What Is a Computer?

If you’ve seen the latest Apple iPad ad you might’ve had some sort of reaction to it. A kid asking “what’s a computer?” can stir up some frustration, but maybe it’s a question worth asking.

If you are using Lightroom on your iPad Pro and you’re doing your rough editing on the go you might already be on your way to one day use it as your main machine. Even with the first reaction towards the ad being one of slight anger, the question Apple has asked is supposed to make us think and maybe even question our perception of what these machines are and what we want from them. 


I for one won’t let my MacBook Pro go easily. I’ve spent some time teaching myself to touch-type, but I certainly type faster on its keyboard than I write on paper or tap on a screen. It’s almost unnaturally intuitive. I use shortcuts for the actions I do regularly to speed things up, and it’s surely not as easy to do on a tablet. 

However, the idea of using a stylus or Apple Pencil to contour or to mask something in Photoshop gets me excited and I can imagine it being the way most younger photographers will retouch and color-grade their images being the norm in the not-too-distant future. 

I might just be in a comfort zone of sorts, but this video surely made it clear that I will need to re-think the idea of a computer. 

Photo by Thomas Wong via Unsplash.

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Daris Fox's picture

Whilst Apple has made the headlines, Microsoft is the real leader in forcing change. Up until the original Surface Pro people just lived with the tablets being tablets for consumption and laptops/desktops as computers. MS blurred the line especially with Continuum on their mobile platform. It's easy to overlook the contributions MS has made to the industry especially with Apple 'claiming' firsts which other companies have had for years. Apple copied the Surface Pro as their iPad sales started to tank in an over-saturated market. It's going to be interesting to see how Apple is going to adapt to an hardware agnostic future which is happening as we speak.

Add into the equation MS is likely to redefine the mobile computer with their Andromeda project, not to be confused with their Andromeda OS (!), The spiritual successor to the scrapped Courier project. All told the next 5-10 years is going to be very bumpy and interesting as the market shakes out.

For myself, my travel computer is a Surface Pro but I do have fully kitted workstations and a Zbook 17 for when I need to render CGI/Video and do heavy duty Ps work. I'm a touch typist but for brainstorming it's quicker and easier to draw up notes into OneNote and type them up later than it's to use the keyboard. It's also more client friendly as people find you typing notes in a meeting rather intimidating but are far more tolerant to 'writing' on a tablet, it's also a great ice breaker for models when you're drawing up lighting diagrams and for clients creating a notes layer in CaptureOne/Ps. Connect onto a projector (through say Miracast) or a spare monitor and you've got a more interactive session as I've a spare pen to let the client draw on the screen with me which is a great way to engage in dialogue and very intuitive. I've used this to create sets for clients who have come back to me as they enjoy being engaged in a shoot and allowed to have that much control over the set. Since I also use the Skyport system I can change the light ratios on the fly through the tablet as needed, again a massive time saver on a fast moving set. None of this is possible on the iPad Pro, except being able to use OneNote, without a bunch of dongles/hacks.

Michael Yearout's picture

I can't imagine trying to use Lightroom, Photoshop or some of my other software on a phone or small tablet. However, I can image working with them on a Surface Pro or some other pad-type computer of a decent size (notice I did say computer, as they all are computers). But I like a large screen for editing, a Wacom tablet and a full size keyboard - they make my work faster, easier and more enjoyable. However, I am 60+ years old.