I’ve been using my iPad quite a bit lately. I have to admit I’m a fan. I’ve spent every day for the last 17 years or so using a PC. After using an iPhone and iPad you really have to feel the PC has been left behind from a user interface and software experience standpoint. I often rant on about how much I hate the PC experience. But could a tablet replace a PC?
After playing around with both platforms, I’ve come to a basic understanding. Tablets are a great content consumption platform, but not a great content creation platform. In fifteen years at BioWare I created some great content on the PC and for a great deal of that content, the massive screen, precise mouse control and full sized keyboard were a mandatory part of the creation experience. The strength of a tablet; portability, ease of use and simplicity are the exact reason the platform has a hard time with content creation. Thinking about this move to dedicated consumption and creation devices lead me to think more about the PC. I hate the PC experience for what it is and how it forces me through some arbitrary hoop jumping constantly. I love the PC for the potential of the platform and the ability to create. In the average game there are hundreds of thousands of unique component parts which make up the user experience. Organizing those parts takes a great deal of effort and that is where the PC actually shows strength. The complexity of the PC is a legacy of creating large volumes of small components and gluing them together into something substantial. I’m confident there is a better method of organizing that data, but for the moment the PC offers a very simple method of dealing with them through the concept of small individual files.
For most content consumers the file management doesn’t offer the same benefit, which is why the Tablet feels so slick as a platform. I’ve tried using the iPad as a content creation tool, just for text processing and the experience was not great. Whenever I messed up I found it difficult to quickly fix the issue. I found formatting and “hacking up” the document to be a real pain, as the cut and paste interface is still pretty basic. I’ve seen a few fellows use the iPad as a sketch tool and I think that is the one area where it makes a ton of sense. With a special pen, the tablet actually seems almost magical. After the image is done, a weakness shows up, getting files back to where you can actually use them. I’m certain Apple will find a better way of getting content off the platform at some point and the “sync to itunes” dance can be improved. So, for the foreseeable future, I’m a PC user for content creation, even though it makes me angry and you won’t like me when I’m angry.
I recently looked back at our venture, Beamdog and I realized my political agenda in developing a digital distribution platform. I wrote my two directives on my wall. The first was “Fix the PC”. We’ve managed to get rid of software installation and file browsing for games and we hope to take that further. We feel this is a great first step in improving the PC software experience, but we are committed to poking into every dark corner we can to try to improve further. My second directive was “Give credit where it is due”. I want to build a place where the guy on the ground floor is the hero, not the guy on the top. Admittedly, in North American culture we like figureheads and heroes, so this is going to be a real challenge, but one I really feel is worthwhile.
Thanks for reading.