A Watch Too Far

This was the week, the week that is said to have changed everything for Apple, the week we’ve been waiting for since Steve Jobs passed away three years ago.

The “Apple Watch” was introduced.

Touted as a “new chapter” in Apple’s history, it is said to be a revolutionary way to interact with one’s digital device. This has been coming for a long time and rumors of an Apple wearable have been around for years. I even wrote about the possibility last year, speculating on my vision of such a device. Now that it’s here and we can see Apple’s full vision, we can contemplate exactly what Apple has introduced into the world.

A Short Trip Through Computing History

Go back about forty years ago and computers were still rather large machines that resided mostly in universities, large businesses, and government institutions. The thought that a regular person could own a “personal” computer was a foreign concept. However, everything changed in the late 70s when personal computers became a reality, spurred on tremendously by the Apple II, amongst others.

This was the first big leap of a computer from the monolithic corporate installation to a device in one’s own home. It didn’t immediately take hold but slowly over the years the personal computer became ubiquitous. People had a relationship to their computer, it was a part of their lives. Yet, for many years it remained a box that sat on a desk in their house.

The next big leap occurred with the laptop computer, which allowed people to take their computing experience outside the house. Portability changed things dramatically, because a laptop made the computer more personal, more available, more connected to one’s life. But weight, size, and lack of battery life held things back. Laptops were only a step in the evolution of making a computer truly personal.

Then came the iPhone, the biggest step in that evolution so far. Suddenly a computer was in your pocket, available anytime you wanted it. It was always there, always ready to connect you to your digital world. The barriers have been broken down and smart phones have taken over our lives. Everywhere you look people are using them, at all times. They are truly personal computers, much more so than the traditional PC.

Over this time the common trajectory of computers has been from large and disconnected from humans, to small and intimately connected to us. This has tracked closely with size and portability. From the desktop to the laptop to the smart phone.

So, About That Watch

So why am I giving you a history lesson?

Because I think the Apple Watch is the natural progression of this evolution of computers. It may have seemed the smart phone was the last conqueror of our computing lives, but even it has limits. We don’t carry it in our hands at all times, and must put it in our pockets or purses on occasion. However, the Apple Watch is always there, sitting on our wrist, allowing us constant connection to our computers. Computers can be in our lives without any interruption, at all times.

But is this a good thing? Should computers become this personal? Should we want this amount of connection with no break?

Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past couple days. Even before this I’ve struggled with being addicted to my iPhone, with checking it too often, with ignoring people as I stared into it. It seems to sit near me at all times, ready to give me that sweet hit of a notification that my body craves.

I think many people feel the same way, although many don’t think this is a bad thing. It may just be I’m an old man at the ripe age of 32. I remember a time before iPhones, before the internet actually. I remember not having the intimate connection with my computer. I remember living more in the real world, taking more notice of things instead of my phone. But I fully admit I might be idealizing the past and the younger generation has no nostalgia for those times.

But one must ask what’s the end game, how connected will we become with our computers? While the Apple Watch is always on your wrist, it still is not as extreme as something like Google Glass, where you literally must stare at your computer at all times. I assume eventually in some far off future we will have direct neural connections with computers, allowing our very thoughts to intermingle to the point the distinction between humans and machines might be impossible to differentiate. That will truly be a personal experience.

Going back to the Apple Watch though, I think it may have crossed a line in my own mind. I don’t want my computer to be “that” personal, to the point I can’t simply put it in my pocket and be free of distraction. Maybe I’m deluding myself and I’ll get used to it, the same way I’ve gotten used to having an iPhone at all times. I don’t know, but I feel there needs to be some disconnection, some way to have a conversation with a friend and not have your wrist tingling every few minutes.

The counter argument to this is that the watch actually increases your connection to other people, because we all connect with each other so much over the internet nowadays. I appreciate this argument, but I’m not sure I’m ready to sacrifice my real world connections to such a degree for my online connections. There still seems something fundamentally different between the two. Texting someone just can’t compare to an actual real world conversation. Sharing your heartbeat may be a great gimmick, but still pales in comparison to actually feeling another human being’s touch.

There’s a clear evolution of computers that are becoming more and more personal and connected to us. However, with that connection to computers, we sacrifice more and more of our human connection. This evolution can’t be stopped though, and will continue ever further into the future. The Apple Watch is the next stop on the line, and the one where I may have to get off.


Apple Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ideals

I turn over my iPad Air and slowly caress the smooth aluminum back with my index finger, its perfected surface massaging the nerves in my skin as I move around to the chamfered edge, smiling as I picture Jony Ive peacefully looking down upon me.

NO! I don’t actually do that.

But that’s the view many hold of a so-called Apple fan. In reality I simply like Apple products, I prefer them, I think they are better than what else is out there. I could use other technology brands, but I think Apple is currently the best, but that’s just like my opinion… man.

However, human nature, and the combined forces of blogs, Twitter, and podcasts, all tell us we need to pick teams. You can’t just be a fan of Apple, you have to be a partisan hack that will defend them at any cost. All of your arguments must center around your affiliation, and your objectivity must be suppressed. That’s the common view around the tech community, and we all seem to quietly fall into those roles on many issues. But that, my friend, is simply insane.

Apple is not perfect. Samsung is not perfect. Microsoft is not perfect. They all do some things well and do some things poorly. I personally think Apple does the most things well, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fuck up too. The old phrase that Apple products “just work” is a terrible misnomer, because there are lots of times they just don’t work. But every other tech company’s products don’t work much of the time too. Technology is a really hard nut to crack, and even though advances are always being made, things still break and don’t work and frustrate people and perfection is never quite reached.

Really, we need to stop focusing on our allegiances to corporations and instead focus on ideals. I like Apple because it stands for things like attention to detail, simplicity, design, elegance, etc. When it lives up to those ideals I applaud it, when it fails, I criticize it. It’s the same for any other tech company. If a rival company to Apple started making products that achieved these ideals to a greater degree, I’d have to seriously think about switching. Currently there doesn’t seem to be anyone at Apple’s level, but that doesn’t mean I’m blindly following a false idol. I’m following my ideals, and Apple is just managing to live up to them the most right now.

So let’s all just stop, calm down, and sit peacefully together in the glow of our disparate devices. We can have discussions about those devices, but focus them around the actual issues, not simply old tropes of “you’re just an Apple fanboy” or “Android users lack taste.” Everyone is different and has different thoughts and passions and ideals. Lets parse those out and see how they apply to technology. Brands shouldn’t matter – what matters is what those brands stand for and what they actually produce. In the end we’re all just grasping for the perfected confluence of ones and zeroes sitting somewhere out in the distance.

An iPad, a Computer, a Holy Grail?

Can the iPad be one’s primary computing device? That’s a question that has been floating throughout the Apple community ever since the iPad was released back in 2010. There has been endless debate on this subject, although no definitive answer has emerged. Yet, I’m not as interested in whether this is possible or not, because I think the more interesting question is why do people want this so badly? Why are we all searching for this “Holy Grail” of devices that we can use for all our tasks, at the expense of using more specialized devices?

When the iPad was announced, people immediately started to speculate on what exactly this device could do. Dreams of a laptop replacement filled people’s minds, and many hoped for a powerful computing device that could do professional level work. Yet, once it was actually released, people realized it wasn’t as fully formed and powerful as they had hoped. The first iPad had a fairly limited app selection, did not multitask, and still had to be connected to a computer out of the box. It wasn’t even close to a laptop replacement at that point.1 Yet, it was massively popular, because people used it for what it was, a more casual device that usually worked in compliment to one’s main computer.

Now, almost four years later, the iPad has grown up to a large degree, both in terms of its raw power and the ever expanding app ecosystem. This has rekindled the dream in some people’s minds of making the iPad their primary computer. The poster child for this in the Apple community is Federico Viticci, who actually has managed to use his iPad as his main computing device for many areas of his life, including running his popular MacStories website.2 Yet, even Viticci I think will admit that the technology is not quite there, and one has to use many workarounds to do certain tasks, and some tasks are simply impossible to completely do on an iPad.

Yet, why do people still pursue this dream of the iPad as a primary computer?

Maybe some of it is the desire to simplify one’s life, to winnow things down to the bare essentials. It can be more stressful and time consuming to have multiple devices to gets things done, as opposed to a single device. If I’m going on vacation I need to bring both my iPad and MacBook Air, but it would be so much easier to simply have just the iPad do everything I usually do on my MacBook Air. One could empty out their digital life and be left with a single device sitting alone on the table, the one device to rule them all.3

However, the question that keeps coming to my mind is why can’t we be happy with having different devices to do different things? Why must we be obsessed with consolidating our devices, instead of being happy we can have a rich selection of more specific devices?

Anytime you consolidate devices, you are making compromises. If you decide to get rid of your camera and only use the iPhone to take photos, you are getting a lesser experience, as most stand-alone cameras can take better photos than the iPhone. If you get rid of your Nintendo 3DS and only play games on the iPhone, you are missing out on a more specialized gaming experience. If you try to handwrite notes on your iPad, you are getting a much inferior experience to the ease of writing notes in a paper notebook.

Yet, the common wisdom seems to remain that these compromises are acceptable, because in exchange you get the ease of having everything in one simple package. I understand that desire, but I wonder if people are accepting too many compromises in the name of finding this Holy Grail device. Sometimes using the correct tool for a job is a much more rewarding experience than using the more convenient, but more compromised tool.

I’d analogize it to a Swiss Army knife. A Swiss Army knife is a very convenient tool that can do a wide variety of tasks, yet it can’t do most of them very well. Jamming all of those tools into a single, small tool that fits in your pocket creates immense compromises. If you need to simply tighten a single screw it works fine, but trying to use it on a complicated construction project just becomes terribly frustrating. Instead, using the proper tools, such as an actual screwdriver, makes the experience much more seamless. That is the beauty of using the right tool for the right job.

Yet, the people using the iPad as a primary computer still seem be using a Swiss Army knife to build a house, when the box full of established tools (an actual computer) is sitting right next to them. Maybe that will change as the iPad becomes more and more powerful and these tasks will become just as easy to perform as on a full fledged computer.4 But, that time hasn’t come, and I think that people should not be afraid to seek out the most elegant solution to performing a task, even if it is not the most convenient.

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1. To be fair, Steve Jobs specifically stated at the iPad introduction that it was a device that would fit between the iPhone and Mac, and not replace either.

2. Viticci also wrote a really great retrospective of the debate over whether an iPad can be a personal computer.

3. Price also must factor in to some extent because these things cost money and some simply can’t afford to buy multiple devices.

4. If Apple ever does create an iPad Pro my thoughts might have to change.

Apple and the Long Shadow of the Nineties

In 1996, Apple was on the verge of collapse as a company, and was 90 days from going bankrupt. It was easily the darkest time for the company and came as a result of a slow decline throughout the decade. Apple saw its product line become bloated, its attempts at a revolutionary portable device (the Newton) fail, and its market share drop to an alarming 3%. Yet, it was only temporarily, and with the return of Steve Jobs, the company was rescued from the brink and eventually built back up to become the most valuable tech company in the world.

Nevertheless, I think those dark times solidified many people’s views of Apple from that point onwards; both in terms of people that will always see Apple as one step removed from being doomed and bankrupt again, to people that see Apple as the underdog company that needs to be fervently defended.

While Apple has been obscenely successful in the past decade, there still lingers this sense that it will all go away. You see this in many articles that jump on slight decreases in sales numbers or small issues with a new product. These relatively minor things are blown out of proportion and play into a narrative that Apple’s success is quickly disappearing and Apple is “doomed.” Yet, the evidence still points to the fact that iPhones are everywhere, that Apple is bringing in billions of dollars, and there is no sign anywhere in the immediate future that this will all disappear. So why does this narrative continue?

I believe part of the reason is the fact many of these tech writers lived through Apple’s dark days, and they think, maybe even only on a subconscious level, that history is bound to repeat itself. In the 1980s, Apple and Steve Jobs had great success with the revolutionary Macintosh, yet once Jobs left, everything went downhill and Windows quickly overtook the Mac and led to Apple’s failures in the 90s. Fast forward to 2013 and the iPhone replaces the Mac as the revolutionary device that Steve Jobs created, and now that Jobs is gone again, Apple will again go downhill and Android will be the new Windows and quickly destroy Apple.

If you don’t think about it too closely, this makes a bit of sense, however, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. There are so many factors today that differentiate it from the 90s – from Apple’s $150 billion cash hoard to the overwhelming success of iOS, which is so much more popular than the Mac ever was. Yet, if you’ve always had this view of Apple as one step away from going under, formed by memories of when that was actually true, it’s hard to not see Apple through that lens.

But this legacy of Apple’s dark days doesn’t just affect the views of Apple naysayers; amongst many Apple bloggers there seems to be a continued view of Apple as the underdog, as the company that needs to be defended because it’s being unfairly portrayed in the “mainstream” press. This runs through some of the commentary of bloggers such as Jim Dalrymple or John Gruber, both of whom lived through those dark days of Apple. They will always be quick to defend Apple from anything they feel is unfair or untrue. While they are usually correct in their arguments, and are actually making valid points about issues, they seem almost too defensive at points.1

I think that defensiveness is firmly planted in the days when Apple was the actual underdog, and supporters really did need to defend it, or it was in danger of going away. Yet, does it need to be defended so fervently in 2013, when it’s the most valuable tech company and in no danger of actually going away? I’m not sure, and I cringe a bit sometimes when Apple bloggers get this overly defensive attitude.2 It seems that if you are actually confident in Apple as a strong company at the top of its game, you could simply ignore the naysayers. Although maybe that’s an overly idealistic view of things.

In the meantime, the battles that were fought in the 90s continue to be fought in 2013. On one side are those that will always see Apple as one misstep away from a quick death, and on the other side, those that will always see Apple as the underdog in need of defense. The actual reality of Apple seems to have little effect on this battle, as the attitudes have long been hardwired into people’s minds. It might take the generation that grew up only seeing Apple’s immense success in the last decade to create a new narrative around the company. Until then, Apple’s dark days of the 90s will continue to cast their shadow.

1. For reference, see here, here, and here.

2. I’m not immune to this defensive attitude either and have written some fairly defensive articles in the past. See Apple Fanboys and Why You Shouldn’t Give a Damn About Apple’s Finances.

Apple, Wearable Technology, & iPods

Let’s talk wearables, more formally known as wearable technology. Now, technically almost anything that you wear that has some tech component could be considered wearable technology, from the classic calculator watch, to a t-shirt that displays nearby Wi-Fi signals. However, the wearable tech that is dominant right now is centered squarely on one’s wrist – smart watches. Apple has been rumored for close to a year to be working on a smart watch (usually nicknamed the iWatch) and others have come to the table with their own visions of smart watches. Yet, is this even a good idea? Are smart watches truly something that should be pursued as a useful future technology?

I’m currently very skeptical, because you have to realize an important point in this day and age – almost everyone has a smart phone on them at all times. If you start at that point, the purpose of having an extra digital bauble that you wear on your wrist seems less useful. If you are already using your smart phone all day long, you don’t need extra info on your wrist, as the screen is right in front of you. But what if you have the smart phone in you pocket or purse, wouldn’t a smart watch be a perfect way to keep you updated on your various texts, tweets, and notifications?

I don’t buy this argument.

First, what are these situations were you want to be constantly updated on your digital life, yet can’t simply take your phone out of your pocket? Most of the situations where you can’t take your phone out there is a reason; usually it is socially unacceptable to be using your phone or you simply don’t want to be distracted. Think important meetings at work, dinner dates, or watching a movie at a
theatre.1 Using a smart watch in these situations would almost certainly be just as socially unacceptable or distracting. You might think you could use a smart watch more inconspicuously than a smart phone, but people can just as easily see you glancing down at your watch.2 I think in any situation where a smart phone would be inappropriate, shrinking the screen size down and placing it on your wrist won’t magically change that.

Second, the main situation you might actually want a smart watch, as opposed to a smart phone, would be exercising. Yet, all the current ideas about an Apple smart watch imagine it being tethered to an iPhone. In that scenario, you’d still have to attach the iPhone to your body while you exercised, which would basically defeat the advantage of having the smart watch in the first place. Therefore, any smart watch that needs to be tethered seems to be a flawed idea.

However, what about an Apple smart watch that didn’t require being tethered to an iPhone? Maybe it could play music, keep track of your movements, and push you notifications over a cell network, all independent of having your actual iPhone. But then you basically are talking about a beefed up iPod Nano, one that has a cell data, GPS, and tracking chip inside it and attaches to your wrist. Could that be what Apple is planning?3

It’s been obvious the last few years that the iPod line has been slowly fading.4 Maybe Apple sees an iWatch as a replacement in some ways to the type of functionality iPods offer to people. A smaller, lighter device that is used for more specific tasks, as opposed to the bigger, more expensive iPhone, which is used for more robust tasks. If Apple got rid of the iPod Nano and Shuffle lines completely, but replaced them with a smart watch device, would anyone complain? They could even design it in a way that it wouldn’t necessarily have to be used as a watch – maybe a removable band.

Just imagine a very stunningly designed smart watch/iPod device that includes basic cell data connection. It’s main function still would be to play music, but it would not be limited by storage as you could stream music too. The cell connection would also allow it to send texts and notifications and maybe even phone calls. It would also include the new M7 chip to allow comprehensive motion tracking for exercising. All this and no need to ever tether to your iPhone if you don’t want.

I’m not sure the technology is there to make this feasible, which might be the reason Apple hasn’t introduced any smart watch at this point. In addition, if they did want to incorporate a cell data connection, the carriers would unfortunately need to be involved. Yet, I think a stand-alone smart watch concept that basically would replace the iPod is where Apple should go. It’s the only take on the smart watch idea that makes sense to me right now. We shall see what the future brings.

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1. Even in these situations, many people seem to still be using their smart phones.

2. Just ask George H.W. Bush back in his infamous 1992 debate.

3. I seem to recall John Gruber touching on this idea a number of months ago in an episode of The Talk Show.

4. In Apple’s last quarterly results report, iPod sales were down to only 2% of Apple’s total revenue.

On Battery Life

While the march of progress in technology has been swift and exponential, the one area that seems to lag behind the most is battery life. It has remained fairly consistent over the past few decades, with little “revolutionary” advances being made. There have been improvements of course, but nothing like the Moore’s Law increases we see in memory and processing power. While Apple has always placed battery life fairly high on its list of priorities, it’s faced the same road blocks as every other tech company in increasing battery life in its portable devices over the years.

Looking at the graph of the evolution of Apple’s battery life in its laptops, you can see Apple started off with a bang, having the original Mac Portable computer run with a stellar 12 hours of potential battery life. Yet, that was the result of them shoving in a two pound lead-acid battery, the same type used in cars. Apple quickly realized giant lead-acid batteries would not be feasible in future products and transitioned into more modest NiMH and Li-ion based batteries and entered a long lull in battery technology. For around two decades, Apple laptops had battery lives only averaging around 5 hours. Some were on the lower side and a few higher, but it wasn’t until the last few years that Apple has been able to reach into the double digits of battery life.

In 2010, Apple managed to touch the magical 10 hour battery life for two of its products – the final version of the plastic MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For the MacBook Pro, the increase was the result of Apple having transitioned the MacBook Pro line to non-removable batteries and its use of new software technology. However, a year later the MacBook was discontinued and the MacBook Pro was refreshed, reducing its battery life back to 7 hours. It wasn’t until this summer that Apple managed to again reach double digits in terms of battery life in one of its laptops, with the current 13-inch MacBook Air getting an estimated 12 hours. So a mere 22 years after the Mac Portable, Apple has again managed to make a portable computer that has 12 hours of battery life.1

In addition to Apple’s laptops, battery life is a very important part of their iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. However, both have been fairly stagnant in terms of advances in battery life over their lifetimes.

The graph above unquestionable illustrates the utter lack of increase (or decrease) in the iPad’s battery life – with every single model, including the Mini, having the exact same 10-hour battery life.

The graph for the iPhone shows there has seen some increase in the past six years, although nothing terribly revolutionary. The original iPhone had only six hours internet browsing over wifi, which has slowly increased over subsequent generations to reach the 10 hours on the current iPhone models. Talk time has also slowly increased to match web browsing with an estimated 10 hours.2

It seems Apple believes 10 hours is currently the magical number in terms of battery life, with all of their devices hovering around that number. It’s interesting that given the dramatic size differences between devices, that the battery life remains fairly close. You’d think the larger devices would have proportionate increases in battery life, since you can fit in larger batteries. However, the larger devices have more power hungry features that eat up the extra battery, such as the large, retina screens in the iPads and the Intel processors and full fledged OS in the MacBooks.

While 10 hours is more than twice the average battery life than previous Apple portables from the past two decades, it still seems rather weak in comparison to other technological advances. Compare the specs of a PowerBook 2400c from 1998 and a MacBook Pro from 2013. The MacBook Pro has a processor that is at least 20 times faster, has over 200 times the amount of storage, and has 500 times the amount of RAM. Yet, despite being exponentially superior in almost every way, the MacBook Pro’s battery life is only a measly two hours more than the PowerBook’s battery. How can all the other technology increase so astronomically, yet battery life basically stand still?

A big part of the reason is battery tech is still rather crude, with batteries being made merely out of mixtures of chemicals such as nickel and lithium. This basic concept of a chemical-based battery hasn’t fundamentally changed for over two hundred years. While batteries have gotten more efficient to some degree, most increases in battery life in the last twenty years are the result of software working more efficiently to make better use of the available battery. But there is a limit to how much you can squeeze out of these small packages of chemicals. Portable devices are only getting more powerful and feature filled, so something will have to give to even retain the current levels of battery life.

With how important these portable devices are becoming in our lives, I think a revolution has to be on the horizon. Some new tech that will blow away chemicals and give exponential increases in battery life. There are candidates out there, such as a silicon supercapacitor, but these are still in the experimental stages. In the meantime, it remains rather disappointing that I can barely get a full days use out of my iPhone, and not even that if I use it more heavily. I hope future generations will laugh at how terrible battery life used to be, and devices will eventually get days, if not weeks of power without having to be charged. Right now, however, that is still a ways in the future.

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1. Later Apple Newtons did get fairly crazy battery life, with the MessagePad 2100 getting an estimated 12-36 hours of continuous use, and 2-3 months of “average” use. However, its hard to compare the very limited Newtons to laptop computers or even iOS devices.

2. This is caluclated using 3G talk time, except for the original iPhone which lacked any 3G capability.

The iPad Pro

On Tuesday, Apple announced the redesigned iPad would now be called the “iPad Air.” Many were surprised by this name, as there was zero hint beforehand, although we seemingly knew everything else Apple was to announce. I was following the keynote on Twitter and when I saw people talking about an iPad Air, I first thought it was some type of joke. However, that’s the name Apple is going with, and it allows me to run rife with speculation about the future of the iPad line.

First, it’s a little strange for Apple to use the “Air” moniker for its top-of- the-line iPad, when it also uses it for its lower-end, consumer laptop. I realize Apple is using the name to highlight the fact the iPad is so much thinner and lighter than the previous version, but using “Air” carries with it the baggage of being associated with the MacBook Air. When I think MacBook Air, I think cheaper and slightly compromised compared to the MacBook Pro. Thus, an iPad Air seems like it should be a more compromised version of an iPad, although much thinner and lighter. However, that’s not the case, and the iPad Air is the high-end, top-of-the-line iPad.

Yet, what if the iPad Air was only the top-of-the-line iPad temporarily, and Apple is set to introduce an even more powerful iPad in the future.

Enter the mythical iPad Pro.

When I think about an iPad Pro, there seems to be many ways to go about creating that concept. The easiest way, which has already been rumored, is to simply increase the screen size. I think a 13-inch iPad would seem the most logical increase in screen real estate. However, I’m unsure how useful that would be and whether there would be a market for such a large screen. It might appeal to people who need more room to work with apps on an iPad, such as editing movies, music, or photos. Yet, the iOS single screen interface makes it less useful, as you can’t view multiple apps at the same time as you can on a Mac.1 It also would make the iPad far less portable, although that might be an acceptable compromise for the Pro market.

Another way would to be to keep the 9.7 inch screen size, but bulk it up. Make it thicker and heavier than the current iPad Air, but use that extra space to fit in a much bigger battery and get 15-20 hours of battery life compared to the Air’s 10 hours. You also could add premium features such as 256 GB of storage or a faster processor. Maybe even add a fingerprint sensor or high end camera to make it seem more “Pro.”2 The counter argument to this is the fact Apple usually loathes making devices heavier and bulkier and seems to be working hard at shrinking down even their Pro lines of computers.

Yet, I think Apple could take some combination of these ideas and create an iPad that is clearly differentiated from the current iPad Air and which comfortably embraces the “Pro” name.

However, does the world want an iPad Pro?

Looking at how mature the iOS platform has become in recent years, I think a Pro device could be viable. Not only has iOS itself become significantly more powerful and versatile since its introduction, the iOS app ecosystem has matched that power. Just look at an app like Editorial, which allows one to do things never before contemplated on an iPad. Now imagine more professional apps being created to be used on an iPad Pro, such as a full fledged Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, or Logic. An iPad Pro, that has more battery life, power, storage, and maybe screen real estate, could open up new ways for people to use their iPad – it could become a truly viable laptop replacement.

There remains this ongoing debate about whether an iPad is a content creation device or simply a content consumption device. I personally am bored by the debate at this point, but I think an iPad Pro would finally put it to rest. The tablet form factor, in my mind, is the future of computing. Laptops will remain for the foreseeable future, but every year the tablet makes gains that place it right alongside the laptop as a full fledged computing device. If Apple decides to go in this direction with an iPad Pro, I think it would push those boundaries even further.3

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1. Apple could theoretically remedy this by introducing a future version of iOS that allows multiple app windows to be opened at the same time, however, I’ve heard of no indication that Apple is thinking about going in that direction.

2. You could even add a fancy keyboard case, which Apple has been rumored to at least be working on in the prototype stage.

3. This discussion also brings up in my mind the hypothetical convergence of Apple’s operating systems and devices. I know many people think the Mac will go on forever, but I think given enough time, Apple will have to merge Mac hardware and software with iOS. I’m not sure what this future merged software and devices would look like or how they would work, but I think that day will come eventually.