Disagreeing on the iPad’s prospects and challenges

I really like Jared Sinclair and the apps he’s built. I consider him a respected internet friend—we follow each other on Twitter, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet in real life. That said, I could not disagree more with some of the key points in his piece about saving the iPad.

To start, I absolutely do agree that Apple has designed the App Store to peddle little more than digital junk food. Apple has been instrumental in ruining the culture—perhaps irreparably, but I hope not—around building and paying for good, sustainable software. This is absolutely a problem that needs more attention and solutions, many of which need to start right from the top. But that’s a discussion for another post.

I also agree that Gatekeeper for iOS could be a good part of these essential solutions. Many customers never even bother to download apps, never mind pay for them. But the ones who are vested in building on their mobile experience have the drive and technical know-how to handle buying and installing software from the big bad internet. As Jared suggests, this could be an opt-in thing, managed by a setting so buried most users would never even want to venture in to flip the switch.

However, I disagree with Jared on just about everything else. But before I begin, I would like to add some food for thought: in the past decade, Apple has sold 125 million Macs, but nearly one billion iOS devices. As of January 2015, 225 million of those were iPads.

Multitasking

The original iPhone OS wasn’t designed for multitasking, but that’s why iOS 7 happened. It’s why Apple spent years pushing developers to adopt specific technologies and techniques that allow their apps to fit on multiple screen sizes and, in turn, alongside each other on the right devices. LIke most things, there are always improvements to be made, but I firmly disagree that current multitasking features feel bolted on or out of place. From share sheets to the new split view features, iOS multitasking is evolving wonderfully.

Mac killing

The original iPad’s hardware could probably replace a Mac and PC for many regular folks, though the software came with too many paper cuts to make it worth the effort. That’s why, among other reasons, it wasn’t marketed as a Mac killer, it was a “post-PC device.”

The original iPad bridged the gap between the pocket and the desk by doing things and going places the Mac never could and largely still can’t. Look at all the professionals that can enjoy new mobility during their day by carrying some or all of their work on an iPad. Look at the bands that have recorded some or entire albums with it on-the-go, or the film makers and writers who have created entire bodies of work with it (hell, I know a guy who has written two books on his iPhone, never mind a full-on pad).

As the iPad hardware and software have improved, Apple’s messaging has swung back around to pick up the ‘Mac replacement’ angle, just not always in such literal terms. Look at the capabilities Apple has advertised, the first- and third-party productivity suites it’s promoted, the partnerships with and promotion of Fortune 500 companies using it for serious business.

If you still want literal statements, let’s start in 2012 when Cook said 80-90 percent of his work and media time was spent on an iPad. Now look at Apple’s messaging for the iPad Pro. For the first time since that dreadful, clunky keyboard dock for the original iPad, Apple built its own keyboard and an entirely new charging connector for keyboard-like accessories.

Finally, just this month, Cook got down to it in a Telegraph interview by flat-out stating “Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people.”

padOS

I’ll end with one where I only partially disagree. All of Apple’s mobile devices are built on a modified version of iOS, right? In this case it’s mostly a matter of branding, but meant more for developers than end users.

These devices have wildly different interactions, user experiences, and limitations—one needs a physical remote, the other supposedly needs a Digital Crown (my iPad just capitalized Digital Crown, by the way). But the iPhone and iPad are largely the same, on this level, or at least close enough. They’re both devices we carry around and multitouch in very, very similar ways. A separate OS name seems… unnecessary.

But I do think Jared is right in that some stricter rules around how developers implement iPad apps could help a number of things, especially experience. For some low hanging fruit, rejecting iPad apps that are literally scaled up versions of iPhone counterparts would be a start. Encouraging , perhaps even enforcing, some of the best desktop-replacing features could help too, like Document Provider extensions that, I feel, make certain tasks on iPad much faster and more pleasant than on OS X.

This post is already long enough, though. Tossing yet more solutions onto the pyre that Apple will likely continue to ignore is probably best for another post.

Gotta wear shades

On the bright side, the PC market is decades old. In my opinion, the mobile revolution and dramatic simplification of computing that iOS brought about for the common user was long, long overdue.

And yet, we’re really only a few years into this whole endeavor. I’m optimistic about the iPad Pro helping with some, maybe even all, of the things we’re concerned about here.