest of the problems his setup now gives him. 

Painful for him to admit but Apple has no viable product for his use case right now. So for him at least, the above image is painfully true.

In a handful of tweets serial tech news site founder Josh Topolsky came down hard on the iPad and its usefulness as a primary computer.

There's a lot here that is true, however much of what is written is a criticism of Apple's current implementation of the iPad Pro, which is restricted by some very nervous baby steps in both hardware and software.

Apple missed the hybrid revolution and unlike previous markets Apple has disrupted (MP3 players and smartphones) by the time it realised there was an opportunity the gap was gone.

Tim Cook and team were guilty of dismissing the Surface and Surface Pro without considering the implications of a version implemented well. Microsoft even gave them a couple of years warning whilst it ironed out its designs.

So when Microsoft launched the Surface and Surface Pro 3 and nailed every parameter necessary to make a hybrid work well and then followed them up with Windows 10, which made them work brilliantly, Apple was caught flat footed.

Whilst every other OEM was able to bring competitive hardware to market by leveraging Microsoft's designs and Windows 10, Apple was left in, what appears to have been, decision paralysis.

Add touch to the MacBook or capability to the iPad? With sales of both falling Apple was like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

The iPad Pro was a lash up designed to make the most of a bad situation. Apple have the time to wait and swoop in with a game changing device as it had done in the past. Firstly iPad sales were falling too quickly and perhaps more importantly, Microsoft had left no gaps in the Surface for Apple to leverage.

So the iPad Pro arrived badly conceived and badly executed.

In that respect Topolsky is spot on with his criticism.

However two things should have moderated his criticism. Firstly, we know that Apple has the funds and brains trust to improve the iPad Pro to a point where it is less painful and compromised as a computer and, secondly, that there are a small but growing number of users for whom the iPad can already be a primary computer.

Evidence of the first comes from iOS 11 and the small hardware updates the new iPads received.

Evidence of the second comes from a number of sources: those iPad bloggers and fans who have made it a mission to do so, those for whom the iPad is the only computer they have known and the elderly for whom the iPad is the perfect protection from the horrors of the everyday internet.

In years give by I used to recommend Macs to friends and colleagues who wanted a computer for young children or parents because they were less likely to require hands on support because an unknowing user had done something semi-fatal.

Now that recommendation is an iPad every time.

So yes, I'll agree wholeheartedly that the iPad is worse than a computer on every way, that the Apple Smart Keyboard is garbage and that iOS is a mobile phone platform being made to serve outside of its capabilities. In every single aspect of what it does the iPad Pro lags behind Microsoft's Surface. And HP's Envy and Lenovo's Miix and Acer's Switch Alpha and, and, and... I could go on.

A time will come when all of this is no longer true though and at that point MacOS will die because Apple will need it to. Either the iPad stands as a full computer on its own or Apple abandons the desktop to Microsoft.

Either way the iPad is the future of Apple computers. It's a long journey, but Apple has at least taken the first step. Even if it is a baby one.

Pandora always struck me as a service you'd use if it were the first one you happened across and were disinterested enough in music to never bother changing. Its radio-like offering never struck me as something I'd choose to pay money for, having absolutely no advantages over true on demand streaming; and not something I'd choose to use for free, given its weakness compared to other free services.

With subscription based on-demand streaming finally on the cards it seems a strange time to be withdrawing from markets, but an announcement today confirmed exactly that - the two places where Pandora is available outside of the US - Australia and New Zealand - will shut up shop over the next few weeks.

For New Zealand at least, this plays into Spotify's hands. With an existing deal with Spark (NZ's number one mobile service provider) to provide premium subscriptions as part of both Pay As You GO and Post-Pay accounts it is in a position of strength. And its free tier is likely to be boosted by the sudden loss of service suffered by Pandora users.

Other services are available in NZ - Apple Music, Google Music and Microsoft Groove Music. I would guess that their combined subscriber numbers doesn't approach that of Spotify.

I guess the customers most likely to be peeved by this piece of news are Nissan owners, for whom the Pandora app is available through the Nissan Connect entertainment system. For the next few weeks anyway.


With the prospect of an eighteen hour flight followed by an eight hours transit and a further eight hours in the air my journey from Auckland looked like being something of an epic trip. So the technology I was going to be carrying needed to be carefully selected to ensure that the maximum could be extracted from the journey.

Aside from the issues surrounding the Qatar travel blockade, put in place by its Middle Eastern neighbours, there was also some concern over whether the laptop ban which affects US travel from the Middle East was going to spread to European countries. The dire warnings of anything larger than a smartphone needing to be stowed in the cabin were enough to focus the mind when packing for this particular trip.

In the end it turned out that the travel ban didn't happen and I was able to travel with technology bag intact. 

So what did I carry to get me through the journey? First of all I had my Sony PS Vita. For all its faults and lack of game titles the basics are there. Gaming on a smartphone is okay, but the Vita is in a different league with its better control system and higher quality titles. 

Also making the trip would be my Galaxy Tab S2, primarily as a reading device, but with several lengthy Spotify playlists downloaded for musical distraction and my favourite Android game, Dead Trigger, all setup and ready to play.

Finally my new 2017 Surface Pro would provide true computing capability.

All three devices would be supported by my Sony Noise Cancelling headphones, an efficient way of drowning out the noise of the 777-200LR's massive engines.

This all fitted nicely into my STM Scout small messenger bag. Leaving space for travel documents and passports; and being small enough to be classed as a personal item by Qatar Airways. This meant my two carry-on bags (Fancier camera backpack and a Swiss Gear flight case) were left free for transporting camera equipment, chargers and personal effects.

The STM fitted nicely into the floor bin of the extremely spacious Qatar Business Class seat, with the items themselves all fitting into the inside armrest pocket. As a result I was able to quickly and comfortably switch from movie watching to gaming to reading to eating. 

Overall the items I packed worked very well for the journey I undertook. I was able to play games, read and listen to music whilst in the air; and be productive during the long layover at Doha. 

I'm looking forward to undertaking the return journey. For such a lengthy piece of travelling that's quite an result.

Auckland is a long way from anywhere, so if you're travelling anywhere outside of Oceania or the South Pacific you're guaranteed a long flight. Earlier this year Qatar Airways introduced a new flight from Auckland to Doha, running to an epic eighteen hour flight time and crossing 12 time zones.

The flight currently uses the Boeing 777-200LR, the only plane able to cover the 17,000 flight with sufficient fuel reserve for emergencies. Qatar splits the plane into seven rows of Business Class seats, laid out in three pairs of two seats; and 23 rows of economy class seats laid out in three groups of three seats.

The Business Class seats are quite impressive - unlike the pod arrangements used by other airlines and on other aircraft the seat itself forms the whole bed, with no use of a ledge under the seat in front to extend the length of the bed. The space between the seat rows is epic - the entertainment unit has a huge screen because its so far away that anything smaller would be unusable.

The seat is well padded and comfortable as both a chair and a bed - it needs to be though, you're going to be sat in it for a very long time. Every part of the seat is adjustable via a control panel, including the strength of the massage feature. The footrest can be raised and lowered independently of the rake angle, meaning that short or tall passengers can find a good position with support for the lower limbs.

Qatar offers business class passengers a totally รก la carte dining experience. Choose anything from the menu as and when you want it. If you're travelling with older children you would be wise to check the menus in business class, fussy eaters may not be well served by a menu aimed at a business traveller. Younger children will probably need the children's meal.

Service from the Qatar flight crew was exemplary. It was no surprise to find out that Qatar was awarded the World's best airline by Skytrax just days before we flew. 

Viewing the 777-200LR from the outside the size of the engines is the thing which most impresses itself on you and in-flight the noise of the engines is also very noticeable. Fortunately Qatar provides some very nice noise cancelling headphones for the flight and these turn out to be very effective indeed. If you're planning on using your own devices for entertainment make sure your headphones are noise cancelling too.

Power for those devices comes from a USB port in the seat armrest, close to the three plug headphone socket. Whilst this provided enough juice to power a phone it wasn't able to charge my Galaxy Tab S2.

The only other gripe was with the entertainment units themselves. A number of other passengers on our flight had their consoles 'crash' or lock up and needed to be reset by the flight crew before they could be used. 

The eighteen hour journey turned out to be a relatively easy one for the passenger. It doesn't feel any longer than the twelve hour flight which links Auckland to other hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong; with the added bonus of reducing the length of your onward flight significantly.

Other than the usual jet lag we arrived in fine condition. How did my technology stand up to the journey? That's a whole different story - to follow.

I've written a lot about the new iPad Pro and Surface Pro in the last few weeks, comparing and contrasting the different products and their paths in their respective parent's evolutionary path. What I haven't included in that discussion is Android.

There's a good reason for that: Google hasn't managed to get its collective head around how tablets should work, why people buy them and how to persuade developers to rebuild apps to work on a bigger screen.

Samsung has done a good job of working around those limitations in the past, but the limitations remain nonetheless. And in truth the best size for an Android tablet is 8" because at that size blown up Android phone apps remain viable.

The latest round of Android tablets from Samsung adds stylus support (yay!) and throws out the 8" model completely (boo!)

In terms of hardware the Galaxy Tab S3 is close to the iPad Pro in many areas. In terms of software, well let's just say it isn't. 

Yet Samsung has priced the Tab S3 to match the iPad and it's a weight it just can't carry. Yes it includes the keyboard and stylus in its price tag but it needs broad app support to be of value to more than a small percentage of buyers.

Android tablet buyers tend to be looking for very basic features from their tablet - the ability to browse, play some games, perhaps listen to some music. Cheaper Android tablets achieve this just as well as the Tab S3. Cheap tablets make up the bulk of Android tablet sales.

It is perhaps for this reason Samsung has started building Windows tablets again and last year's TabPro S - which had many flaws - has been replaced by the much improved Galaxy Book, in two sizes to closely match the iPad Pro.

Whether Google will take this reversal and use it to consolidate everything around Chrome OS remains to be seen. Its inability to solve its tablet problems suggest we'll be waiting a while before seeing tablet features added to Android and when they are there probably won't be many high end users left to enjoy them.

Over the last eighteen months we've been seen a strange reversal in the position of Apple and Microsoft in the way the company's are perceived and the desktop products they have launched.

Apple has been guilty of leaving products to age too long, before delivering weak or poorly planned upgrades; and generally displaying the lack of vision it has previously been renowned for.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been on a run of success which stretches back to the Surface Pro 3. A willingness to take chances, push the envelope and an enhanced appetite for risk have characterised a hardware line which has, from a standing start, become a premium brand of PC hardware which matches anything on either side of the PC / Mac divide.

This despite suffering a relatively early setback with the original Surface.

So whilst Apple continues to rake in significant profits from its desktop line, Microsoft has built a multi-billion dollar business from being more adventurous, demonstrating a better understanding of what customers want, desire or will lust after.

Nothing defined this change better than the contemporaneous launch of the Surface Studio and MacBook Pro last year. Here was a Microsoft product which redefined what a desktop PC should be. Not a machine for everyman but a high-end device targeted at the sort of creative users who were once the preserve of Apple.

The MacBook Pro was badly received by customers, media and reviewers. A negligible impact on overall Mac sales demonstrated its weakness as a product. After just half a year on the shelves Apple has been forced to update it, something those customers who bought into the short lived 2016 model will be very happy with, I'm sure.

Now more than ever Apple needs to sort out its future desktop class offerings. Is it going with iOS and extending the capabilities of the iPad or is it going with Mac and abandoning the tablet market. Its current efforts are having a decidedly negative impact on sales as well as image. 


Apple's HomePod has been getting plenty of column inches since its WWDC unveiling, however there are some specific limitations which may prevent you from choosing this device, even if you're comfortable with its pricing.

It's only useful if you're all in with Apple technology and use Apple Music as your music streaming service. Right now that limits its potential market to around 27 million customers worldwide. Then there are the questions around Siri's performance. Is it really capable of being the voice assistant you can rely on around the home?

There is an alternative  for those looking for audio quality who also want quality in their voice assistant, if you're prepared to wait until later this year that is.

Harman Kardon's Cortana powered speaker is now official, after an embarrassing early leak, and it promises to bring the full suite of speaker / voice assistant capability to a wider group of customers.

The Invoke will support multiple streaming services - including Spotify but not Apple Music - and doesn't require you to own a specific line of technology to use it. Which extends its potential market out to around 140 million customers. 

When this goes on sale its going to be one of the more interesting products on the market this year.


This is the new OnePlus 5, the latest from the Chinese manufacturer that places premium smartphones in the mid-market value battle. Or rather, it used to. The new OnePlus 5 is priced so close to Samsung's highest spec Galaxy that it no longer makes any kind of value proposition.

The 5 is a disappointing phone in many ways. Despite demanding a hefty price tag it doesn't have the wherewithal to compete with the S8, nor many of the other premium tier Android phones from LG, Sony or HTC. 

No, the OnePlus 5 has gone for a particular market sector and made its best play for those customers who shop within it. That section of the, predominantly, Chinese market which wants an iPhone but can't quite run to one and will settle for a lookalike.

As a result OnePlus has made great efforts to ensure that the 5 looks almost identical to an iPhone 7 at first, second and even third glance. I mean really, look at it, OnePlus has been quite brazen in the way it rips off the iPhone design.

It's a move that will bring it millions of customers in China and no respect anywhere else in the world.
So, you've decided that you're going to make the move to a single device which can do everything and free yourself from the tyranny of multiple machines, complex workflows and relying on cloud services for synchronisation.

It's a good plan and, depending on which machine you choose to do this you'll need to get things setup in rather different ways. In either case the goal is to minimise the amount of time you spend on other devices as close to zero as possible.

Starting with the iPad Pro. For starters you'll need to decide how you're going to use the iPad.

If the iPad will be used on your lap you can throw away Apple's keyboard case and search out an alternative which makes the iPad more stable in your lap. In my experience the Brydge Keybord is the best option here.


If you're planning on using the iPad on your desk you'll need a Bluetooth keyboard and one of the available Lightning to display adapters. The iPad's display can then be mirrored to a bigger screen, which will save your eyes, at the expense of your arms, as you'll still need to reach out and prod the screen for most tasks.

Finally if you're going to be using the iPad as a pure tablet you've nothing more to add.

Having established  what hardware you'll need the next step is to look at what tasks you're planning on moving to the iPad. Is the software you use available for the iPad? Is there a third-party alternative. Does either work well enough to replace the tool you're currently using? Do you have the connectivity to peripherals you need?

To use a Surface Pro as your primary computer follow these three steps. Step one, turn it on. Step two, plug standard peripherals in. Step three? To borrow a line from an Apple ad, there is no step three.