(Via New Home Office on Flickr)
This isn't my office, sadly; it's Ben Brooks's. (BTW, if you aren't subscribed to his blog, you should go do that now.) I include the photo because I like it and think of it when I ponder the question posed by my title---particularly now that I have found a new secret weapon, DisplayPad. This allows the iPad to serve as a second screen, and it's a freaking DOLLAR. You start the companion software on the Mac and then just move the window over to the iPad that you want there. You can poke it with your fingers, but I find myself flicking through pages with my Magic Mouse. It has crappy resolution and lags a little bit, but it's totally functional and allowed me to get a lot done yesterday (and it was the type of work that necessitated comparing documents side by side, scrolling, etc). Which led me to wonder whether I really need my iMac. I very rarely use it anymore because I've grown so used to the blazing speed of the Air that it seems like a lumbering sloth. It's basically just around for storing and syncing my media, and with terabyte hard drives cheaply had anywhere...hrm.
On the face of it, it seems absurd to even consider having ONLY a tiny little 11-inch Air (and the iPad, obviously), and I am probably too chicken to commit to it, but I think it could be easily done. I have an external display I could use if I needed to, so really all I would need is an extra hard drive and possibly a USB DVD burner. I say "possibly" because I truly can't remember the last time I did anything with my iMac's optical drive. Anyway, both are cheap. I have a USB hub but rarely use my peripherals. I print so rarely the cartridges are probably dried out. My ScanSnap is probably the one I use most other than my iDevices cable.
I'm about 6 months away from the point where I would normally sell the iMac (I keep Macs for 2.5 years, giving my buyer 6 months of Applecare in case something goes wrong), and I really may not replace it just to see how I get along. I can't believe how powerful these little machines have gotten. It may be that I would miss the screen real estate or that I would grow weary of having to plug hard drives in all the time. Still it's tantalizing to think of going that minimalist and having it WORK. I don't know if Ben Brooks uses his Air as a primary machine, and he's got a 13-inch model, but I can see myself with a setup like the one in the photo...even though in reality my "office" is my recliner with the Air or iPad on a lap desk.
My apartment is getting less and less cluttered as time goes by because of technology. I don't have books or CDs everywhere; gone are the days of needing a giant computer desk to hold a tower and a foot-thick monitor; and of course telephones, fax machines, and the associated cables and stands are relics of the past. I drool to think my workspace could be reduced to one sleek corner.