Apple’s iPad transformed computing

Even some of Apple’s most dedicated fans seem to think the iPad has been something of a disappointment. “Apple cheerleader John Gruber, who usually ardently defends the company, feels the iPad simply hasn’t evolved,” Navneet Alang writes for The Week. “Noted analyst and former Apple employee Ben Thompson called the iPad not a failure, but rather a tragedy: something that hasn’t and never will live up to its potential.” But, really, Apple’s iPad has transformed computing.

Apple's iPad transformed computing: 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models.
Apple’s 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models
Navneet Alang for The Week:

It’s an odd contradiction: the iPad has sold nearly half a billion units and produced billions in revenue and profit, and yet there’s this lingering sense that it’s been a weird sort of dud — wildly popular and disappointing all at once.

That’s because according to these critics the iPad was supposed to revolutionary — to have the same kind of impact on the world as the iPhone. But what the criticism misses is that the iPad’s impact was always going to be less obvious and more implicit — and it still represents the future of computing…

For a device that’s just a disappointment, that iPad seems to have upended the industry nonetheless.

That’s not to say the criticisms are unwarranted. Rather, this situation is a product of the tablet not yet finding a particular grammar of its own — an interface and a hardware model that truly works for the tablet’s in-between status. Nothing is more emblematic of this problem than tablet keyboards, where even the most elegant solutions are awkward at best.

MacDailyNews Take: Look, it depends, as always, on what you do. If you write (blog), you need a good keyboard, you need precise cursor control, and you need to be able to cut/copy/paste accurately and quickly. As all written reviews are from writers, and the iPad is inferior to a MacBook for writing, what you’ll read is heavier on the criticism than from say, an artist. For an artist, an iPad is a total revolution. Ditto for musicians. But artists and musicians write far fewer reviews than writers (duh), so all we end up hearing about is an endless stream of how the iPad keyboard “sucks,” how iPad needs circa-1984 mouse support, and “where’s my trackpad?”

We use MacBook Pros to write. If iPad had a keyboard anywhere near as good as our 16-inch MacBook Pros and allowed us to quickly and accurately select and move text snippets, we’d use it more for writing (blogging). If iPad had coherent, intuitive multi-tasking and we could use it to quickly assemble images and insert them into our articles, we’d use it more. But, right now, it cannot come close to working as well and as quickly on both counts as our MacBook Pros.

If an artist or musician or someone from any number of other disciplines (almost every high-level exec we know today uses an iPad Pro far more than a laptop, if they still even have a laptop) were to write about the iPad, the story would be completely the opposite. iPad works far better for what they’re doing than a MacBook Pro. For many, Apple’s iPad transformed computing long ago.

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. — MacDailyNews, May 16, 2017

Our main gripe about iPad is about iPadOS, not the brilliant hardware, and that we feel Apple should be further along that they are now because what they’re offering currently significantly lacks intuitiveness and discovery. This is because the company lost their sole judge of user-friendliness and have not yet been able to construct a reliable system of replacing that singular point of judgement. This is why nobody can just pick up an iPad and figure out how to multitask with it today. If you have to read the manual, that’s not the Apple way; Steve would have repeatedly sent them back to get it right and make it discoverable before he’d ship it.

iPad’s multitasking certainly screams for a rethink. But it, along with add-on keyboards and rudimentary mouse support, signals Apple’s confusion as to what to do with iPad, what iPad is for, how iPad is supposed to work, and what iPad’s supposed to be. Steve Jobs had an idea of what iPad was meant to become, we’re fairly certain, but it seems to have gotten muddled since he passed too soon after iPad’s birth.

If we could boil down iPad’s problem, it comes down to an overall problem Apple has had seemingly since Steve Jobs’ death: Discoverability. Used to be, you could grab an Apple product and intuitively figure it out. That interesting, but half-baked ideas like 3D Touch and Touch Bars and iPad split-view multitasking whatever somehow made it to the public (we all know why: the final arbiter, the guy who’d send his engineers and designers back to their drawing boards the minute something wasn’t user-friendly enough was gone). These things, especially iPad multitasking, are simply not discoverable or intuitive or consistent and it’s in those very things where Apple misses Steve Jobs the most today.MacDailyNews, January 28, 2020

A team of people – talented people who actually get it and who are all on the same page – is an absolute necessity for Apple’s success, but it creates a problem: Jobs was a single filter. A unified mind. The founder. A group of people simply cannot replicate that. This is not to say that they cannot do great work (we believe Apple does, and will continue, to do great work) just that Apple is fundamentally affected by the loss of Steve Jobs and has to figure out a new way to work. — MacDailyNews, April 8, 2014

The absence of Steve Jobs grows ever more apparent with the introduction of each new Apple product, service, and app. At today’s Apple, the lack of an omnipotent arbiter of taste glares like a klieg light.MacDailyNews, October 1, 2017

8 Comments

  1. I find it strange why some people call some product a dud because the product doesn’t suit them yet it suits tens of millions of other users. Personally not liking a product certainly doesn’t mean it’s a dud. They should just say it’s not what they wanted in a particular product. I’m not that keen on using tablets and find a laptop much more useful for what I do, but I wouldn’t call the iPad a dud as I’m sure it’s very useful for many consumers’ needs. I’ll take a MacBook Pro over an iPad any day. I just prefer the form factor of a laptop and I find fingerprints on a display somewhat annoying. Sure, I can easily use a tablet in certain situations, but it’s definitely not my first choice.

    I understand there are people who think iOS is a weak or an incomplete OS, but it’s suitable for a tablet in most cases. I think Microsoft putting full Windows 10 on a tablet is a bit of overkill, but I would use it without complaining as long as it didn’t quickly kill the battery. It’s always nice to have a choice. I wouldn’t need OSX on an iPad because I wouldn’t be trying to do desktop work on a tablet. OSX might be great on an iPad for some users, but not for me. I enjoy using physical keyboards, trackpads and mice, but using fingers on a display is kind of meh for me. People should just use what they like to use and stop calling products they don’t like as duds or failures. No single product is perfect for everyone.

  2. The list of things that a touch interface cannot do is far longer that the list of what it can do. It’s a visual “one touch at a time” interface like a building were you enter one room, and the only way to wherever you want to to go is to individually open exit doors in that room without knowing which what each of THOSE doors leads to, back and forth. Its good for very simple “consumer” or “kid” apps. Or maybe back in the early Windows days where you had to memorize the layout of the building in order to go anywhere. The more layers of workflow, the bigger problem you will have.

    Mac still the working tool. My iPad is just a big iPhone, with the same interface issues.

    1. Before I purchased my first iPad, I used an iMac, then the 17” MacBook Pro, followed by another faster and brighter iMac, then the MacBook Air, then the first iPad, then the first Gen iPad Pro and now the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9”. I couldn’t be happier and have not now used a computer for the past 6+ years. This Pro model on iPad OS, does almost everything I want it to do. Yes, there is still a niggling few things I can’t and that is almost always when a software company asks me if I have a computer I can use so they can log into. I always have to say no. I tell them no, not for me. It’s too bad for you that you don’t write a program that allows you to screen share my iPad to see what I see. If Apple can do it, surely you can. Apple screen share with me when they need to.

      If I were still working, I might still need a MacBook Pro or even an iMac or even maybe the newly released Mac Pro, but for me now, and I do spend about 14-15 hours per day on this iPad Pro, it suits my every need. The iPad Pro or even the new iPads on iPadOS is exactly what many people want and all those same people need.

  3. Everyone needs to quit talking about iPad’s success for professional use and whether it succeeded to replace laptops etc. iPads are first and foremost consumer devices and they certainly revolutionized consumer computing. The iPad was my first ever Apple product, I got one before I owned an iPhone. It is fantastic computing device and has kept me from using my PC quite a lot over the years.

    1. The three biggest Apple achievements are OS X, Safari, and the A series cpu’s, everything that makes Apple the profit is built on top, in house design/engineering was and is only way to be above the race to the bottom. Apple device curation with software/hardware on monitors, (routers they will make them again), and computers.

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