The Mac and the mouse cursor

Rob Rhyne (via DF) asked the question:

If you could take only one device with you, which one would you take? Ben Brooks or Federico Viticci would almost certainly choose an iPad.

However, I’d take a Mac. Exactly the 11-inch MacBook Air, which I’m using to write this article.

John Gruber responded:

If I could only use one device, it’d be a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bet a lot of people would pick an iPhone, though.

I’d take a MacBook Pro. I do too much that depends on the extra horsepower. That said, it’d be awful difficult to get past the basic need for a phone. Either choice would leave me without some basic functionality. The Mac and iPhone together fill my every device need.

That said, I read about another interesting thought experiment, posed by Mark Hibber (Seeking Alpha):

It would be so simple, if Apple just allowed iOS to support a mouse or trackpad driven cursor. Then iPads and iPhones really could begin to replace PCs. Then iOS really could be a viable option for professionals. Then the iPhone could finally realize its potential.

Why is cursor support so important? If the reader hasn’t tried this experiment, just go ahead and try it and you’ll see what I mean. Connect your iPhone or iPad to an external monitor (either through an adapter or through AirPlay). Great, you now have a mirror of what you have on your little iOS device. Now try to use it for something other than watching a movie, such as using one of Apple’s productivity apps from iWork.

You’ll figure it out right away. It’s mostly an unworkable arrangement, because all your user inputs have to go through the iDevice. You can’t see what you’re doing on the external monitor, so you constantly have to glance down at the iOS device. That’s the whole beauty of the cursor: You can see where you’re pointing without looking at the pointing device.

To me, this gets to the core difference between macOS and iOS, between my MacBook Pro and my iPhone/iPad. The cursor is a useful placeholder. It marks my spot, but also lets me keep my eyes glued to the screen while I drag and drop and mouse around with my hands. This really becomes an issue when the screen gets too large for my lap.

I don’t see Apple getting rid of the mouse cursor model. My gut here? Apple will either keep the Mac and iPad separate, as it is now, or will migrate the mouse to the iPad (as Microsoft and others have done).