The iPad’s unfinished business

Jean-Louis Gassée takes on the topic of the iPad as a computer replacement in this excellent writeup for Monday Note. It’s a thoughtful read, touching on a number of different aspects of the iPad as a replacement for the Mac.

One particular point that resonates for me:

The iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard is ingenious but lacks a trackpad. To Be Sure™, there is the iPad’s touch screen, but ergonomists know how a real trackpad is preferable to constantly raising one’s hand to the screen.

If the iPad Pro is used one-handed, typing is slowed. If it is placed on its stand to make typing easier, the touchscreen becomes harder to use, nowhere near as rock steady as the MacBook or MacBook Pro.

Is that divide intentional, to prevent cannibalization of Mac sales?

Apple’s iPad stylus, the Pencil, is an improvement on Microsoft’s in one regard: It doesn’t need an AAAA battery; it can be recharged directly from the iPad or with a gender-changing adapter to a standard Lightning/USB cable. But the tiny adapter is soon lost, and the Pencil rolls away far too easily. Microsoft’s stylus contains a magnet and conveniently sticks to the side of the Surface tablet.

These design misses seem obvious.

iOS is “growing windows”, a more visible file system and, in a soon to be available version, will provide easier access to documents on a Mac Desktop or Documents folder. We’ve yet to see if these improvements help Mac users actually create more on their iPads, or if they merely make life more pleasant for those fortunate enough to commute between the two devices.

Will the next generation of iPads cross the chasm and offer the interface power and usability of the Mac? Will the next generation of MacBook Pros grow closer to the iPad? What if the iPad added a keyboard case with the ability to attach a trackpad and mouse? What if the next MacBook Pro had a touchscreen and could split like the Surface? Will the Mac ever run iOS apps? Or, perhaps, iOS itself?

As is, my iPad and Mac live different lives, with the common thread of email and web browsing. My created documents almost always live on my Mac. Clearly, that is changing for other folks, as they do professional design work on their iPad Pros and create and edit music there as well.

The root of the tree is still the Mac, though. That shows no sign of changing. Why? You can create a Mac app on a Mac. To create an iOS app, you have to turn to the Mac as well.