and turns out that it is!
Hi Weldon, thank you for your comment!
Avi Barel


I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “possible.” Can a single OS be adapted to work for both tablet and desktop interfaces? Sure. But that’s nothing new. Your design is an interesting idea for how it might be doable with Apple hardware, but it seems to me that the proof-of-concept already exists in the form of Surface, and all the other forms of convertible laptop/tablet devices.

You’re Asking the Wrong Question

The question with Apple is never, “Is it possible.” It is always, “Is this a good idea?” I think you’ve shown exactly why they’ve (thus far) always answered the latter question in the negative. In other words, while it’s possible to make an OS adaptable to both platforms, it can’t help but be kludgy, awkward, and more complicated than the platform-specific OS.

A 15" iPad? Nope.

While there might be people who want a 15" tablet, there are dozens of reasons it’s an awful idea. For starters, it’s way too big to easily and casually hold in your hands. (It seems to me that’d be a deal breaker for Apple.) Also: Aside from magically converting into a laptop, what does a 15" iPad do that a 12" iPad Pro doesn’t? Why would someone rather have an enormous tablet than a pretty-big tablet? (And “people like big stuff” is not an acceptable answer in Cupertino.)

Not Apple’s Kind of Innovation

I get that lots of people perceive Apple as being less innovative than it supposedly was under Jobs. I disagree with that idea, but even if I didn’t, I don’t see how Apple releasing its own take on the Surface (or those Lenovo convertible laptop/tablet thingies) would qualify as “innovation.” Obviously, some of Apple’s most innovative products weren’t necessarily new ideas — the iPod certainly wasn’t the first portable MP3 player, for example — but it seems clear that a major product like this would only make sense for Apple if two conditions are both true:

  1. They see a fundamental flaw in existing solutions that they can solve simply, elegantly, and with an end result that’s awesome, stylish, more intuitive, and more accessible for average people.
  2. Their solution is worthwhile, by which I mean that it improves the way people do something that they want (or will want) to do. In other words: Apple doesn’t usually do something just because they can, or just because the tech press says they should. The “thing” has to be worth making, it has to meet a deep need, it has to make people marvel at just how dissatisfying the experience was before Apple offered a better solution.

The MacBook Air is a great example. For years, Apple resisted making an “ultraportable” laptop because people hated ultraportables. Sure, people wanted a more portable laptop, but no one liked the smaller keyboards or the too-slow processors that couldn’t even handle multi-tab browser sessions, or the flimsy parts required to keep the weight down. (The only people who bought ultraportables were those who wanted a super-portable laptop so badly that they were willing to put up with all that stuff. But Apple doesn’t play that game. No one wants to pay Apple prices for a machine whose user experience isn’t totally delightful. That’s Apple’s mantra.)

So Apple took the time to solve the problem by creating a laptop that was super-portable, but that kept the full-size keyboard, included a processor capable of real (albeit not “power”) computing, and didn’t require any other such compromises. Watch Jobs’ keynote introducing the air, and that’s exactly what he emphasizes: its thin enough to fit in an envelope, but you don’t have to compromise.

Your “Problem” Doesn’t Justify a New Kind of Product

Here’s the “problem” you articulate:

When it comes to productivity, you want to be able to quickly shift from a media-consumption device to a work-machine, let’s say that in case of emergency, if your client / or your manager calls in the evening and you have to open some project files (in 3D Studio, Sketch, or Adobe premiere). You want to do it without getting up of the couch, to go back to your home office in order to use your Mac just for this particular task, because that’s what happens today to most of the professionals when they have to switch from the iPad to the Mac, simply because the iPad is not a desktop computer. It’s powerful enough, but not as powerful as a Mac (or any other PC with x86 CPU).

In other words: Switching between a computer and an iPad is inconvenient.

Well, sorry, but that’s a silly justification for a new kind of device. For a couple reasons:

First, there already is a device that lets me sit on my couch and do “pro” work. It’s called MacBook Pro. Your explanation doesn’t make a case for why a laptop is a fundamentally flawed tool for accomplishing the task.

That brings me to the second reason it’s silly: the problem isn’t a fundamental one. Rather, the problem is that some people (though I doubt it’s very many) think it would be great to have one device for both media consumption and for high-performance computing. (Personally, I like keeping those things separate. So do lots of people. But that’s not the point.) That doesn’t make a performance laptop or an iPad fundamentally flawed. It makes you someone who wants to have your cake and eat it too.

For pros, Apple sees the iPad as a complement a large desktop. So a photographer might use their iPad to review images in the field (like I do with Adobe’s Lightroom app), or a visual designer might use the iPad to sketch ideas. But ultimately, those pros want to do their serious work at a workhorse desktop machine. Those occasional “emergencies” you describe don’t justify a whole different product category that tries to do too many things, but isn’t the best tool to accomplish any single job well.

It’s like your saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could have a hammer that’s also a screwdriver?” And maybe such a tool would be convenient in some situations. But such a hammer might not fit as easily in your hand, since it would need to have screwdriver parts taking up space on or around the handle. And it would be hard to apply torque to a small screw with a big hammer head in the way. Because pro carpenters require a hammer that’s great for hammering and a screwdriver that’s great for screwing, they’d rather carry two excellent tools (that each are perfectly designed for their singular tasks) than one mediocre tool that doesn’t do either job as well.

The “Converged” MacBook/iPad Already Exists

Nevertheless, the laptop/tablet convertible meets a specific need for some people. And Apple has three products for meeting that need. That’s probably because Apple understands it a little differently than other hardware makers (and OS developers, in the case of Microsoft). But it’s also because Apple sees a clear difference between a tablet OS and a desktop OS.

And because Apple sees them as fundamentally different kinds of OS, a “merged” OS means everyone loses. That’s because with a fully-convertible model like you’re suggesting, a merged OS would require the types of compromises Apple would never make. Why? Your mock-ups are a perfect illustration: a hybrid OS isn’t the best for either platform because it requires user interfaces that work on both (which means: works well on one and poorly on the other, or works so-so on both), or a not-intuitive-enough mechanism for switching between desktop and tablet UI paradigms. And these are precisely the kind of compromises Apple loathes.

As for existing solutions, Apple offers three:

  • If your work doesn’t require a full computer, the iPad Pro is a great solution. It’s well-suited to address the needs of people who primarily use a computer to surf the web and create word processing documents.
  • If you need a portable computer capable of running powerful pro workflows, a MacBook Pro is the right tool for the job. And my MacBook Pro transitions well from my desk, where I dock it with peripherals and a pair of 4K monitors, to my lap on the couch in my living room. It absolutely solves your problem.
  • If you want an even more portable device (and don’t need pro-level power) but find the iPad’s form factor restrictive for “real work,” then you should look into a MacBook.
  • And if you want a tablet but you can’t (or hate to) use tablet versions of your apps, necessitating a tablet that runs desktop apps… buy a Surface.

And By the Way, Apple Isn’t Moving Toward a Converged OS

It’d be easy to assume that Apple is already moving towards a single OS. After all, a bunch of iOS apps and functions exist on the Mac (Notes, Maps, Siri, the iWork Suite, etc.). And then there’s the TouchBar, which sure seems like a stepping stone toward a touch-based Mac.

But look closer.

First, Apple believes that a touch-based version of the app is totally different than a desktop version. So when it designed iWork for iOS, it created apps that are optimized for the iPad. That’s because people use tablets differently. They hold them differently, they interact with them differently… it’s a different beast altogether.

So when they port a feature or app between those platforms, they’re not actually “porting” at all. Rather, they’re developing new apps from scratch that are designed to maximize their respective platforms. Apple isn’t interested in making it easy for developers to create one app for tablet and desktop usage. And forcing developers to do so would mean asking them to essentially package two apps in one, which doesn’t save anyone any time or energy.

As for TouchBar, it isn’t a stepping stone. If Apple had wanted to create a touch-based version of MacOS, they would have. Rather, they engineered a device that offers an advantage found in touch devices — dynamic buttons/switches/sliders that change depending on your task — so that a laptop could have those sorts of buttons, too. But they engineered it as an addition to the keyboard, not a replacement for it.