Apple has underestimated what the iPad can do for too long

MG Siegler, in a great post about the new iPad on 500ish, on how the device is closer than ever to be a full laptop:

Now, is that what we want? I’m honestly not sure. I see it both ways. On one hand, it’s sort of a shame that the “if you see a stylus, they blew it” iPad not only now has a stylus, but it’s going to have a keyboard and trackpad. That is to say, this is seemingly not the device Steve Jobs set out to build. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means that ideas have evolved. And who knows, maybe Jobs was shortsighted in this regard. It’s possible! Likely, even.

When Jobs talked about a stylus what I think he really meant was “if you have to use a stylus, they blew it.” With the iPad you don’t have to “use a stylus.” Sure, you can use the Apple Pencil — if you want — and the pencil is made for specific tasks, like drawing with the precision fingers cannot possibly have. This is not a stylus per se.

The same story goes for the keyboard and trackpad. You don’t have to use them with the iPad; you sure do need them on a laptop though. But for the specific use-case of using your iPad standing on a desk, having a physical keyboard — along with a trackpad — makes a lot of sense.1 If you don’t want to use them, you can just leave them on the desk and take the iPad alone. If you don’t want to use the pencil, you can just leave it too.

That’s why these accessories are just accessories and sold separately. I believe the tablets Jobs was referring too were almost unusable without their stylus.

Maybe one thing Jobs didn’t see coming with the iPad, was the immense power Apple will soon be able to get from these custom-made ARM chips. When Jobs unveiled the iPad, A-series chips where promising, but who could have predicted the state at which they are now? This famous tweet shows that Anil Dash certainly could. Maybe Jobs - despite being the visionary we all know and admire — couldn’t, and could not see the iPad becoming something else than a casual “big iPhone” for being used at home, in your gorgeous Le Corbusier LC-3 chair. More probably, he definitely could, but just didn’t want the iPad to be anything more.

Today, the iPhone 11 outperforms the 16-inch Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro in single-core use, according to benchmarks. The chip on the latest iPad — just a small update from the previous one — rivals the top-of-the-line pro-level laptop for a third of the price, according to the same benchmarks. So I’d say it was about time this incredible piece of hardware gets proper tools to be used comfortably and efficiently while standing on a desk. And apparently, Apple did a great job with the trackpad software part on the iPad.

The iPad hardware is ready for more and has been for a while. This month, Apple eventually made the OS ready for more with the latest iPadOS release. We will now see if finally iPad apps will step up their game too, because the days of the iPad being just a “big iPhone” are definitely over.2

  1. While my wife uses the MacBook and that my new MacBook Air hasn’t yet arrived, I am typing this using my iPhone coupled with a standing case and the great Magic Keyboard. Every time I want to scroll up or down, my right hand is instinctively searching for a trackpad below the keyboard, you know, where it makes sense. Lifting up my arm every time I need to interact with the device for something else than text input is not great at all.↩︎

  2. Well, at least it seems over for the iPad Pro: the regular iPad, and the iPad Mini are almost in a different category nowadays.↩︎