A personal view
by James “MacJim” Ormiston
Ten years ago, Steve Jobs cast his spell over an enthralled audience when he announced the iPad on stage, a device that previously had been the work of science fiction in shows such as Star Trek, The Next Generation; where tablet devices abound. Granted, Apple wasn’t the first to attempt bringing tablet devices to market but they were the first to make a success of it killing off almost all of the competition over time.
Back then, there was no iPadOS, just plain old iOS developed for the iPhone and its small screen. Back then; it was all we needed as the iPad was in its infancy; being a simple consumer device aimed more at dealing with email, web browsing and rudimentary photo editing. Remember, the internet was nothing like what we have now. The ‘future’ iPad in the form of the Pro versions was still far away in the future; the future we are now living in, and that is where today’s problems lie.
With multitasking, more than one window open at any time, copy and paste, drag and drop and access to external storage that Apple is now trying to add to emulate the way a computer works, iOS is starting to show limitations due to its early beginnings. With each iteration of iOS more and more features and complexities are added in. Ever more powerful processors have helped, but it really hasn’t taken into count the way the interface would ultimately get ‘bogged down’ due to the awkward way these new features have to work in a restricted OS, which in the end slows the user down.
Apple tried their best to ‘persuade’ us that the iPad was indeed a full-blown ‘computer’ that could be the only device we need; but without the previously mentioned features, the iPad is still a tablet device that isn’t able to do what a full-blown MacBook can do. Even taking into consideration how Apple has handicapped many of their MacBook iterations… with the removal of ports, SD card readers etc.
Although Apple has more or less sewn up the market for tablets, there are still alternatives competing for your money. Some are less successful than others and rely on Android to power them. But there is one manufacturer that does indeed offer an alternative, one that will allow you to have just ‘one device’: and that is Microsoft. They have a few alternatives, but we will concentrate on their real ‘iPad killer’, the Surface Pro 7, a device that kind of got it right, or at least did itbetter than the iPad Pro. Unlike the iPad, these devices run a full OS that can run almost any desktop software out there, software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Lightroom and Photoshop – which is a real advantage over the iOS options. Yes, there is the problem of Windows 10 being more aimed at desktop use with a mouse and trackpad rather in a tablet setting, but it isn’t unusable either… and possibly the next update will fix that with Windows 10X.
But back to the iPad and the iPad Pro… If we compare the cost of ownership of the iPad Pro and try to make it like a computer, even a Windows one, it’s a pricey device for many. The Pro models are now priced north of a grand, and if you add in the ‘Smart Keyboard’ and Pencil can take it just short of two thousand pounds (without AppleCare). That’s for a device that runs iOS and not a full OS like macOS or Windows 10! Yes, you can get a relatively low-cost iPad but it doesn’t have the power or ability of the Pro models which means you still need that computer to do computer stuff. If the iPad could, I’d ditch my MacBook Pro retina 13” and go iPad Pro only.
This is yet another area that you either feel works (or not…) it all depends on your needs and uses for the iPad, especially if you are a Pro user. While I don’t fully agree with John Gruber’s idea that Apple should go back to the ‘simplicity and clarity’ of the iPhone, I do think Apple needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink iOS, especially iPadOS; a compromised and hacked OS. I do think he’s right with his criticism of the iOS dock where it tries to emulate the dock of macOS but fails miserably. Part of the problem is due to the limited space available in the iOS dock, and part is down to the inability to open apps that are not in the dock… unless you shut down the app you’re already working in. If you don’t have the app you want available to drag open from the dock to the split screen, you have to do a merry dance to get that app running, then drag open the app you really want to work in and… anyway, you get my drift. It’s awkward, confusing and just not a great way to work. Yes, there those who will say its nowhere near as hard to use as I’ve suggested but for many users, it can be… We’re not all “Pro” power users, but we have become used to what iOS tries to offer and larned work with/around it. Apple’s answer seems to be to add more and more ’features’ over time, the latest rumours being they might be thinking about a Smart Keyboard… with a trackpad!
If this is true then why don’t they just add a touchscreen to the MacBook and/or make a MacBook with a detachable keyboard? But no, that’d be saying Microsoft got it right! Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is a great machine, one that I’d be lost without as I use it more and more in preference to my MacBook Pro retina 13”… I’m writing this on my iPad Pro, but that’s not because its the better machine, it’s just more convenient to take with me day in, day out. I’ve learned to work around the iPad Pro limitations and the handcuffs that are iPadOS.
Dare I suggest one solution that I think many would jump at? An iPad Pro that – wait for it – runs macOS! An iPad that has macOS for the Pro user and a consumer version running iOS; that could be the solution Apple needs to offer, and stop over developing iOS trying to meet the needs of the Pro users. If Apple were to do this, I would bet my last groat they’d eat up the Surface Pro market overnight as many would love to have a device that runs macOS, in preference to Microsoft’s Windows OS… I know I would!
In the end:
What we have in the form of the current iPad range is a device that will suit most needs. I can do quick edits of images and post them up to Flickr, check email, read books and articles saved to Pocket, compose stories and comments, watch TV, movies and Netflix… As long as I can get a signal. It does the job I need it too… just not in the way a true computer can.