On iPads Replacing Laptops

The newest iPad Pro seems like a killer machine, and many reviews of it are quite positive. But a lot of reviews that I saw all came back with similar thoughts:

  • Ars Technica – “The iPad Pro raises the bar for performance, but has too many other limitations.”
  • CNET – “It’s got a big, laptop-like screen. It’s more portable than the last version. But it doesn’t solve the final few things I need to make it a true laptop.”
  • TechRadar – “(…)that would help elevate the new iPad Pro towards the level of a real laptop a little more.”

Everyone is expecting iPad to replace laptops at some point in the future. But what exactly are they wanting?

It seems the expectation is that, if iPad is the future of computing, that we’ll eventually not need laptops (and maybe desktops) because iPads will replace the PC category for what we do. Thus, iPads need to eventually do everything current PCs can do and more.

However, Apple itself gave a hint about that. And I don’t think any of that is a good expectation to have.

Here’s what Phil Schiller said in an interview with Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes:

Charlie Rose: Is there danger of one product cannibalizing the other product?

Phil Schiller: It’s not a danger, it’s almost by design. You need each of these products to try to fight for their space, their time with you. The iPhone has to become so great that you don’t know why you want an iPad. The iPad has to be so great that you don’t know why you why you want a notebook. The notebook has to be so great, you don’t know why you want a desktop. Each one’s job is to compete with the other ones.

When I read that, I see each segment in its own tier, competing with the one above it. But it doesn’t imply that one category would eventually eliminate the others. It just forces each tier to keep improving.

Let’s look at the notebook tier. You can split that into two segments: consumer and pro. How am I doing that? I’m basically looking at MacBook and MacBook Air, and comparing that against the MacBook Pro line. They all do similar things, but the Pro line has more power, more ports, and is typically used for a lot more work. But they’re all in the notebook tier.

In the iPad tier, we can simplify it between iPad and iPad Pro. iPad Pro gives you more capabilities and more features to do more work on it. The USB-C port in the new iPad Pro can enable a lot of new functionality now, and it has the potential to open up even more with iOS 13 and beyond.

Yet, it’s still an iPad. It’s on the higher end of the iPad tier, but it’s in no way meant to completely replace the MacBook Pro. Again, looking at Phil Schiller’s comments, it’s competing against the notebook. It’s not replacing the notebook.

This seems confirmed in The Verge’s review of the new iPad Pro:

(…) when pushed on the iPad’s limitations, the company insists that the iPad is still an ongoing attempt to build the future of computing, not a laptop replacement.

Sure, you can review the new iPad Pro against a laptop and see what it can and can’t do. But looking to see if it’s a complete notebook replacement is futile. Sure, it may replace a notebook for some people. If someone just used a laptop for email, news, and staying in touch with family, then an iPad can definitely do all that that person wanted a laptop for. But, implied by Phil Schiller’s own words, there will always be things that a notebook or desktop do better that can’t be done by an iPad. Always.

As the iPad Pro gains more features, I’ll continue to be interested in reviews showing how people can do work on it compared to laptops. I know there are some that live the iPad life already. But I’d also be interested in seeing things from the other angle: How improvements in devices like iPad Pro drive changes and improvements to the Mac line.

The notebook is essentially defending itself from constant attack from the iPad tier. It has been from day one. As each tier improves, so do the tiers they are competing with. iPhone and iPad eventually lead to the inclusion of multi-touch on the Mac line, which I think was a very important addition. Those kinds of influences will only continue.

But whether or not an iPad replaces the notebook tier for you has no relevance to whether or not iPads will replace laptops in general. They won’t. Apple has said it as part of their own intentions. And eight years of iPad history can prove it, too. Notebooks will remain. Desktops will remain. Their differences in UI/UX will remain.

Just like any advancement in iPhone doesn’t threaten the existence of iPad, or any Apple Watch can’t kill the iPhone market, iPad won’t kill the laptop. They’ll just keep getting better and better.

It’s all about survival.

Initial thoughts from this week’s Apple event

This post originally appeared in NotedTech on 12 September 2015.

Once again, in what doesn’t seem like a full year, we’re looking back at another iPhone event. This time, though, Apple packed in quite a lot of information about products across its device lines. 

It wasn’t until I rewatched the event yesterday that I was able to get all of the details and finally start thinking about everything that was announced. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

APPLE WATCH

While there is little new that Apple announced regarding Apple Watch, what they didmention was pretty nice. New bands and models, especially the gold Sport models, have the potential to bring more people to the Apple Watch. If you’ve seen the rose gold aluminum case with the lavender sport band, you understand what I mean.

It’s nice to see Apple adding more options to the ‘entry level’ Watch. This keeps the Edition model for those that actually care if their Watch is made of gold or just looks like gold.

IPAD PRO

Since it debuted, the iPad has been perplexing for many and has seemed like a product with no clear vision for some. Is it a productivity machine? Is it just for consumption? While Apple has tried to show that it can do both, the iPad has yet to make in-roads into the enterprise market and creative industries.

The iPad Pro has the potential to change that. With a larger screen, a highly accurate Apple Pencil stylus, and enough processing power to run two full iPad apps side-by-side (thanks to iOS 9’s new multitasking capabilities). The possibilities of being more productive with this new device, while very familiar to existing iPads, have me wondering if the recent partnerships with IBM and Cisco were pre-requisites to the iPad Pro’s launch. These partnerships give Apple a foot in the door of corporate IT departments, and this new iPad could be the iOS device to open that door wider.

It also made perfect sense (for Apple at least) to have Microsoft and Adobe showing off their software on the larger 12.9-inch display. 

I personally find myself using my iPad every day. It’s a great device for when I want to do things while I relax. Reading when I’m off work? Playing a game? Creating a new backing track in GarageBand? It’s perfect.

The problem lately has been with iPad sales. It doesn’t have the same upgrade cycle that smartphones do. I know many people that are still using an iPad 2 (from 2011) or iPad 3 (from 2012). And they’re perfectly happy with their devices. I don’t see the iPad Pro pushing a lot of people to upgrade. What I do see is the iPad Pro reaching people that normally wouldn’t want an iPad, much like the iPad mini caught a new segment of tablet users. We’ll have to see how people react once the iPad Pro launches in November.

APPLE TV

Apple says the future of the TV is apps. While that includes bringing downloadable games and other similar apps to the big screen, I think there’s more potential than that. Apple TV already has support for networks like HBO and Showtime. Having support for third party apps now makes it even easier for other networks and stations to start bringing their content to Apple TV users. And this is without a new streaming TV service like what Apple supposedly is working on. 

This in itself, added with the existing capabilities of the new Apple TV, make me feel like it is a vital addition to someone’s living room. Already, my family uses it for 90% of our TV watching, either through content in iTunes, using Home Sharing from a nearby Mac, or AirPlaying content from an iOS device. Add apps with support for more cable networks and shows and you can definitely say goodbye to cable.

IPHONE 6S

The iPhone 6s rumors seemed to all come true. New 12 megapixel camera, A9 chip, potentially 2 GB of RAM, newer and faster wireless technologies, and Force 3D Touch. But seeing all of it, including how 3D Touch is being used, as well as Live Photos, makes the iPhone 6s a definite buy for me. Then again, I’m still using an iPhone 5s. Anyone running an older iPhone than the iPhone 6 should definitely consider this upgrade.

I didn’t think 3D Touch would be that big of a deal. But with how Apple has implemented it for additional functionality without compromising the current Multi-Touch system is impressive. It’ll be something that I probably could describe better once I’ve used it. I’ll tell you all about it after September 25, when iPhone 6s starts shipping.

Overall, I think the Apple event went pretty well. It flowed better and was more interesting than their WWDC Keynote in June. I’ll just call that a temporary hiccup in their otherwise well organized events. And if Apple decides to surprise us with another event next month, perhaps with Mac news, let’s hope it goes off as well as this event did.