Ingenuity Sans Apple SmartBoard: Sweet and Sour Grapes

My Cognitive Productivity with macOS book does not yet have a section on Apple’s “smart board” because, well, Apple does not yet manufacture one (for sale, at least). And when Apple does, the device will (presumably) run iOS.


My 3″ x 4″ magnetic whiteboard is a significant contributor to my cognitive productivity. Because I work standing up, I can easily access it. It’s also light and small enough that I can move it from room to room. For instance, before I walk up and down the stairs for exercise (which I sometimes do for an hour at a stretch, iPhone in hand), I often place the whiteboard at the top of the staircase. This allows me to quickly scribble whatever needs drawing. I’ve also been known to bring my whiteboard to the living room during dinner parties. (I would keep one permanently there but my spouse has a different preference .)

There are problems with a “dumb” whiteboard, of course. To save results, I need to take a picture. And until macOS Mojave and iOS 12 are released, with Continuity Camera, it will continue to be a pain to transfer pictures of my scribbling to my Mac. And of course, dumb whiteboards are nearly useless for remote collaboration.

When I told my wife I was writing about smart boards and the Apple ecosystem, she exclaimed “Oh yerk! Smart boards are such a pain! Teachers hate them!” (She recently retired from a school district.) But her next thought was, “Hmm… that’s exactly the kind of situation where Apple tends to clean up…” Indeed. The product would certainly be beneficial in education, organizations, distributed professional team work… all markets in which Apple is trying to gain ground. and even for family and friends. So, I assume it’s only a matter of time before Apple introduces a “smart board”.

Rene Ritchie recently hosted two ex-Apple R&D staff, May-Li Khoe and Bridger Maxwell, on his Vector podcast. These developers talked about their highly rated collaborative “online whiteboard” app for iPad and web, Scribble Together. Scribble Together is currently best experienced with iPad (compared to iPhone or web). However, imagine using it with an Apple “smart board”.

This fantasy is best enjoyed by consumers and business owners while not wondering how much Apple will charge for it. The affective response of Apple shareholders might be somewhat different.

The latter considerations add to my enjoyment of my current magnetic whiteboard setup (as does imagining the next iPad Pro + pencil that I intend to buy.) Plus, let’s not forget that Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and other scientific geniuses did their deep work mostly in their heads, aided with good old fashioned paper, chalkboards, and the like.

On that note, it’s back to theory-building with my whiteboard, which prompted me to write this post in the first place.

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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