Apple’s Mac/iPad twists and turns

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

Apple execs have had to eat their words after strong but imprudent pronouncements. For example, thus spake Steve Jobs at an August 2010 iOS 4 event:

“It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager… they blew it. Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it.”


When Jony Ive explains that Apple didn’t make a stylus but something “more profound”, a Pencil, we welcome the change of mind while smiling at the language Apple’s Chief Design Officer uses to share his insights in the matter of writing instruments and bridging the gap between the analogue (using Sir Jony’s British spelling) and digital worlds.

But this is more than Jean-Louis pointing out Apple crow-eating opportunities. As you read his (as always) well-written reasoning, you’ll explore the real premise:

How far will reversals go?

I’ll start with something I consider unlikely: The introduction of tablet features to the Mac. For Mac laptops, Apple has issued a strong edict: The ergonomically correct way to use a laptop it to keep your hands on the horizontal plane, no lifting one’s arm to touch the screen, no matter how tempting. The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar keeps our hands where they belong, on the desk.

This is a terrific read. But I agree with Jean-Louis, a Mac iPad merger is not likely. But he does go down an interesting path. An ARM-based Mac? I definitely can see that happening.

Especially with this precedent.

  • Mo

    I like Monday Note very much, and almost always agree with what Gassée has to say about Apple.

    That said, I think there’s a difference between a device that requires a stylus to make it usable, and a device that doesn’t require one, but offers a stylus to perform certain specialist tasks.

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  • Very hard to take this seriously — Jobs clearly meant a device needing a pointy stylus to operate, vs an artistic writing/drawing accessory.

    Come on guys. You get this, right?

    • DonatelloNinjaTurtle

      Exactly. Pre-iPhone any touch screen smartphones usually had a resistive touch screen with tiny UI elements that required a stylus to interact with (almost like they were putting desktop style OS elements on a handheld device and as a result needed precise selection like you’d get with from a cursor).

  • Meaux

    “The ergonomically correct way to use a laptop it to keep your hands on the horizontal plane, no lifting one’s arm to touch the screen, no matter how tempting. The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar keeps our hands where they belong, on the desk.”

    This is directly contradictory to the whole thrust of the iPad Pro as a PC replacement initiative.

    • David Stewart

      Not necessarily. Touch-based work on the iPad Pro is much better done with it in tablet mode (i.e. without any attached keyboard). When the keyboard is attached touch interaction tends to be limited (i.e. you are just typing). Obviously this varies from person to person, but using a vertical touch-screen isn’t a great experience.

  • Caleb Hightower

    The iPad Pro is a pragmatic, evolutionary step. No need to do a 180-rethink on it.

    Running MBs on ARM someday is the direction Apple is heading. I think if they can figure that out (power, performance, etc.), it will give them even more control over the pace and cadence of hardware releases, allowing Apple to normalize them. Cook is an operations man, so I imagine vertical integration is second nature, and eventually putting ARMs in every device would satisfy that goal.

  • Business 101: Sell what you have today, not what you’ll produce tomorrow.

    Whether we talk Pencil or iPod Video, of course Jobs and Ives will downplay their necessity before Apple has a solution in place because they don’t want you to wait until they produce one.

  • bdkennedy

    I don’t see why anyone would listen to the opinions of someone that helped run Apple into the ground.

    • john doofus

      How so? Gassee left in 1990, well before most of the crap like the IIvx, the flaming PowerBook 5300 and the Performa of the month club.

      I think he was mostly involved with the models that took the Mac from cool concept to great product (e.g. the SE/30 and IIfx).

  • Gassée is usually a smart guy, but holy shit. There’s a huge difference between a stylus being required for basic operations and being supported for operations where it would actually help.

    (I see Mo and mdelvecchio have already made this point, but it’s important enough to make again.)

    • James Hughes ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ”

      I was going to make this point too, I’ll just keep reading and get to Mo and Mdelvecchio’s posts. But I did want to chime in with agreement as well!

    • Cranky Observer

      It was still a gigantic public U-Turn. As Fly on the Mac notes below this is simply Marketing 101, but it rather convincingly demonstrated that Apple does indeed engage in marketing and strategic design/selling while acting as if they are above such dirty mundane actions.

  • brisance

    It wouldn’t surprise me one bit that Apple already has prototypes of ARM-powered Macs. If there’s any company that can pull this off, it has to be Apple. It’s the only mainstream company that survived two CPU architecture transitions; from 68K to PowerPC to Intel. And this was done in an era where memory and processing power were expensive. So really, this Windows move to ARM is all about catching up to what Apple has done more than 20 years ago.

  • Cranky Observer

    Apple has maintained three architectures at least once before. I see no reason why the first ARM-based laptops would have to be Macintoshes; they could be Granny Smith, Johnny, etc. Possibly the two lines could merge at some point (after Apple acquires Intel?), but they could also run in parallel for a long time.