I’ve been doing some “research” on the iPad, as if I have more money to spend on Apple gear – I’m sure I saw some loose change in the couch cushions. The last time I really used an iPad, it was running on iOS 12. Now it’s on iPadOS 14, and what Apple’s done to evolve the iPad in its own direction is interesting – okay, and exciting.
When the iPad debuted in 2010, Steve Jobs asked if there was room in the middle for a third device. Since then, Apple’s been trying to make more room. And once they forked iOS into iPadOS in 2019, the middle space grew bigger.
Not long ago, I said that the smartphone and the laptop squeezed the tablet out from the little in-between space it had started with. But now I see the iPad making itself more elbow room!
Before I get carried away and proclaim the tablet can now replace your laptop, hear me out: it just depends. I still think the tablet should be a tablet, doing what it’s best at: tablet-y things.
The iPad was not designed to be a laptop. Remember, Steve Jobs said Apple thought there was room for a third device; no need to replace the laptop.
iPad Grew Up
But something has happened since the iPad launched. iOS on iPhone grew more capable; it also grew more popular. Many people love iOS for its intuitive touch interface and simple design. They love it so much, in fact, that some people want the iPad to become more than a tablet; it’s a modern way to compute.
iOS combined with a huge touchscreen make iPad very attractive. These simple iPad traits make computing more accessible and approachable for many.
The tablet can do more, so the tablet can be more.
This is why tech-savvy nerds like me attach a button-laden physical keyboard to the king of tablets. It must also be why Apple now sells three different keyboards made specifically for iPad. It makes iPad a more capable computer – like a laptop.
What’s more, Apple has added iPad specific advancements over the past few years like desktop-class web browsing, mouse and track-pad support, and app sidebars for example. And these additions are not merely tacked-on after-thoughts. They are tailor-made to boost productivity while maintaining simplicity on iPad, a balance hard to find.
A Modern Computer
Apple’s mobile computing paradigm spans across three devices: iPhone, iPad, MacBook. Or by category: smartphone, tablet, laptop.
Here’s the big picture: the iPhone is a touch-only interface, the Macbook is an old-school mouse pointer only interface – but the iPad is a careful mix of the two.
Apple amalgamated tangible touch with a precision pointer.
The iPad is slowly carving out its own distinct way to compute, taking the best of the old and the new, the touch and the non-touch, finding new ways to work together as needed.
So the iPad can still be the excellent tablet that it is. Or it can be a laptop replacement. And for many, the iPad can be both.
Often times, when you mix two things, borrowing their bits and pieces, you get a compromised result. But sometimes, you do get the best of both worlds.
Bringing It Together
I think the iPad is becoming a great middle ground for modern computing. True, I still wouldn’t want to run AutoCAD on it. But for most everything else, I would prefer the svelte iPad.
As a blogger/writer/text wrangler, I gave up my iPad last year for a Chromebook. I needed a reliable physical keyboard to type words. And I needed precision cursor control via trackpad/mouse for text selection and manipulation.
That no longer seems to be a problem on iPad. Even the cheapest model at $329 now has the Smart Connector, so you can attach a no-fuss physical keyboard instantly. No pairing. No charging. Just magnet-snap and get to typing.
With my expectations tempered, I plan to once again make iPad my main computer. Not only is it more capable than ever, but thanks to the work Apple’s put into it and the direction they’ve taken things, I believe the future is even brighter for iPad.
The space in the middle is getting more roomy and comfy; I’m movin’ in.