The Opportunity for the iPad

How the iPad can compete with the MacBook.

Now that I have posted such a positive MacBook review, especially after talking so much about just wanting an ‘iPad Pro’, a lot of people have been wondering where the iPad fits in for me. That’s a tough question as I don’t see many huge benefits of my iPad Air over my MacBook.

Size isn’t a great advantage anymore, and battery life is par.

I am about to go on a longer trip, and I won’t be taking the MacBook, but that is largely because I don’t plan to do anything but read on that trip. If were planning on writing at all — I would most certainly take the MacBook over my iPad.

So, then, am I done with the iPad?

I don’t think so. The iPad has always had, and will always hold, a spot in my heart as a device and form factor that I absolutely adore. I do think the iPad needs to change to move forward, and with iOS 9 we are (thankfully) beginning to see many of those changes.

The success of the MacBook against the iPad has me even more excited for the future of the iPad.

iOS 9

The two most interesting additions that iOS 9 brings to the iPad are:

  • Split screen for apps.
  • Keyboard shortcuts (including CMD+Tab)

Those two features alone are going to be massive improvements for anyone who uses an iPad as their only machine. I would argue that for a great many people those are the only improvements you will need to recommend an iPad as a primary computer to a lot of people.

And those two features are just the tip of the iOS 9 iceberg.

I have no doubt that there is a serious motivation on the iOS team to add more power to the iPad. The way power is being added to iOS is sensible, and consistent with iOS ways. That’s encouraging, as Apple is trying to make something simple, into a more powerful tool for those who want it, without sacrificing usability for those that don’t need such power.

They are walking the fine line instead of caving.

iPad Pro

This concept has been talked to death — by me as well — but I think it is worth mentioning that the stage certainly seems to be set for an iPad Pro to come out alongside/shortly after iOS 9 comes out.

What, though, would an iPad Pro need to do to unseat my MacBook? That’s the real question I have, and I think there are four things:

  1. More battery life. It needs to be a true all day machine, maybe 12-15 hours battery life with cell turned on.
  2. Cell modem. Yes, the iPad already has it, and that’s one of the greatest features of the device: I am never offline when on an iPad. Don’t lose that iPad.
  3. Slim keyboard. Something like what Microsoft has created for the Surface. I would love to see something razor thin, powered off the device, for a keyboard. It’s essential and seems in line with iOS 9 features.
  4. It cannot be bigger than the MacBook in any way. If it is, it has failed. That includes with the cover/keyboard attached.

I’ve kept this list short, because honestly I don’t know if that will beat the MacBook — I do know I would buy that device outright. I’m not even sure how big it should be anymore, but it should be larger in screen size by some amount. Perhaps 12” is too big, but perhaps it isn’t.

Find the Apps

Apple seems to be doing its part to support the iPad, but lately I have been feeling like the larger developer community isn’t supporting the iPad as enthusiastically as they once did. A large part of this is likely because many developers I talk to don’t use their iPads. They just have them for testing.

This is a big problem.

Great apps, the ones that truly draw you to use them, are created by people who also use the app themselves.

They are created out of passion.

We need these apps on the iPad if the platform is to stay strong. And save for a very small selection of well known apps, you just aren’t seeing this happen on the iPad anymore. It still happens for the iPhone, so I am hopeful we can bring this back to iPad.

It’s All Unicorns

The majority of what I am saying and writing here is nothing new. It’s also a lot of wishes, hopes, and dreams. It’s thinking about what needs to be done to keep a platform I love thriving.

I’ve owned every model iPhone. I buy a new Mac as often as I can afford. With the iPad I buy a new one every other year. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade more frequently — and that right there is a very telling tale.

In no way is the iPad a lost cause, but it is at a point where it needs to now make some leaps forward. We know what the iPad is, now we need to make it into the device that we want and need it to be.

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