Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

Unpopular opinion: dismissing indirect pointers is a mistake

Here’s what’s going to be a very unpopular opinion: the biggest hindrance to productivity apps on iOS isn’t the app store but nonexistent support for indirect pointers.

Most office work involves text, which requires frequent and accurate text selection. The space between characters and words can get, unless you zoom the text size to be large enough to pass as skyscrapers, almost an order of magnitude smaller than the optimal size for touch interaction (44px vs 4-5px).

Text selection involves many tiny hit targets which means that touch is always going to suck for text selection. Text doesn’t lend itself to zooming in and out for interaction which is the default solution for small targets in the touch paradigm. In short: touch is less productive for office and school work.

Chromebooks are popular, in my opinion, not just because of their price but also that their built-in trackpads make them the Minimum Viable Productivity Machine.

A machine that has no apps to speak of but has a built-in trackpad and keyboard is more productive for office and school than one with the same screen but no trackpad.

Iterating on that foundation by adding Android app support, better support for high resolution screens, and additional interaction tools like touch or a stylus, is likely to make the platform a bigger contender in office and school work than any bare tablet platform.

This is also, in my not so humble opinion, the fundamental reason why, of two platforms that are largely stagnant and unexciting, the Mac is holding its own in sales better than the iPad, and why letting the Mac falter as Apple has is a big strategic mistake.

Neither the Mac and the iPad have had any major performance upgrades over the past few years. Neither have had in terms of innovation or progress on the OS-level. Both show signs of inattention by the platform owner. One is doing better than the other because its UI paradigm is fundamentally better for office and school work.

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