This brief missive started life with the headline “Will The iPad Ever Become A Mac?” Betteridge’s Law of Headlines rules most of the time so I decided to become more emphatic with my assertion that computers and users are in the midst of a sea of change.
No, the Mac is not being replaced by the iPad, and it’s unlikely to happen. Ever. Why not? Power. And screen real estate. You just cannot get the kind of power many Mac users want inside a device you can hold in your hand. So, how will the iPad become the Mac? It already has.
Use Case Scenario
First, let’s define a Mac. What is it? Personal computer? Sure. Let’s go with that. Is an iPad a personal computer? In many ways, yes, but not in the traditional desktop or notebook sense. iOS 11.x is not as powerful or capable as macOS High Sierra, though the gap seems to be closing.
It doesn’t matter.
Steve Jobs launched what he thought was the post-PC era with the iPad. That never happened. Instead, Jobs launched the post-PC era years earlier when iPhone was introduced, circa 2007. A decade later an it should be obvious that the mobile era is here and traditional personal computers– desktop or notebook– have lost favor among computer toting humans.
Along the way, going back to the iPod era which began in 2001, we’ve seen a steady exodus of what were once considered personal computer functions. Exodus? Where? To mobile devices. Back in the day the Mac held our music and playlists. The iPod took those away. When the iPhone arrived, more Mac-centric functionalities hit the road, so to speak, and became prominent on our mobile devices.
Safari, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Reminders, et al, moved from the Mac to take up synchronized residents on iPhone and iPad. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote followed, as did GarageBand, iMovie, and, of course, Photos, but also a few million applications that did not have macOS counterparts.
Jobs thought the iPad signaled the mobile device revolution and the post-PC era. He was wrong. It was the iPhone. Along the way, Apple’s sold a few hundred million of the iconic devices but the Mac-to-iPad revolution never fully materialized and will not. Ever (at least the ever in not soon).
Heavy lifting. There are some tasks the Mac performs which simply cannot easily be handled or managed or implemented with today’s crop of iPads or iPhones. Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and many other so-called professional level applications come to mind. Adobe hasn’t had much success with mobile apps to date and it’s unlikely Apple would port FPC to the iPad (iMovie is already there and it’s somewhat crippled in capability and function when compared to the Mac version).
So, it boils down to, 1) power, and 2) screen real estate. That’s the way things are today and they are not likely to change soon but there will be a signpost in the future to signal when it will happen.
Apple’s iOS and Apple designed A-Series chips which power iPhone and iPad will gain more power and take on more functionality. The sign post I expect to see that tells me the Mac is the past is when both iPhone and iPad can project to a large Retina display that tops current MacBook models and the 5K Retina iMac models. Think standalone Retina display which accepts output from iPad and iPhone. Samsung has something similar to that model already with Samsung DeX but it has yet to catch on.
It will when Apple figures out how to do it right. For now, the Mac lives, iOS be damned. But one day in the not too distant future everything we do on a Mac today will be done on mobile devices.