Let’s change the conversation around macOS on iPads

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

Ryan Christoffel quoting Apple’s Greg Joswiak on 9to5Mac:

The fact is that the majority of Mac customers have an iPad, and they use them both

Which lead Ryan to argue:

there’s one big reason this will likely never happen. If iPad owners get access to macOS thrown in for free, then Mac sales will undoubtedly take a major hit.

As you can imagine, I have thoughts.

The question I’m interested in is why most Mac users own an iPad. Is it because it lets them do the same things they do on their Mac but with touch? Do they do entirely different things on their Mac and their iPad? Would they pay more to get a Mac with touch features?

Or let’s think about this another way: given the unit sales of each platform, it’s likely that most iPad users own a Windows computer, not a Mac. Why is that? Most Windows and Chromebook computers in the past 5+ years have had touchscreens, so why are those people buying iPads if they already have a computer with touch?

I haven’t done any official research, but I’ve been in the Apple community long enough to make an educated guess that people who have a Mac/PC and an iPad like the iPad as a secondary computer. The lightness is a feature for them; the fact they have a fully featured PC with touch doesn’t mean they want to use that all the time. For those users, the iPad fills a niche and delivers an experience that’s distinct from their desktop experience. One could reasonably extrapolate that out to Mac users who want to work from a Mac during the day and then chill with an iPad in the evening. Hell, I’m one of those people!

As I wrote a few months ago:

With very few exceptions, new computers don't replace anything, they just get added to the pile of computers in our lives already.

I said this in regards to the Vision Pro, which I said would not replace traditional computers anytime soon for the vast majority of people, it would instead be a new computer they use in a new context. I think it’s true for the iPad as well.

This is where we get into what I think I’d like to see from the “macOS on iPad” conversation going forward:

I’m squarely in the camp of people who want iPad-like hardware that runs macOS

Let’s stop saying we think iPadOS should be retired or that iPad Pros should run macOS, let’s just say we want a Mac that supports touch and is more portable than a MacBook.

I think this framing is useful because I don’t want iPadOS to go away, and I don’t think most people do either. I think it’s great that a simplified operating system is useful to so many people, whether it’s for their main computing or as a secondary device, and I don’t think Apple should take that away. Instead, I want Apple to make a Mac that I can use with touch, and that can be more portable than today’s Macs when I need it to be. That may eat into some iPad sales, but I’d wager that the iPad would still have a place for a lot of people.

Finally, I wanted to shout out Andy Brooks in the 9to5Mac comments with this gem:

When Apple turned around in the late 90s they did it by focusing on making great products instead of just trying to make as much money as possible. It feels like they are forgetting that lesson.

Andy nails it, and this is the core of most of my complaints with modern Apple. The entire App Store saga is hinged around them looking to eke out as much petty cash from merchants using their platform as possible, even if we know that 80% of that revenue is from scammy games. If Apple is indeed holding back on making the next generation of Mac because they don’t want to eat into iPad sales, that’s a stupid move and is counter to the mentality that got them where they are today. Let’s hope this isn’t the case behind the scenes.