The iPad is/isn’t/could be/should be a full fledged computer.

Justin Lake
Nov 6, 2018 · 5 min read

Expectations, they are a powerful thing. When you have low expectations and something exceeds them, you come away impressed. When you have high expectations and something fails to meet them, you come away unimpressed. It’s quite simple.

When the iPad first launched in 2010, no one called it a MacBook Pro replacement. In fact, just take a look at where Steve Jobs positioned it.

The “in-the-middle” device.

Steve talked about how if you’re going to create a third category of computing device, it has to be better than a smartphone at some things and better than a laptop at others. He showed a slide of what types of things he was referring to.

The perfect “consumption” device.

I started working at Apple in 2011, the year after the iPad launched. When people asked about the iPad, we would speak about the iPad as the perfect consumption device. Are you looking for a device that’s perfect for watching movies, reading books, and surfing the web? Look no further than the iPad. When students asked, “Could I use this instead of a MacBook Air?” my answer was always, “Not likely.” Remember, the iPad started at $499, a whole lot cheaper than the price of a Mac. The price was a clear way for consumers to wrap their minds around the idea of capability. Pay more, get more capability.

Well, fast forward to today. It’s probably wise to take a look at my last blog post here before you continue reading.

Don’t want to? TL:DR: Basically all of Apple’s computers cost the same amount of money now. This price uniformity can make it hard for buyers to know what to buy. People pretty much understand that the iPhone can do a lot of things but the thing it does best is fit in a pocket or purse. As such, it’s pretty easy to recognize and accept that there will be tradeoffs.

But what about the new iPads? They are now the same size as computers, so are they now computers or is Apple still marketing them as “the in-between-device” like Steve did back in 2010? Let’s take a look at a few screenshots from

“You get what you need from a computer…”
“Does what a computer does, but in more intuitive ways.”
“It works like a computer.”
“Paint, make, take, create, draw.”

Nope, this isn’t an in-between device. Apple is calling this thing a computer and actually bragging about it being better than a “computer.” I mean, look at the name, it’s called the iPad PRO. The only other products Apple makes that use the pro moniker are the MacBook pro, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro. And no one is going to argue that those are legitimate computers for professionals. If this iPad is a pro computer, it must carry a pro computer price tag, right? It sure does. The iPad starts at $799, but that price is as misleading as the MSRP of a car. Once you get sufficient storage, a keyboard, AppleCare+, and give the government their share, you are dropping serious money. Let’s max one out real quick.


Haaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy wowwwwwwww, that’s a lot of cheddar for a device that used to be an in-between device. But remember, this is better than a computer now. So it makes sense that it costs more than a computer (including Apple’s own MacBook Pro). Right?

Remember when I was talking about expectations? Apple, through pricing and marketing speak, is basically begging consumers to have extremely high expectations of this new iPad Pro. Which means that unless the iPad Pro meets or exceeds those expectations for consumers, people will be unimpressed. Other words that come to mind are frustrated, annoyed, angry, and disappointed.

Hattie sold her MacBook Air a year and a half ago to give this whole “iPad as a computer” idea a try. The result? Mixed.

For all the things Steve talked about on stage 8 years ago, the iPad is still the best device. Looking at photos, watching tv, etc. She uses it daily for messaging, watching The Americans, uploading photos, shopping, and a slew of other things. And for the most part, it’s fantastic. But there are seemingly simple things that are still frustratingly difficult. Some websites don’t scroll properly on the iPad, making it impossible to make selections in drop down navigation menus. Working in spreadsheets is cumbersome. Quickly editing a batch of raw photos from a photo shoot? Hattie had all but given up on this task last week when I finally slid my MacBook Pro over to her with Lightroom open. An hour later she was done. Did I mention you can’t plug in a hard drive or download files from the web (ok, you can, but it requires Documents)?

And so here we are, in the same situation we were in 2010. The iPad is better at some tasks than an iPhone and a Mac, and worse at others. I think people are frustrated because they want the iPad to be their computer. I know I do. in his MacBook Air review, Dieter basically says that the Mac is the computer of today, the iPad the computer of the future. And who doesn’t want the future, now?

Apple has done a lot to make the iPad the computer of the future. Light. Fast. Beautiful. The question is whether or not it has grown into a “computer” or is still the perfect in-between device. Apple believes it is a computer now. They’ve priced it as one and marketed it as one. Some agree, others don’t. My advice? Don’t set your expectations sky high and you should be able to come away quite impressed.

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