Apple’s iPad Pro is not a computer

iPadOS introduces powerful new ways to work with multiple files and documents on iPad, and opens up new creativity and productivity possibilities using Apple Pencil.
iPadOS introduces powerful new ways to work with multiple files and documents on iPad, and opens up new creativity and productivity possibilities using Apple Pencil.

Evan McCann:

In many ways, of course, it’s a computer. It has all the necessary parts – screen, CPU, memory, storage – but in other ways it is decidedly not a computer. It all hinges on how you define the word. If you ask someone what a computer is, they will point to the nearest laptop or desktop PC. What about smartphones? More and more, people don’t use smartphones to make phone calls. They are more akin to an always connected, pocket-sized computer, even though most people don’t think of them that way. It’s a smartphone, not a computer. What about smartwatches? They have all the parts of a computer – screen, CPU, memory, storage – but I don’t think anyone would point to an Apple Watch as the definition of what a computer is. So in many ways, yes, saying an iPad isn’t a computer is obnoxious, but in other ways it’s true…

I find myself reaching for my iPad more often than a MacBook or any other “real” computer. It’s the best computing device I’ve ever used. There are still things a laptop or desktop PC is better for, but that list continues to get shorter.

Looking back on that original iPad, it’s pretty amazing to see where the cumulative year-over-year improvements have lead us. Every year there are less reasons to put it down and grab that trusty laptop. Looking forward, next year’s software will shave some of the rougher edges off of iPadOS and 3rd party apps will adapt to live in the new world. We’ll soon be looking back and wondering how we lived in such unsophisticated times.

For now though, it’s still not a real computer. It’s something better.

MacDailyNews Take: So, yes, of course iPad is and always has been a computer and, in the right hands, it’s in many ways better than the best MacBook Pro will ever be.

P.S. The Apple Watch is a computer, too. If it computes, it’s a computer.

14 Comments

  1. the iPhone, iPad and the Apple Watch ARE most certainly computers. They are just not “trucks” as Jobs described.

    The BIG breakthrough with the iPhone was that it IS a computer with a REAL, robust computer operating system customized for the “multitouch” user interface. Once one realizes that phone calls are nothing but software, the iPhone naturally followed.

    it is a huge thing to be able to carry such a powerful computer around with you- either in your pocket with the iPhone, on your wrist with the watch or in a portfolio with the iPad………. Again, the breakthrough was realizing that it IS a computer that needs a robust OS that iOS/iPad OS/watchOS has become. So huge that it has changed the world and the world economy.

  2. I am beginning to believe the term ‘computer’ is becoming something of an old fashioned relic of an age gone by that increasingly does not reflect the devices that are becoming the mainstay of our age but remains in our language as a habit. The same way that nobody calls a radio a wireless now and in all honesty even that term is losing its way, maybe we need to think about new terms to describe these gadgets that have gone so far beyond the original definition that reached something of a peak in the early nineties, but from a decade after that has really struggled to describe what we increasingly use beyond the decreasing number of now old world static boxes sat on desks. I suspect in another 10 to 15 years its usefulness as a term will be hanging on by thread and we will laugh at our attempts to describe an iPad and many other devices as an old fashioned ‘computer’ when perhaps we should be doing the opposite.

    1. “Relic” is the right word.

      Which is why Apple chose a child to ask, “What’s a computer?” Her generation just grabs the nearest device to complete whatever task is at hand.

      Even more so, the first “computers” took up entire rooms. Therefore, I wonder if those users when they saw the first desktops said, “That’s not a real computer…”

      I have my doubts. Rather I’m guessing they were blown away by how someone managed to squeeze all that computing power into something so small.

      Like an iPad.

      1. Desktop PCs originally fell under the umbrella of “microcomputer” (preceded by mainframe computers and mini-computers), though that referred more to it having a microprocessor CPU rather than physical size.

        Maybe it’s time to resurrect the term, or extend it so that smartphones and tablets are “nanocomputers” and even smaller computing devices as “pico-computers” (the latter might even be shortened to “pi-computers” as a nod to the Raspberry Pi)

  3. As capable as iPads have become, they still can’t compare to laptopts/desktops for basic things like text selection and input. Gorilla-arming a document or email is a massive step backwards from the precision of a trackpad. What’s wrong with both touch and a trackpad?

    Text selection and input is definitely worse in iOS13 on my iPhone and iPad btw

    1. Agreed on text selection. The multiple taps don’t work the way they are supposed to, Select All doesn’t exist in the contextual menu, and dragging out to more text usually stops because you can’t grab all of it. A step backward for sure.

  4. If I’m a writer, I’d use something with a mouse/trackpad and keyboard. It’s still awkward doing extensive text entry and editing with iPadOS, even with a physical keyboard connected. But it’s just fine for casual stuff, like writing an MDN comment or Instagram caption. The onscreen keyboard is very easy to use on my iPad mini. I’m sure designers of all types have their specific interface needs too, that are not met by iPadOS and iPad apps.

    Basically, the more time I spend doing an actual “computing” task, the more want my Mac. But I don’t need my Mac anymore for casual stuff, like browsing content and playing games. And it’s been that way for a few years… The new stuff in iPadOS didn’t suddenly change things radically for me.

    1. And yet the iPad is better than anything made before 1990 writing wise, if you have the talent you can write anything on a iPad much easier than people ever could before 2000. In short the iPad is a dream to use when to the so-called good old days.

      1. Not true. A good word processor running on a Mac Plus with System 6 (from the 1980s) is easier to use (whether writer has “talent“ or not) for pure writing, PLUS without distractions like auto-correction. The key is having a mouse and keyboard shortcuts. AND the real writing gurus (like office workers who wrote memos and reports all day every day) could mostly do it all without even touching the mouse. Having to reach and carefully touch the screen precisely is awkward, time-consuming, and inefficient for someone who writes extensively. They would go insane if forced to use an iPad for a living 🤪

  5. Computer is an old fashion term. For me the iPad Pro is better than any traditional computer ‘for me’. I know other people really require desktop computer, but I think those people are few. It is like only a few people need a truck, but due to fashion/habit a lot more have than require.

  6. An Abacus is a computer. This is all stupid semantics. Normal people know the difference between a ‘computer’ and a tablet. This psycho analysis is over the edge today. Or just click bait for hit whores.

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