On Saving the iPad

Jared Sinclair: “The iPad should be rebooted with a set of fresh design principles that are aimed at answering the question: How can a multi-tasking touchscreen device fully replace a Mac? These principles would guide both Apple and third-party developers, and in turn would spur a desire in customers to leave behind a PC for an iPad without looking back.”

I’ve been following Jared’s thought flow on Twitter this week. He’s had a lot of good ideas and they’re distilled down into his blog post, go read it.

My Thoughts on the Matter

With the iPad Pro the line between computer and tablet begin to blur. Jared’s post focuses on the idea of upsizing iOS, for the creation of something he calls padOS. I’ve been thinking along similar lines, but my thoughts center on starting with OS X and adding touch and Pencil support.

Why?

It’s a device for Professionals, right? A recurring theme of recent iPad Pro reviews is how poor the typing experience is, not to mention the lack of a pointing device. The iPad Pro is not a device for all Professions, I’m sure there will be a set of professionals that can use it, but it’s not something I can use in my daily professional life. I need a solid keyboard and pointing device. Touch just won’t work as a primary way to control the caret position. It wouldn’t hurt to have it, it’s just not something I’d use all the time. I think Justin Williams captured it really well in his post The Chicken or the iPad Pro.

The sad reality is there aren’t enough Omnis in the ecosystem right now to make the iPad Pro a viable productivity platform for anyone but those executives, retired folks, and masochist bloggers who jump through more hoops than a circus elephant to use an iPad instead of a Mac.

I could see a Mac Book, or iPad Pro, that is a clamshell design with all the smarts in the iPad display part. The lower part of the clamshell could be a keyboard and a trackpad. Maybe they jam more battery into the lower part, maybe not. The point is they’re so darned close to having this device today.

By adding touch to OS X we get what Jared is after. A platform that is more open to professional applications. We’re not required to run our applications through the review process and we can sell them directly from our own website, which will allow us to control pricing much, much, better and put us in direct contact with our customers. That is appealing.

This brings me back to what I called macOS; similar, I believe, to Jared’s padOS.

In the end could you imagine how wonderful a Mac laptop would be running a form of iOS built just for the hardware? Something that is essentially an iPad with the addition of a keyboard and possibly a mouse? It feels like the Mac could evolve in that direction.

It feels like there is another OS in there somewhere. Either OS X gets touch and Pencil input, or iOS gets pointing device support. Couple a touch based macOS/padOS with a clamshell style iPad Pro and you’d have a very interesting combination.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

This idea isn’t new or inventive. Like a lot of what Apple has done in the past they don’t have to be first to market. Most of their big wins came after careful study of existing markets. Apple has always been able to make a better experience. Did they create the MP3 player? No, they made the iPod. Did they create the smartphone? No, they made the iPhone. Same goes for the tablet form factor. They’ve managed to create a platform that is super easy to use and, more importantly, has a single point of contact for content via the App Store. Most people don’t care to go looking for apps on the web from different third-party vendors. They can find them all in one place, the App Store, which is great for users and not so great for developers.

The iPad Pro isn’t a new idea of course. In some ways it’s following work Microsoft has done with its Surface Pro line of tablets. Microsoft is now on iteration four of their line and I can tell you these are amazing devices. They give software developers and users everything Jared is looking for. They’re running a full desktop operating system that includes touch input. If you’re looking for good stylus input, the Surface Pro has it. It is the real deal. It can run full blown desktop applications, like Photoshop, and run touch input applications. It does this with plenty of power to make both a great experience.

If you’re a professional software developer focused on Mac and or iOS you owe it to yourself to consider other platforms given today’s complexities competing in the Apple ecosystem.

Either that or you can get a job working for someone else and write iOS apps on the side as a hobby.