Two weeks ago in this space, I argued somewhat vigorously that the biggest iPad’s claim to ‘Pro’ status is pretty tenuous so long as it continues to be powered by iOS with the latter’s several major productivity shortcomings left unaddressed by Apple. I suggested that what is needed is not tablet running OS X as some have suggested, but for Apple to fix the iOS with a visible, user accessible file system, external pointing device support, a word and phrase level search engine, I provoked support of PDF files, and real, flexible multi-window multitasking.
I’m returning to the topic with my thinking on it further developed after reading former Apple exec. http://www.mondaynote.com/2016/02/15/ipad-the-last-frontier/Jean-Louis Gassée’s Monday Note blog last week, in which the always worth checking out Mr. Gassée makes several relevant observations about the Pad’s future prospects as an iOS device.
One of Mr. Gassée’s points in particular got me thinking more about the iOS vs. OS X debate — to wit that in Apple’s Fiscal Year 2015 rounded metrics, the company shipped 231M iPhones and 55M iPads, but only 21M Macs. or, categorized based on operating systems 286M computers running the iOS, and 21M running OS X. That, combined with iPhone sales alone generating 62.54 percent of Apple’s revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015, make it not hard to deduce which operating system is going to get the lion’s share of development juice.
Not that OS X is in any danger of being abandoned, what with market research firm Trendforce reporting this week that in 2015 Apple’s MacBooks surpassed both ASUS and Acer to take fourth place in global notebook sales with a 10.34 percent market share, but the company’s star money-spinners will continue to be the iOS based devices. And if iOS. represents the future, we can at least hope that Apple will finally see the light and add the capability for devices running the mobile operating system to truly be used as laptop substitutes or replacements for content creators.
Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just pack it in, say goodbye to the frustration of trying to do productive work on an iPad, and get aa Microsoft Surface Pro or a high-end Android slate, either of which supports most of the capabilities I need. What stops me is that there would be a steep learning curve to climb, which I really don’t have time for, and I’m sure there would be plenty of frustrations in working with Windows or Android as well. Apple also has the richest selection of really great apps, including productivity programs.
Also, I’m an Apple guy, and have been since my first dalliances with personal computers nearly a quarter-century ago. My workflow rhythms and processes and muscle memory reflect an accretion of what I’ve learned over the past 24 years on the Mac and five on the iPad from trial and error, and switching to another OS platform would require starting again largely from scratch with mostly new suite of productivity tools, all with their own learning curves to scale. At this stage of the game, I’m unlikely to defect.
Consequently I have a big personal stake in Apple’s continued development and support of the iPad. Ironically, unlike many iPad critics, I’m perfectly satisfied with the current support of Bluetooth keyboards, and the Logitech K-480 I have fills that role more than adequately for the amount I use it, which will never be a whole lot until the mouse support issue is addressed. I actually like using the iPad’s virtual keyboard with the tablet supported by an http://support.ipevo.com/support/qa/PadPillow-Lite iPevo PadPillow Lite, even for relatively long form projects.
Mr.Gassée’s cites an argument contending that the iPad Pro’s primary deficiency preventing it from serving as a full-fledged dual-mode tablet/laptop is Apple’s failure to include a trackpad in the Smart Keyboard. I partly agree, although I think the iOS’s productivity shortcomings are an even more serious disability for the iPad Pro as a serious content creation tool. A trackpad would be better than nothing (ie: continuing to rely solely on touchscreen input), but it’s still no adequate substitute for the precision of a real mouse. I rarely use the trackpads in my laptops except for quick cursor navigation, keep a mouse connected whenever possible, and would love to be able to do the same with my iPad. It’s not as elegant as pure tablet mode, but a mouse sure gets the job done more efficiently, and once you’ve connected a keyboard the minimalist tablet elegance is defenestrated anyway, and you’re currently still stuck with the ergonomic inelegance of having to reach across the keyboard to paw at a vertically oriented touchscreen.
Even Steve Jobs thought that was a terrible idea, saying so in his original iPad rollout keynote in 2010.
Jean-Louis Gassée predicts that iOS, and that over time, the iPad Pro in particular will be rendered more capable of performing tasks that, today, are better suited to laptops. I hope he’s right, although if I was obliged today to get along with just one computer device, it would likely be a 12-inch Retina MacBook.