What A 15-Year-Old Can Do with a Year’s Worth of Babysitting Money

A fascinating open letter to Tim Cook by Zoe Olson, who saved up a year’s worth of babysitting money to buy an iPad Pro and Pencil to kickstart her illustrating career. At 15 (my own age), she bought an iPad Pro with her own money to start drawing and sharing her illustrations online. Soon enough, she got noticed by an author who asked her to illustrate for her children’s book.

To me, this is more than an apt description of the iPad Pro’s capabilities; it’s also about how young people can find exciting opportunities through the internet and modern technology not entirely possible just ten years ago. What’s more; Tim Cook replied to her email.

Preliminary Thoughts on the iPad Pro: A High School Student’s Perspective

The reviews are out, and the iPad Pro is now shipping. We’ve seen the 6,000-word long review from MacStories (as we’ve come to expect, really). We’ve seen interviews with Apple executives about the new device. We’ve also seen PC enthusiasts scoff at the idea of a tablet (however powerful) replacing the long-beloved laptop. It’s clear that the iPad Pro is a controversial device. To many, it’s Apple simply making a bigger iPad. To others, it shows a clear path of where mobile computing is gravitating toward. In many ways, the expansion of mobile computing is now headed straight at two key markets: enterprise, and creatives.

Apple is branching out into business. Last year, they partnered with IBM in an interesting partnership that saw Apple become much more relevant in the enterprise sector. With the iPad Pro, Apple is taking full aim at business professionals. When the iPad first came out, many tried it out as their only computing device. That was a failed experience for these people. Apple’s software wasn’t developed enough to take advantage of the extra screen real estate. The technology and the interface wasn’t yet there to introduce new ways of interacting with mobile devices. Now, with the release of iOS 9 this fall (the most important update to iOS for the iPad since its invention), combined with the power and size of the iPad Pro, Apple is reintroducing the tablet as a PC alternative. And a very strong one, at that. With more power than ever, bundled with the world’s most advanced operating system, it’s easy to see why.

Apple also made a big deal to attract creatives too. Even their marketing strategy seems to point toward artists and designers. Their main iPad Pro page calls the device a “canvas”. Apps shown off include GarageBand, iMovie, UMake, and the many Adobe apps that now support iPad Pro. The Pencil is shown on their website exclusively for sketching and other artistic indulges, even neglecting PDF annotations that business professionals might use it for. The 12.9” screen is absolutely gorgeous and I’d love to doodle on that thing. I’m not so sure about whether I’d like to create UI design mockups or do WordPress development in Coda yet, but I’m sure there’s some friction to overcome to fully transition over from a desktop environment over to this lovely aluminum slab.

There is, I think, another category of potential customers Apple should be targeting (but haven’t), and that’s education. I study in a relatively high-end high school for international students in Hong Kong, and in place currently exists a 1:1 personal laptop deployment program. The first three years of high school education focuses on a core curriculum which doesn’t involve a lot of high tech. Most of my pre-GCSE days were spent in apps that exist on iOS today: Google Drive, Microsoft’s Office Suite and a web browser made up 90% of our technology usage in class. Once you go up a few years, classes become more specialized, as electives such as Media Studies (which involves a practical film-making aspect) and Textiles are thrown in the mix. These classes, as you can imagine, involves the usage of more sophisticated programs, but for the majority of students, a powerful tablet like the iPad Pro is sufficient for the demands of a rigorous high school curriculum1. Features such as Slide Over and Split View bring basic window management that existed on OS X and other desktop operating systems to iOS, which is the highest level of complexity in an operating system most students require to be comfortable. Since the majority of classes in the higher years only require a web browser and an office productivity suite2, the iPad Pro looks like a promising candidate for the future of classroom computing.


  1. Not for me, though. For my needs, which involve use of professional video-editing software (no, iMovie does not cut it), I still need a professional laptop. I write this on a top-of-the-line 15” MacBook Pro that often runs the Adobe CC suite and Xcode. 
  2. With the exception of the occasional launch of iMovie. 

Fraser Speirs’ Initial Thoughts On the iPad Pro

Fraser Speirs, writing on his blog:

I see the iPad Pro not so much as a laptop replacement for anyone who has invested 20+ years in being a laptop user. No, the iPad Pro is the “laptop” for people who, today, are 12-16 years old who will graduate from High School in the next few years and look for the next-level iOS device to take them to college and beyond into a career.

Speirs’ analysis of the iPad Pro is excellent, and this piece is a great read. My views are similar to his in that, the people my age will go on to use the iPad Pro as their everyday work device. Today, that’s the MacBook Air — many use the Air for just emails, Word documents and presentations. Speirs argues that these devices will be replaced by the iPad Pro in the next generation.

The iPad Pro: The Future of Mobile Computing

IPadPro Pencil Lifestyle1 PRINT
Today at Apple’s Special Event held in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Apple announced iPad Pro, alongside a brand-new Apple TV and new iPhones.

The iPad Pro is a 12.9-inch sized version of the original 9.7-inch iPad, with double the CPU performance, and brand-new accessories that help make the iPad Pro a productivity and creativity powerhouse.

Firstly, the display has been revamped to take full use of the amazing 13-inch screen. The screen resolution is 2732 by 2048 pixels, making the iPad Pro’s display great for immersive experience such as games and videos, but also content creation, such as drawing, video-editing (to some extent), and writing. Despite the large size, the iPad Pro is only 6.9 millimeters thick, and with a display of that size, a lot of processing power is used. To keep the iPad in check, the display uses variable refresh rates to distinguish between static content — sites, books (which run at 30fps) — and videos and games, which need more power to run, and looks best at 60fps. A powerful, 64-bit desktop class A9X chip allows for performance better than most PCs in the industry, according to Apple, while still keeping battery life to 10 hours.

The iPad Pro’s real power comes not only with its size, but also the accessories that come with it. The Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard are iPad Pro-specific accessories that are designed to assist both professionals and hobbyists alike in their trade: the Apple Pencil is designed for use by both artists and enterprise users, for which a whole new multitasking system was invented to allow for distinction between finger presses and those from the Apple Pencil. The display can also detect angle and pressure. Due to this, when sketching, apps can sense pressure applied by the Pencil to draw darker and broader lines, and also add shading based on the angle the Pencil is used at. While more advanced perhaps for use by artists and creative professionals, the Apple Pencil can also be sued by enterprise users as a markup input device — the Mail app supports annotations with the Apple Pen, a feature that can be supported by developers in their own apps. The Apple Pencil also has reduced latency — the time between the user drawing a line and when the system renders it due to an advanced prediction system introduced in iOS 9.

The Apple Pencil also has a lightning connector, and must be charged by connecting to the iPad.

The Keyboard case is a full-sized case for the iPad with a built-in fabric keyboard, with keys based on the butterfly key design that came with the MacBook in March, and is resistant to both water and stains. The Smart Keyboard has a new ‘Smart Connector’ that allows both power and data to be transferred both ways.

The Apple Pencil is sold for $99, and the Smart Keyboard for $169.

The iPad Pro also comes with four speakers on both sides, Touch ID, and an 8MP camera.

The real power of the iPad Pro comes in the software multitasking features that arrive with iOS 9: Slide Over, which allows users to slide over apps from the side to quickly check for updates, Split View, a powerful feature that allows to apps to run side-by-side, and Picture-in-Picture for videos and FaceTime calls that detach from their apps and can float on top of others.

The real power of the iPad Pro is in the built-in hardware, software multi-tasking features, and the accessories that help make it easy to both consume and create on the iPad.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 for a 32GB model and will be available in November.

‘Hey Siri’: My Thoughts on Today’s Jam-Packed Apple Event

Today’s Apple event will probably be the busiest of any of the past few Apple events, including June’s 160-minute presentation at WWDC.

What does everyone expect Apple will talk about?

At this moment, we’ve got:

  1. iPhone 6s and 6s Plus — there doesn’t seem to be any news regarding the 6c.
  2. A completely reinvented Apple TV. Featuring a new UI, new hardware, and a better remote, and most importantly, a whole new platform.
  3. Apple Watch. I expect that, since iOS 9 (and its GM) will be demoed today with the iPhones, there’s no reason not to expect the same to happen with the Apple Watch, especially since, as Gruber points out, it’s heading into its first holiday quarter.
  4. iPad Pro. We’ve gotten really chock-full already. I’m standing by two events this fall.

Now, the nature and tone of the past few events — starting with last year’s September event, with so much to talk about, events have become more and more rushed — remember when Tim Cook used to give you an update on Apple Retail, sales, App Store revenue, etc.? Well, all that’s gone, saved most likely for press releases and the stock earnings calls they hold separately.

Here’s what I expect, in terms of timing.

Within ten minutes of the event starting, we’ll get introduced to the iPhones 6s and 6s Plus. Tim Cook will introduce the event, and start off with iPhone — he’ll most likely play an introductory video, then hand it off to Phil Schiller to explain the new features/improvements/enhancements. Something I definitely expect will be a Force Touch demonstration with an app — maybe it’s a graphics app like Pixelmator or perhaps a game, but I think the game aspect will be reserved for the Apple TV. I expect the iPhone segment of the keynote to last around half an hour to forty-five minutes, including demonstrations. We’ll also definitely see it make an appearance during the demos for other products — most likely to show off the integration between the Apple Watch (with watchOS 2).

Apple Event, Act II: Apple Watch. Other than the purported new bands, I don’t expect Apple to add anything new on the accessories/hardware side, but I expect a full-blown demonstration involving iPhone 6s, Apple Watch, and watchOS 2 — this segment of the keynote will perhaps last about twenty to thirty minutes, since there’s not that much material to go through. One thing to expect: showing off third-party complications, perhaps with HomeKit integration. I don’t think a third-party developer will present it though.

‘One more thing’, part one: iPad Pro. An Apple Watch-esque presentation for today. That means an introduction, with a quick demo involving Apple Pen, the Force Touch display, and third-party apps that suit the Pro. Perhaps half an hour, but I don’t expect it to be thorough in the least. I think an October event is still in the running, where the Pro will be explained in depth, like the March event was for the Apple Watch. The October event will probably also have updates to OS X and Macs, and regular normal-sized iPad refreshes. As for today: I think the iPad Pro will be introduced, demoed for a while, but nothing that’s too in-depth. I could be wrong.

‘One more thing’, part two: Apple TV. I expect a normal, complete presentation. That means the initial introduction, perhaps in video form, presented by Tim Cook, with cameos from industry executives — perhaps from HBO or some other media company, as well as game developers that the Apple TV will have some ties to. This part of the presentation will take at least an hour, with the product introduction to, well, everything, as well as demonstrations from Apple about the UI and experience, gaming from leading game developers, apparently Periscope, as well as ‘Hollywood people’. I expect this to be the main segment of the entire event.

Looking at this summary, the whole event looks to exceed two and a half hours at most, so I doubt there’s enough time for anything beyond that that isn’t a must. An October event must happen.

Vlad Savov: ‘The MacBook Air Is on a Path to Extinction’

When Apple redesigned the MacBook Air in 2010, it created one of the best machines to ever carry its Mac label. That new laptop was a revelation: extremely thin and light, like the original Air, yet also powerful enough for most tasks and equipped with a long-lasting battery. For years, the MacBook Air has been a standard-bearer, the role model for every Windows ultrabook, but 2015 has not been so kind to its leadership position. Apple introduced the new 12-inch MacBook and updated the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, both directly competing with the Air, and for those not umbilically attached to OS X, Dell’s XPS 13 offered a compelling Windows alternative. And this week there’s the looming threat of the iPad Pro on the horizon. Has Apple forsaken what was once its best PC?

This story is becoming more and more likely by the minute — but it’s only been six months since the MacBook launched — alternate (unlikely) theory: in the October event, Apple updates the MacBook Air.

John Gruber’s Prelude to Tomorrow’s Apple Event

John Gruber weighs in on tomorrow Apple events. The most interesting part is that Gruber does not think everything will be announced tomorrow, and for the most part, I agree with him:

Not only does the two-event scenario seem more likely to me, I’d go so far as to call the one-event scenario inexplicable. Possible, sure. But not logical.

Same — with just the iPhones, Apple Watch updates, and Apple TV, we’re looking at a 2-hour event here. With another ‘flagship’ product tomorrow, we’re definitely going to exceed that by at least another hour, which even new Apple wouldn’t dare exceed — WWDC got pretty boring around the Apple Music part.

“If You See a Stylus, They Blew It”

These words were famously said by Steve Jobs back at Macworld, January 9, 2007. Jobs was describing the multi-touch input that was (and still is) the primary interface to the iPhone.

Before moving on to introduce the multi-touch technology, Steve went on a mini-rant about how fiddly styluses were1. “You have to get ‘em, and put ‘em away, and you lose ‘em. *Yuck*. Nobody wants a stylus.”

It’s been eight years since Macworld 2007, and nobody’s ready yet to move on. Every time a rumor comes along mentioning a stylus, someone always mentions that Steve Jobs have would never approved of it — whether it was the original iPad, or the iPhone 6 Plus, every single time a new report comes out about Apple making a stylus, people are quick to point out how much Steve Jobs hated styluses, eight years ago.

And I agree with Steve Jobs. Styluses as touch input tools are a terrible idea, especially for a 3.5-inch screen in 2007. Sure, they have a smaller tip and are more “accurate”. But software touch targets are larger now, and using our fingers for touch input is natural, and much more intuitive than using a stylus. But for the larger screens of today, styluses are much more useful, just in a different way.

“Nobody Wants a Stylus”

Whether you like it or not, times — and with it, screen sizes — have changed. With larger screens, people do more with their iPhones, ranging from playing games to taking notes for their business meetings.

Styluses have changed, too, or at least what they are used for. Back in the pre-iPhone days, they shipped with the Palm smartphones so that users’ grubby fingers wouldn’t leave smudges all over the terrible resistive screen. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best experience to use your fingers.

These days, people are using styluses for very different things. Drawing, sketching, note-taking, designing, prototyping. These make much more sense on larger screens.

With iOS 9’s official release coming up soon, more and more people are looking at the iPad’s advanced new features and are seriously considering switching to it for work, especially with the expected 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” (which allegedly will ship with a stylus).

The argument that styluses are redundant today is invalid; a lot of people will find styluses useful, whether for writing, taking notes, sketching or making art on their tablets. It’s not hard to imagine a creative director at a marketing firm making a mind map on an iPad Pro with a stylus, or an executive at a Fortune 500 company taking notes at a meeting.

A lot has changed since 2007, from the way we use our devices to how we interact with them. Styluses aren’t the same — as people find new ways to use these tools, I believe that styluses do have a future, even beyond multinational Korean companies.


  1. Styli? Styluses? 
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