Rethinking the Windowed Interface with iPads

My MacBook Pro Retina was in Houston TX last week receiving another new screen (however for an Apple Rev. A product, this laptop is superb from my experience). I had planned to do work on my dissertation research using the 13" MacBook Air upstairs, but with a maximum resolution of 1440x900, editing documents side-by-side is tiring on the eyes, especially with those enormous non-retina pixels (first-world problems).

If I was taking notes from a "tree-book" source, this would not be a problem. Taking notes from an electronic sources, such as this long PDF that I really do not want to print out, really requires at least 1680 virtual pixels of horizontal screen resolution.

So, I appropriated my wife's Retina iPad, and I downloaded the PDF from Dropbox into PDFPen. I attached that to a power source (not really needed), and put it in a stand on my left. Then I transferred the latest version of my notes for this source (conveniently written in Pages) from Dropbox into Pages for the iPad onto my Retina iPad. After plugging in some power and some speakers, and linking up the tiny bluetooth keyboard, I am good to go.

I realize that I have actually created a a combined desktop of 2048 pixels high by 3072 pixels wide. That dwarfs the 15" MacBook Pro Retina's resolution of only 2880x1800. Wow!

Now, theoretically, I could buy 2 low-end iPads for $998, and have this same setup. They are both communicating with each other via Dropbox and iCloud. I mean, this is some serious future stuff going on here. Now imagine if they could "talk" directly to each other. Imagine if you could drag items from one "screen" to the other "screen" (the technology exists, but has not been implemented by Apple). Remember, these are two fully functional Post-PC devices here. This is no sweat for them. Imagine if they could use both of their FaceTime cameras to conduct a "3D FaceTime". The possibilities are limitless.

For less than $1996, which is still cheaper than the low-end Apple MacBook Pro Retina, I could have 4 retina screens going, each with 2048x1536 worth of pixels. I could have a website open, email open, word processing open, and source material open. I could use a Logitech K760 keyboard to switch amongst them with the touch of a button (yes, only 3 of them with one awesome solar-powered keyboard, but I don't need a keyboard for the "sources" iPad).

How about Lightroom of the future? One iPad is now the photo editor viewer and another is showing thumbnails and another has all of the adjustment commands.

Then let's bring some Dropbox-type magic. Each of our iPads only has 16GB of storage. But they each have the "right" 16GB of data. They know what each other has in their 16GB of storage and of course there is at least 64GB of cloud service. Think a mixture of Apple Fusion drive where the cloud and the other iPads are the "slow 5400 rpm drives".

This is the kind of thing that I would have loved to see on Horizons at 1980's EPCOT. iPads are getting so "cheap" relative to desktops that maybe we should start rethinking the windowed interface. Maybe the iPads are the windows, and real-life is the desktop background. Woah! Now if only the iPads could float side-by-side within an anti-gravity field.

Note: I used this setup for several hours. It worked really well, although I had a Pages/iCloud failure and lost about thirty minutes of work. So I guess before anti-gravity fields I would prefer to have a more robust and stable iCloud implementation.