The same conversation for a decade

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

Harry McCracken: Why the iPad Remains a Beautiful Disappointment

All along, we’ve known that Apple wants the iPad to be capable but distinctly different from the Mac. Yet, as the iPad gets more powerful and the Mac gets more modern, it isn’t clear that even Apple has a coherent view of where that leaves the iPad.

I think this is the thing that makes the iPad so frustrating, and why we’re kept having the same conversation for the past decade.

Another troubling development: The difference between a MacBook and an iPad is less dramatic than it once was, but most of the recent change has been in the Mac’s favor. That began in 2020 with the introduction of the first Mac models that ditched Intel chips for ones Apple designed itself. The first Apple-silicon Macs were blazing fast, turned on instantly (just like an iPad!), had remarkable battery life (better than an iPad), and were able to run a sizable collection of iPad apps. Newer models, such as my 15″ MacBook Air, have built on that strong start.

I think this is a big thing for me in my journey with the iPad. You can look at all the changes the Mac has gone through in the past 3 years of Apple silicon and the changes are dramatic in terms of quality of hardware and software enabled by that hardware. Meanwhile, there are people using 2018 iPad Pros who can’t see a reason to upgrade because the iPad hasn’t really pushed that hardware much in the past 5 years. Hell, the only major update, Stage Manager, ended up being one of the most fraught features Apple has released in years.

Of note, quoting myself from 11 months ago:

Apple could release Final Cut Pro for the iPad tomorrow, and at this point I'm not sure it would make me move my editing workflow back to the iPad.

Apple did release Final Cut Pro for the iPad, it was quite good, but I haven’t moved any of my video editing to the iPad.