There are no flying cars, but we’re living in the future.
You can tell because people keep pointing to the iPad as proof.
But the future isn’t perfect.
There have been rumblings about the clumsiness of document synchronization between the Mac and iPad with iWork documents from Keynote, Pages and Numbers.
John Gruber has suggested, in his thorough iPad review, that you should be able to “specify iWork.com as the canonical shared storage location for an iWork document”, so that there’s no more user-management required and no more duplication of your documents every time they migrate between devices.
In fact it’s a bit surprising that it doesn’t work this way today, given how magical the iPad is according to many.
Why isn’t it this easy? I think the trouble is that iWorks documents can get huge.
Most of my presentations, by the time they’re 15 or 20 slides, have 200 MB of embedded graphics and video. Today’s high-res photos and HD videos — which Apple has encouraged us to store in iLife or Aperture, and easily adding them to iWork documents is a key selling point — leads to this. My Numbers files rarely contain graphics, but that won’t be true for others; same for Pages.
The end result is that on a typical high-speed connection, it could take an hour or more for a graphics-heavy document to upload. That will take a fair bit of the “magic” out of the iPad experience.
Which is why I think the USB-tethered syncing of iWork files to the iPad is tolerable. For now. Even with a DSL or cable connection, which is typically much faster into the home or office than out to the cloud, it would take a long time to move all that data around. It isn’t going to be like adding a new contact on your iPhone and seeing it on your Desktop a few minutes later: it could take an hour or more to upload even a moderately-large file at 30 or 50 kilobits per second.
Time to check that your ISP is delivering the bandwidth you’re paying for.
Yes, Apple can get smarter about storage (keep the file local and the linked/embedded media in the cloud; or only keep low-res proxies of the media on the iPad, especially where it can’t print).
These problems will diminish as network speeds improve, but they haven’t in 10 years, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.
For now Apple needs to work on the iTunes-based file transfer and iPad-based file management — no mean trick on a device designed to shield users from its file system — and hope ISPs (or Google!) solve the network problem soon.
Or let us all move our iPhoto/Aperture/iMovie/iTunes libraries onto MobileMe or Dropbox where our digital assets will always be available all the time.
I’d pay for that.
Now… where did I leave the keys to the hovercar?
Update (9:50 pm) — John Gruber has just posted a piece quoting Tim O’Reilly on iPhone/iPad media syncing. Gruber’s take: turn MobileMe into a free cloud-sync service.
I’d still pay for it.