Snippet: The iPad Awkwardly Turns 10 ☇

Shared on January 28, 2020

John Gruber:

iPad hardware is undeniably great. Lower-priced models are excellent consumer tablets, and are the cheapest personal computers Apple has ever made. They remain perfectly useful for many years. The iPads Pro outperform MacBooks computationally. They’re thin, light, reliable, gorgeous, and yet despite their impressive computational performance they need no fans.

Software is where the iPad has gotten lost. iPadOS’s “multitasking” model is far more capable than the iPhone’s, yes, but somehow Apple has painted it into a corner in which it is far less consistent and coherent than the Mac’s, while also being far less capable. iPad multitasking: more complex, less powerful. That’s quite a combination.

There’s a lot that I agree with in Gruber’s post, especially these points, but I think it’s a little misguided to decide that since Apple missed the boat with iPad multitasking on the second-try (which I will agree with), that becomes the focus of the post. The Mac had its own awkward moments, maybe across a shorter time or in some specific areas (anyone remember MultiFinder?), but I still think it’s like comparing apples-to-oranges. When Apple neglected the Mac for a stretch a few years ago, it was an already mature platform, but when the iPad was left alone during the same time, it would’ve been comparable to Apple stopping or significantly slowing Mac development from 1989-1992.

The iPad has plenty of frustrating flaws that are entirely software-related, but has also contributed quite a bit to computing as a whole—Gruber mentions the Mac revolutionizing industries, but think about how many embedded PCs iPads (and similar tablets) have replaced in the retail, restaurant, and service industries. Having a single-purpose device that is lightweight, runs all day, and can run custom applications or web apps is the iPad’s “real world” excuse for existing. Entertainment and playing second-fiddle to a Mac or PC is the other big use. Weirdos like me who use it for just about everything are significantly fewer and we’ve learned some of the quirks, worked around them, and moved on.

At this point, iPad use has gotten so ingrained that I feel out-of-place doing some tasks on a Mac (and especially a Windows 10 PC). Maybe it has to do where you’re coming from and what kinds of annoyances you live with on a regular basis?

I think the point of accidentally invoking split-screens and other oddly-bolted on features are worth reconsidering. Some have called for a two-mode iPad: regular and then with advanced features that users can opt-into. Perhaps now is the time for that?

Snippets are posts that share a linked item with a bit of commentary.