How Apple can make the iPad great again

“What do you do when you see a ground-breaking product sell hundreds of millions of units and enjoy sky-high user satisfaction? You watch sales steadily drop after that initial wave, not because the fad is over but because the product is so good that people don’t need to replace it. It just keeps working great for years,” Galen Gruman writes for InfoWorld. “Welcome to Apple’s iPad dilemma.”

“Five years ago or so, the iPad’s sales were so strong that some predicted iPads would displace computers as the primary computing device for many people. That hasn’t happened, but it’s true that an iPad can be your primary computer for many activities, at least for hours at a time. I for one haven’t brought a laptop with me on business trips for years now, just my iPad,” Gruman writes. “But I still need my Mac or Windows PC; a full-on computer is what I use at my main workplaces.”

“Apple really should support Bluetooth mice. How hard can that be? (Android does, after all),” Gruman writes. “The more difficult issue is supporting larger screens. The iPad has long supported external displays… So the issue isn’t the video connection per se. The display challenge is having iOS adjust to a large screen. That means supporting multiple overlapping windows like Windows and MacOS have long done. It also means ensuring applications can work at any window size, again like Windows and MacOS. I have no doubt Apple can make this work… These two changes would transform the iPad into a replacement laptop, while letting it function as the standalone iPad so many of us know and love.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We find that there are many older users longing to make iPad work like a laptop, because that’s what they know.

Take a look at a twelve-year-old who’s only really ever used an iPad for personal computing. It’s an eyeopener. It’s like looking into the future.

The answer isn’t to try to make the iPad into a MacBook. The answer is to provide all the tools possible in iOS for developers to make robust apps that can take advantage of the multi-touch paradigm.

In the meantime, while we wait for iOS and iOS developers to progress (it took personal computers 40 years to get to this point), we ask again: Who’d be in the market for a 12.9-inch device that’s a macOS-powered MacBook when docked with its keyboard/trackpad base and an iOS-powered iPad when undocked?

As we wrote in January: Here’s an idea: Apple could sell iPad Pros as they do now, and for those wanting a “Mac,” Apple could sell them the macOS-powered display-less keyboard/trackpad/cpu/RAM/SSD/battery base unit. Attach your iPad for the display and off you go, you Mac-headed truck driver! Plus, you get to use the iPad’s battery, too, extending battery life to provide a truly all-day battery for portable Mac users. Detach the display and you get your iOS-powered iPad back, same as always.

Too outside the box? We’d love to be able to take our 12-inch iPad Pro, mate it with this theoretical Mac base unit, and turn it into a portable Mac. Right now, we carry 12-inch iPad Pros and MacBooks in our backpacks. Guess what’s redundant? Right, the displays. We don’t need to carry two screens on the road. The iPad Pro’s screen would do just fine, thanks.

Buy the Mac base on its own (for those who already have 12.9-inch iPad Pros) or buy it as part of a package (get a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro at a nice discount when you buy it with the Mac base). Imagine if Apple had unveiled this headless MacBook that you use with your iPad at their iPad event last fall. How many more 12-inch iPad Pro sales would such a product have generated? Enough to return iPad to unit sales growth, we bet. And, how many more Macs would have been sold, too?

Illustration from Apple's hybrid Mac-iPad patent application
Illustration from Apple’s hybrid Mac-iPad patent application

16 Comments

    1. Over and over, on and on for years. No! The iPad is not laptop replacement. It’s a scaled down, stripped down, computer that is extremely limited because it has a small screen, must run for long periods on battery power, and uses crappy low power hardware with a productivity-deficient OS.

      Anyone who thinks using an iPad over a laptop or desktop for any serious work is a delusional idiot.

  1. The iPad has never been as great as it is today. What, you want thick, heavy, slow, low res, no camera, no Touch ID?
    “HELL YEAH! AND GET OFF MY LAWN!”

  2. Like the writer, I haven’t opened my Macbook for a looong time. The only peripheral I carry with my iPad Pro is an Apple Bluetooth keyboard for heavy duty typing. Otherwise the standalone iPad suffices perfectly. Naturally that’s just a solution for me, but while I like a two mega-screen desktop MacPro for heavy duty projects, its use case is more clearly defined and less frequent. Trucks versus cars.

  3. My iPad (which I need to replace – my old iPad 3) is strictly for information, video, social media and basic needs. Everything else is on my Macs. And I spend a LOT more time with my MBP 2014 hooked up to an LG Ultrawide because the display is so great. iPad’s can feel at times a little too claustrophobic for other kinds of work and will never be ready for the heavy duty pro prime time by virtue of processing power and too small a screen. (Never say never I suppose but I think it’s safe to say the folks at Pixar won’t be using a future iPad to create rendered 3D animations on.)

    Even writing screenplays I can put up 3 pages at a time up on an Ultrawide display (using the wonderful $50 FADE IN program which beats Final Draft 10 to me – even though I have that too.

    Still waiting “long time” on a new “real” Mac Pro designed for pros since 2015. Also curious about the iMac Pro but it’s doubtful it’ll be to my liking. Still flirting with a PC Workstation idea but current Wanna Cry headlines certainly diminish my already weak enthusiasm. I do think the Mac might be in a world of hurt if more apps were ported to Linux and Linux were optimized as a pro OS, which it sort of is already.

  4. I’m tired of this MDN meme of kids doing amazing things. Sure they make amazing nasty tweets. For people (including kids that grew up with iPads) that have to work and actually create things like real presentations (not edit some presentation that someone already made on a mac, but actually, from scratch make one), or a video, or a huge complex report, the iPad is not the device for serious development. Heck, it doesn’t even have a real file system. Any professional will have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of files they need to work through from past projects, etc., that’s just not realistic with the iPad. Holding your breath and clicking your heels will not make it so.

    It’s FAR past time for Apple to add a file system and mouse/track pad abilities to the iPad, and start converging the two into some kind of blended platform.

    For the record, this truck/vs/car analogy is old as heck too. For those not paying attention, the TRUCKS (SUVs) won, and regular cars lost that battle. So the analogy is either tell you otherwise, or people need a new analogy to maintain this farce that the iPad is someway useful for real professionals doing hardcore work.

    It aint, and Apple needs to get off it’s butt and do something. In 2010 they had an excuse for not extending the iPad, it’s been7 years, and the UI/OS are fundamentally the same. There’s been no vision to extend this, and it’s part of Apple’s problem of being lazy and not doing squat.

  5. The iPad is what it is. It is a different computing platform for people who need to do about 90% of what the average computer user does. In light of the last few days, it should be pointed out that it is quite possibly the most secure computer, next to one that is turned off.

    All of your web work, social media, research, general writing, telecommunications, book and magazine reading, etc., can be done on the iPad. No, it is not the platform for certain heavy computing functions like video editing, image editing, 3D design, or software development, but… give it time.

    As serverless computing and microservices begin to take over the DevOps world, new UI paradigms will emerge that allow the iPad to truly function in lieu of a convention computer.

    Apple knows what they are doing here. The iPad and other iOS devices fit their Information/Internet Appliance model of future computing.

    They just need to realize the future is not quite here and those of us driving around in trucks still need them for the foreseeable future.

  6. I have an iPad Pro and it is on it’s best day no replacement for even the most mundane desktop Macintosh. The overpriced pen sits unused and the iPad Pro is mostly what I schlep with me instead of my MacBook Pro- which I am typing this on.

    I would love to see a focus group between Apple iOS designers and iPad users- something Apple would never let us see. The kludgy way iOS handles files and it’s inability to force desktop sites means it will always be a second class citizen on the Internet. I despise mobile websites and most of the internet disregards browsers that request Desktop sites and force the mobile site on you.

    The iPad at it’s best is a media consumption device and the iOS video app sucks horribly. You can no longer delete files after watching them through the app and it will not load files from a Jump Drive into the regular player- you can import a movie from a jump drive to the photos library, but not into the Videos app.

    Integration of 3rd Party Password Managers like 1 Password in iOS Safari is very poor. Battery life is also an issue- there is no way the iPad Pro has the battery life Apple claims if you use it the way most would use it. The shipping of a thousand Dollar iPad Pro with the skimpy power adapter shared with lesser iPads is also not up to the standard or image of Apple- I went out and bought the overpriced USB C cable and 27 Watt Charger so it would not take all day to charge the damn thing.

    iOS needs to allow users more access and control of the file system and types in order to be taken as a serious computing device.

  7. The problem with getting iOS devices to support other screen resolutions is that the Apps are designed to work at the very limited variety of screen dimensions that make up the iOS family. This has allowed Apps to look amazing but at the expense of scaling (since there was no need for it). If the Apps need to work now on different screen dimensions and resolutions, the answer for the immediate time is either to have un-resizable windows the Apps run in or face the ‘jaggies’.

  8. It’s not about making an iPad into a laptop because I’m old fashioned, it’s about comfort. When you’re using the iPad without the keyboard, the touch interface is great, however, when using it with a keyboard the touch interface becomes uncomfortable and slows down the interaction time. I suspect this is why Apple hasn’t released a Mac with a touch screen, they realize the trackpad in this format is much more comfortable for the user.

    1. I think it more depends on what you’re interacting with. There are certain things like chording, rotation, and zooming in and out that are unwieldy using a mouse but intuitively simple with multi-touch.

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