The iPad Turnaround Is Coming
Jean-Louis Gassée

I have had some model of MacBook/MacBook Pro iPhone since 2009, but until recently I never found a reason to buy an iPad. It was a useful reading device, but the UI, particularly the on-screen keyboard, was too clumsy for words.

At some point I received an iPad 2 as a hand-me-down from someone that I had given my original 2009 MacBook to when I upgraded to a Pro, and the only major use I found for it at first was as a visual assistive device in certain situations, such as reading vocal sheet music or even reading small-print restaurant menus or ingredient lists. (Obviously, I have some problems with my eyesight.)

While it was indeed helpful as a visual assist, the iPad 2 was terribly slow, and when Apple dropped software support for it in 2016 I broke down and bought an iPad Pro with keyboard. Very soon it became my primary read-and-respond device, for email, news, and social media, and my preferred device for watching video as well. The higher-quality display and improved performance were factors, but by far the most important change was having an attached full-sized standard keyboard that could either fold out of the way or unfold quickly when needed, such as when I went to write this response. I quickly came to appreciate the familiar editing controls such as arrow movements and copy/paste key combinations (the same ones as on my Mac). My primary motivation for spending that much money was better visual assistance, but once I began using it, the keyboard became as important as the display.

I am a database developer by trade, though retired from full-time permanent employment (I still consult), and the iPad is of no use to me in that capacity other than for email and reading blogs. Its potential as a data collection and querying device, however, is something that I am just beginning to understand.

The price of an iPad Pro, while it might seem high to many consumers, strikes me as relatively cheap for a highly mobile commercial-quality data collection and querying device. Both the availability of the standard (and easily replaceable) keyboard and the quality of the tablet (compared with lower-cost Android devices I have used) are important for these kinds of applications.

I don’t know what proportion of iPad sales commercial applications account for. I suspect that it is high, because I see relatively few consumers using iPads and I see commercial uses all over the place. I also see a parallel with the MacBook Pro. I am an MS SQL Server/Windows platform developer, and I use my MacBook Pro for that whenever I can. I run Windows on my Mac, either in a VM or in Boot Camp when I must (the driver support from Apple for the display, keyboard, and trackpad for the latter is terrible). Finding a comparable quality commodity-market notebook PC has proven to be more trouble than it is worth to me. Until now.

Ironically, it might be easier now because I have shifted so much of my email and personal use over to the iPad Pro that I hardly care any longer if my notebook can run MacOS or not. I can think offhand of only three Mac apps or suites I own that I would have to replace if I let the MacBook go, and I can migrate two of them to Windows at no cost. I can’t say that I see another MacBook Pro purchase in my future, given that my primary use for it is as a Windows developer, and that reliable non-iCloud file sharing is now available between Apple and PC devices. (I won’t even comment on what I have endured trying to use iCloud on Windows, other than to say that I totally banned it from there for the sake of data integrity.)

In short, though, the hardware and software quality of the devices MUST stand out in order to justify the higher cost. I am seeing signs that Apple is slipping in both areas. My early 2011 MacBook Pro died after four years because of the infamous video subsystem overheating failure. My Time Machine backup files self-destruct regularly because of problems Apple has known about for perhaps 6 years but failed to correct. I have experienced a number of home networking issues, on both the Mac and the iPad that appear to stem from Apple’s non-standard network protocols. I haven’t been able to use any Apple networking hardware in installed commercial networking infrastructure that I maintain; it is too unreliable. I would hope that Apple would not lose sight of these issues.

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