The iPad Pro has some limitations when you compare it to a traditional laptop with a touchscreen and pen compatibility. I think any fan of the device who’s honest with themselves understands that. There are fewer of them than there used to be thanks to Apple’s efforts to beef up the iPad on the software side over the last three years. The release of iPadOS this summer was a another big step in this process, freeing the iPad from the hardware and software schedule of the iPhone.
Thanks to the improvements in iPadOS, we now have better and more flexible multitasking and support for external storage. It seems like Apple is invested in closing these gaps and making the iPad Pro a legitimate choice as a primary computing device. If they continue on this path, then the iPad Pro software will finally start to truly tap into the power of the hardware.
There is still one issue that I keep bumping into on occasion that is unfortunately beyond Apple’s control. That problem is abandonware. There are more tablet and touch-focused apps for the iPad than any other computing device on the planet. However, some of these apps get off to an interesting start only for the developers to completely lose interest and give up on them.
This issue isn’t isolated to the iPad Pro. However, it is much easier to work around it on traditional computing platforms. I still have VM Ware virtual machines to run Windows 98 and Windows XP applications that I still need for work. I can then run these older legacy apps on a brand new computer of my choosing. My company also just bought an older refurb Dell laptop with a serial port to run XP for a customer’s legacy system. Unfortunately, I don’t have any options other than keeping older iPads around to run a legacy iOS app.
I ran into this problem again last week with a new application that I am going to start using at work. The new program is Bluebeam Revu, a PDF editing program that allows contracting firms to effectively do their job takeoffs digitally. I went to a class last week that showed how we can implement this program as the backbone of a completely digitized system that dovetails with our existing estimating and engineering software. It’s a very impressive suite of apps and integrations that should speed up and streamline our processes. It allows for easier sharing of job information among teams.
The main Bluebeam Revu program resides on my Windows laptop along with my estimating and engineering software and that’s what was covered in the class I attended. However, one of the first things I checked into was whether an iPad version of the app was available. You see, I’ve been using my iPad Pro for blueprint notations and takeoffs for year now, so I am already all-in on going digital. As much as I liked what I saw using Bluebeam Revu on my desktop this week, nothing beats the experience of notating drawings with the Apple Pencil. While I need the desktop Bluebeam application, adding the iPad Pro into my workflow seemed like a no-brainer.
That was until I looked at their apps in the App Store. The constant theme in the reviews was that, despite a few recent updates, this is basically abandonware. It crashes repeatedly and has gotten no new recent features and has very little support. These sentiments were echoed by one of the guys leading the class I was in. The worst part- the main Bluebeam Revu app costs you $9.99 for the privilege of it sucking.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated thing. A lot of companies have rolled out iPad apps only to pull them or leave them to rot still sitting in the App Store. It is a legitimate problem for the platform, as well. Even though touch and pen support in Windows is far inferior, that platform has a much larger base of actively supported enterprise applications. Apple’s tablets have far surpassed any others as far as quality, specifically developed applications, but it isn’t nearly as complete a library as Windows has. If Apple is really serious about making the iPad Pro a truly stand-alone computing device, this gap needs to be closed.
How can Apple do that exactly? First of all, they need to get more serious about continually cleaning up the App Store. Abandonware needs to be be called out and rooted out. The developers of such apps need to be encouraged to get their apps up to a certain standard of basic performance, or they need to remove the apps from the store. Rather than just playing bad cop, though, it would really help if Apple would create teams to help developers that may be behind the curve catch up and get their apps up to code.
The other thing Apple needs to do is simply maintain its current course. They need to keep filling in the gaps in iPadOS and making it a fully fleshed out operating system. The more versatile the iPad Pro becomes, the more likely developers will be to embrace it as more than a secondary platform for apps with secondary functionality. The more attractive the platform is and the more these apps get used, the more incentive companies will have to keep their work up to date.
Abandonware isn’t a simple problem for Apple and it doesn’t have a simple solution. All they can do is take care of their business, take out the trash and try to give some help and resources to the developers who want to get their acts together. If they do, hopefully apps like Bluebeam Revu will become less and less common.