The iPad Mystery: How far will Apple go to blur the line between an iPad and a Mac?

“Apple continues to profess optimism for the iPad even as sales continue to decline. In particular, the company hopes the new, beefier iPads will lure content creators away from conventional (and also declining) PCs,” Jean-Louis Gassée writes for Monday Note. “But how far will Apple go to blur the line between an iPad and a Mac?”

“The iPad’s elongated upgrade cycle, an affliction to which the iPhone appears to be immune, has ravaged sales,” Gassée writes. “After an initial burst of interest in the iPad, content creators quickly realized that they couldn’t conduct their most important productivity tasks on such a machine… Let’s divide tablets into two groups. The… ‘lean back’ consumers [who] watch videos, browse the Web, read email… Over in the ‘lean forward’ camp… content creators quickly realized that they couldn’t conduct their most important productivity tasks on such a machine… In other words, for many people and most uses, an iPad couldn’t replace a Mac. Hence the flagging desire.”

“The [iPad] Pro, in name and in organs, is both an admission of error and a proposed solution: The original iPad can’t do enough for content composition/production, but the newer Pros will fill the previously unmet productivity needs. So far, the remedy hasn’t worked,” Gassée writes. “If we extrapolate the iPad evolution — a risky exercise in derivative thinking — we’re led to assume that the iPad Pro will usurp more MacBook functionality. One can imagine a version of iOS that offers multiple resizable windows, more file management features… Follow this line of thinking and you’re led to a quasi-MacBook that has a detachable keyboard, a touch screen, a Pencil 2.0 with a magnet, a somewhat simpler — but not too simple — user interface… To me, this is an uncomfortable contemplation; it could lead to a Swiss Army knife.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So, you need a simple “iPad” for the “lean back” consumption crowd, but you also need it to be able do more for the “lean-forward” computer-using creators?

As we wrote two-and-a-half years ago, back in December 2015:

Imagine an “iOS Pro” mode.

Turn on iOS Pro on your iPad Pro
1. Tap Settings > General, and make sure iOS Pro is turned on.
2. There is no step two.

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

Shouldn’t such a thing already exist? Where would iPad sales be if it did?


  1. I’ve seen some people go solo with an iPad Pro and as more services become web-based, the more it can happen as it will depend less on the computing power of the device.

    However, I beyond a keyboard we still need a significant leap forward in terms of productivity for the iPad to take off again. Without it, it may end up resembling the short-lived netbook era.

    My bets are still on Apple as they spend a LOT of time thinking through the hard stuff to make interacting with their devices easier.

  2. Apple in the last 5 years has lost its way, and it’s sad. Next year will be 30 years since my first Mac, and never anything else have I bought. I’ve managed thousands of Apple devices in education and corporate settings, so I am no fair weather fan. In the last five years they went from innovator and leader to flowing with the current and throwing out occasional hits. But now they’ve ditched their rudder and are trying to navigate with a trolling motor, going nowhere fast. They dropped all legacy ports on laptops suddenly, pissing off fleet admins like me, justifying it as “the future,” but then releasing a new iPhone and iPad models with no USB-C, but 5 year old Lightning ports. Lost at sea, flailing aimlessly, waiting for the circling sharks to start severing the ropes that are holding together this immense Apple raft. Apple thinks its raft is unsinkable, they don’t realize its success came from the dedicated techie fans who maintained the raft. Now that we’re falling or jumping overboard, it’s just a matter of time.

    1. Totally agree.
      I have also been complaining about the same thing, and some people pile on me :-). But it’s never been an Apple bashing, but crying my heart out to bring former glory and excitement back. Hell, just straighten out non iOS products. Apple did lose rudder. They became too profit obsessed, but with over 60% of the current Apple products being iPhone, a little less than 20% of world smartphone market share, yet over 84% of total profit share in the smartphone industry, what does it tell you? Yes, we are milked and paying too much for too little, and making Apple too phone dependent. Tim Cook is not an innovator, but a guardian of the shareholder and profits. He never originated anything, but merely harvesting what Jobs planted 10 years ago. All the while, neglecting anything other than phone. Yes, folks, Apple is now a phone company for God’s sake!

    2. “they don’t realize its success came from the dedicated techie fans who maintained the raft”
      Yeah, how DARE they dump on the Apple IIe users that practically MADE the company what it is today! I’ve always said dropping support for serial ports is the first sign of a failing company.

  3. Yeah, you can dream yourself to Aldebaran but you can’t beat the simple equation:
    Scott Forstall out x Jony Ive in = Bye bye Apple.
    It’s only a matter of time before the strong foundation built by Mr. Jobs will lay in ruins around Timothy D. Cook. And I will be truly mourning.

    1. “Scott Forstall out x Jony Ive in = Bye bye Apple.”

      Yes and yes. We do not need these fashonistas, including Angela Ahrendts going madly obsessed with watch bands, Hermes brand, and Jony’s ever obsessed pursuit of thinness etc etc. On top of that, Tim Cook always shows up on every social issue including BGLT concerns, toilet segregations and such, all taking advantage of Apple corporate platform. Stop these madness for now and return to Apple’s roots please?

    1. I see where you’re going, but I disagree. A useful Finder requires a robust, human-understandable file system, and iOS devices were not designed with that type of access in mind.
      MUCH MORE I would like to see a functional remote access/screen sharing function built-in to easily and securely link your iPad to your Mac back home or at the office. I’m not just talking VNC, but a service which automatically negotiates firewalls, allows you to pair Bluetooth mice and keyboards to the iPad for use with the remote device such that your iPad would essentially be a monitor for that remote Mac, and such that you could almost be as productive remotely as when in front of the Mac. Bonus trick, linking two iPads to be two displays for one remote Mac. An inexpensive iPad can do fine about 75% of what I need, and I would rather use it for that which it does well and to quickly link to a remote Mac for heavier work than to wade through the muck of inadequacy trying to do the other 25% poorly, even on an expensive iPad Pro.
      Imagine being able to grab anyone’s available iPad, authenticating to it with your Apple ID so you have no access to their stuff, but you then have a selection of one or more Macs you can connect to to be productive. Then you log out of that iPad, there’s no trace you were there, all the data went through iCloud.
      Well, a guy can dream, even if Apple won’t.

    2. Or better yet Apple can devote its “A” team of programmers to make the Mac the absolute best computer OS ever. Let the Twitter and Facebook crowd have their watered down ios. Apple should NEVER try to converge a walled garden consumer OS with a true personal computer OS with a real file system. EVER.

  4. It really is up to Apple to stop restricting the iPad in fear of taking sales away from laptops. It needs to be brave and inventive.

    My stepson uses both iPad and iPhone and is a football coach. Both are a great tool for him to use to take videos of coaching techniques and routines which he then puts on line with a YouTube channel soon to come. He realised he needed more space to store and make available offline and hit a wall. with no real USB functionality using an external hard disk becomes problematical and/or expensive. If he went non Apple there would be cheaper and easier solutions but he is restricted to a wifi hard flash drive or a somewhat restricted Lightning model. Not a killer but hardly an encouragement to create.

    Equally I saw that new large Dell touch pad the other day aimed at illustrators and artists, far more logical and practical by the way for creatives than the problematical, under-powered and expensive Surface computer and it got me thinking.

    As an illustrator I do various technical aircraft profiles on my iMac amongst other similar work. It suddenly occurred to me that if I could use the iPad as a similar input device it would be so much more useful than either of those devices with no extra cost than at present but far more flexible than either, and solve lots of problems better than a touch screen computer and would add value to the iPad Pro.

    To summarise, when doing image detail it would really help if I could mirror whats on my Mac on the tablet yet be able to as and when I need to zoom in on the tablet and use a pen or perhaps touch while the image stays the same size on the Mac but reflects the changes. This is because zooming in and out on the Mac can sometime show what looks good zoomed in while you work doesn’t look so good at normal size, you have to trick the eye and brain to get the right effect so being able to work on the pad in detail while instantly checking the result of the computer screen would be the perfect solution for me here saving time and effort between zooming in and out while giving touch and pen where its most useful instantly, far better than having to use a Surface type computer and more convenient and flexible than the oversized Dell pad. Immediately Apples logic of touch on one machine and cursor on the other makes perfect sense and would work seamlessly together as required. It would make it logical to have both types of device yet that combine in a way that is far less compromising than the others I mentioned.

    However whether Apple will see it that way is anyone’s guess, surely by now this is something they could and should have produced if they had been inclined to do so, many pros would love it and would encourage sales of iPad Pros and Macs while being a nice add on to allowing iPads and iPhones in particular running larger screens like the Galaxy S8 again something Apple should have brought to market first with its superior desktop knowledge, wider platform exposure and interaction, product & software advantages generally and more powerful A class chips to use.

    1. But how will will Sir Johny make those devices thin enough?

      Surely you must realize how important it is to look hipster compliant as you are walking from coffee shop to coffee shop.

      You simply cannot ignore those important facts

      (be sure to read this in a faux indeterminate origin European accent in order to get the full effect)

      sarcasm alert is now off

  5. Increasingly as a society, we are becoming totally obsessed with “consumers” as in iphone/Ipad junkies who are totally unaware that there is any other world than that which exists in the headphones or on the screen.

    And we are ignoring those who actually produce things. See how that works out when the grocery store shelves and the gas station tanks are empty. THAT is when reality will bite.

    1. It’s not a very good analogy because those that “Produce” the stuff for the shelves “consume” in order to create those items.

      I think in general your point is that “We are only making things for people that consume stuff” and, yes, that’s how it works. You don’t find much success making things that are not going to get consumed.

  6. Talking about iPad, yes, it appears to be stagnant with a lot of competitions. When Apple announced it, it was revolutionary. But Apple did not invent tablet. It was M$ that first pushed their tablet 10 years prior to Apple, but it flopped. Why? Because, when Apple marketed it, it was packaged with already well developed iOS apps so the iPads were really useful. So many years later, it hit the plateau but Apple really did not do (or was not capable of doing) a thing to jack up and stimulate the iPad market. Apple needed the innovation. The only potentially significant innovation that I can think of is to show new use cases for the products. Steve Jobs once said that “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” iPhone and iPad at the time were such products. Jobs also said that “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Without these kinds of corporate thinking, the products will lose their shine, and competitions show better products and ideas at cheaper price. I believe that’s what’s happening now.

  7. There’s no blurring of that line unless you follow the Microsoft Surface model – tablet-detachable version of a laptop, but with an OS that’s basically desktop with touchable features. Mouse navigation is still the most efficient way to interact with a computer, with touch and pen as semi-capable adjuncts.

    Content creation sucks on an iPad. The drawing angle is awkward, the file management is poor, storage is fixed and basically unexpandable, and multi-tasking is a weak kludge.

    If Apple truly wants people to think an iPad can “blur the line”, it has to chase the Surface model. Doable, but even then it will always have some sacrifices in the tablet form.

    1. Yes, Surface is doing well with competitive pricing as well. I am immensely tempted to jump to that heresy now. But the Surface is essentially the Windows machine with some mobile features. Actually, iPads are really popular in corporate world with what is called vertical market specialized softwares, such as in medical market etc. I do not know whatever happened with much fanfared tie up between Apple and IBM, but it may be working well in the corporate market. In the consumer/prosumer market, if the iWork suite for example is truly compatible with M$ Office, then I will continune using it. Instead, it is M$ who has been getting themselves pushed into iPads market by offering iOS Office suite at free of charge, while every updates of iWork suite seems to be degrading, chopping off important functionality etc. This is just one example in document handling area. But Apple has to become really serious in making iPad lines more “useful” by offering “useful” software beyond entertainment and a blown-up version of iPhone. In the consumers’ market, iPads are nothing but a book reader, content’s viewer and somewhat better use in school etc.

  8. There’s nothing wrong with a thin laptop what Apple needs to do stop making me iMac so thin and allow us to upgrade our IMacs as we feel needed. Then maybe have a 899 MacBook then only has a couple of portance real thin still need to separate charging port and then a USB port or something but I see nothing wrong with a lower powered MacBook that is really thin priced 799 to 899 actually could even go less really then maybe have a 899 MacBook then only has a couple of Porten’s real thin still need to separate charging port and then a USB port or something but I see nothing wrong with a lower powered MacBook that is really thin priced 799 to 899 actually could even go less really

    Then have a step up. Maybe a MacBook Air is the basic then the MacBook be more powerful but still more consumer oriented then jump to a MB PRo in both 13 and 15 in. These don’t need to be as thin. But should be light weight. No one cares how thin your laptop is. They do want light weight for having to lug around.
    Apple needs to come down on pricing too. I know tons of people who won’t buy mac just because of the price tag. Doesn’t matter about viruses and all they all say I just don’t have thousands to spend on it when I can get an hp or something for $500.

    Apple is no longer innovative just riding the wave jobs built. Jobs should never ever have allowed Tim (mr social on gay issues) cook to be leading.
    I love my Macs but I’m tired of not being able to upgrade and the extreme cost to fix stuff.

  9. iPads are great for many kinds of tasks, but they will never be full-fledged computer replacements. For me, the most significant shortcoming of the touch interface is that a stubby finger is a terrible substitute for a screen cursor—especially when writing. Editing text is very slow and clumsy on a touch screen, which makes the iPad a poor computer replacement for many ordinary tasks requiring lots of text input. For instance, I’d go nuts if I had to write a paper on an iPad!

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.