Why an iPad is better than a laptop

Reading time: 2 minutes

With all the hoopla and criticism of Apple’s iPad, there may be something hidden in the way the device is structured to help us become more productive.

No, not the “secret” reporting of the device’s location.

Rather, Jobs and Co. may be supporting our need to become more productive by way of the device’s limited ability to multitask.

Say what? Stay with me here.

There’s a growing sense of frustration with multi-tasking in the workplace. The New York Times recently pointed to a report from McKinsey Quarterly called Recovering from Information Overload, describing the increasing lack of productivity when multitasking.

Here’s the setup:

Add to these challenges a torrent of e-mail, huge volumes of other information, and an expanding variety of means—from the ever-present telephone to blogs, tweets, and social networks—through which executives can connect with their organizations and customers, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

Ok, so it sounds like executives (and this really should include anyone having any control over their lives) have a lot going on. At any time of the day, their To Do list is growing beyond their ability to catch up.

The natural suggestion is to try and squeeze more things into a block of time.

Multitask, right?

According to the article, wrong:

First, multitasking is a terrible coping mechanism. A body of scientific evidence demonstrates fairly conclusively that multitasking makes human beings less productive, less creative, and less able to make good decisions. If we want to be effective leaders, we need to stop.

Oof. Less productive, less creative AND less able to make good decisions? That’s no good.

Let’s get back to how Apple is discretely addressing this growing problem: the iPad. Multitasking on/in the iPad doesn’t really exist, at least not like we expect it to after years and years of computer then laptop experience.

See, on an iPad, you are in one application at a time.

Here’s an example: Right now, I’m in Blogsy listening to music as I write this post. Technically, I’m multitasking.

  • But I don’t have a bouncing icon in my dock notifying me of an incoming instant message
  • I don’t have a badge with a glowing and increasing number screaming at me
  • I don’t even have the ability to readily access my calendar to see what’s coming up in the next hour or so

Yes, these can be set up to notify me if something needs to be addressed (Hey! An alert that I have to pick up cat food!). But my focus is on the task in front of me.

Some have noted that the limited multitasking available on the iPad was a ding against the device’s otherwise sparkly reviews.

I say Apple was just helping us become a little more productive.

Multitasking. Pffft.

Source hat tip: I ran into the McKinsey article from this story from the New York Times: Message to Executives: Stop Multitasking.

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