Curious anecdotes that arise in the world of technology, loaded with meaning by those who play a role in them. In the last one, we have as protagonist the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, traveling around the world promoting his new book about how he is reinventing his company. At a para in India, the episode in question occurred.

“You need a real computer, my friend”

While entering the press room, Nadella addressed these words to two TechRadarjournalists who tell the anecdote. Both had their iPads ready to cover the event, which prompted Nadella’s comment:

You need to get a real computer, my friend.

The tone of the comment was funny, a small observation with a lot of meaning. It is a clear reference to the fact that many consider the iPad an inadequate device to perform a real job. An opinion that leads to affirming that they are not suitable devices to work.

The underlying problem is that each user understands “work” as something different, according to their uses and needs. For the programmer, an iPad does not work because he cannot complete all his tasks in it. For the scientist who handles thousands of data, moving through its interface without the precision of a mouse is a nuisance. The engineer who manages CADs is best handled with the peripherals of a conventional computer.

The “real work” is a definition that depends on each one and varies from user to user

Seen in this way, it is understandable that people who move in these types of environments consider that the iPad is not suitable for work. The problem is that when you get a hammer, you see that the problems around you are shaped like a nail and you ignore that a wrench or pliers can work with other sets of problems. Problems for which a hammer is not well equipped.

“What is a computer?”

A few days after the comment of the CEO of Microsoft, Apple published one of the best iPad ads I remember in recent years. Let’s see it again because it is also loaded with meaning:


We are not going to rehearse the announcement again, but the key is found in the four words pronounced by its protagonist: What is a computer? She has an iPad Pro with keyboard and iOS 11 installed, which gives her the versatility of Apple’s(no longer so) new operating system. A device with cellular connectivity and where you have the Apple Pencil at your disposal, of course.

If you look, Apple says “computer.” It does not even make the typical distinction of PC or Mac, is putting in the same bag both platforms, putting at the same height both Microsoft and the computers on the block. This is not the coincidence.

If this same ad had been filmed a few years ago, we would see a PC or a Mac instead of the iPad. Maybe even an infamous netbook. But it would have been totally different: no cellular connectivity, with a case and without a touchscreen or stylus (which is totally optional on the iPad). Not to mention that young people today (my God, I get old!) Just touch a computer and have a smartphone in their hands.

I’ve seen kids do class work from a smartphone and then move like a duck out of water when you put them in front of a computer really. It is not something that is generalized (yet), but it is happening. For them, a conventional computer is a strange device, with an indirect interface that generates some disorientation. For those of us who are in contact with each other every day, they become instinctive, but they see it as rudimentary.

The iPad is not a substitute for the PC, it is an alternative to do some things that a PC does but in a different way and many other things that are new

In a way, the mouse and keyboard have facilitated thousands of things in all this time, but they have also been a barrier to entry to less sophisticated users. For these, a touch interface like the iPhone and then the iPad is much more comfortable and accessible . With the keyboard, Apple Pencil and the arrival of iOS 11 , the proposal has become much more attractive.

The transfer of attention from conventional computers to the iPhone, smartphones in general and the iPad is generating a lot of discomfort for the intensive users of a lifetime . Users like Satya Nadella and Microsoft, because much of their past (Windows) and future bet (Surface) are anchored to that paradigm.

This should make us rethink what a computer is. What is the concept behind this device, beyond a PC or a Mac? A computer is a tool that combines hardware with software and services to help us perform a task. Either design the planes of a train, edit video in 4K, write an email, chat with friends or play.

Given this, we could ask: is the Apple Watch also a type of computer? In my case, I have it clear.