I got into a Twitter back-and-forth with Michael Gartenberg, a longtime personal technology analyst who also did stints as a Microsoft evangelist and more recently Apple senior director of worldwide product marketing for Apple. My initial tweet was prompted by his recent post about CES.
I think the conversation suffered from 140-character-limit-itis, devolving into a debate more about definitions than substance, so I’m adding my fuller thoughts and response here:
First, here’s why I said you “panned” CES. You knocked some ideas you thought were silly — HDR and 4K video (attempt by TV industry to gin up sales); fitness trackers (gathering dust on shelf); and drones (dangerous). Your introduction set the tone: “When I look at this year’s show, I see a lot of things no one needs, and few people will want.” You said you smiled, too, but I didn’t detect much enthusiasm in the post.
The second issue — your disputing my comment that “the froaster is just where Apple is going today with iPad Pro” — was the bigger matter. Frankly, I thought my comment about the froaster direction was pretty non-controversial, so I was surprised you took issue with it. Let me clarify my position.
My basic point here is that the boundary between tablets and laptops are blurring, and I think the iPad Pro with Apple’s keyboard blurs that line further. I don’t mean to suggest Apple’s new direction for tablets is the sole future direction for a portable computing device larger than a phone, or that all iPads will come with a keyboard, or that an iPad Pro with a keyboard is as ugly as the original parody froaster. Maybe someday MacBooks will disappear, maybe not — I have no idea. I just see that the iPad Pro with a keyboard (and faster processor) can handle more jobs that previously were best accomplished on a traditional laptop. Third parties have supplied keyboards for years, but now Apple does, too. That’s why I said Apple is is going toward the froaster. I have a hard time imagining that future iPad Pros will become less capable when it comes to photo editing, word processing, email, and spreadsheets. I don’t see that capability as mutually exclusive with the iPad’s current recreational strengths like reading ebooks, watching video, and playing games.
For background, the “froaster” is the converged refrigerator and toaster that Tim Cook disparaged in 2012 — and that iPad keyboard maker Brydge turned into snarky video response. Cook’s quotation at the time: “Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about tradeoffs, and you begin to make tradeoffs to the point where what you have left doesn’t please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going be pleasing to the user.”
You asked my definition of “PC.” I think the term is squishy and changing, and in the tweet you asked about, I meant it to describe traditional laptops and desktop machines. Historically, “PC” meant an IBM or IBM clone running DOS or Windows, not to be confused with an Apple Macintosh. However, I people are expanding the definition to include laptops more broadly, including MacBooks and Chromebooks, in particular since a lot of software runs in the browser that doesn’t care much about the underlying operating system or processor. With the push by Microsoft, Intel, and other computer makers toward convertible models with detachable screens, the boundary between laptops and tablets is blurring. Apple, with the iPad Pro and keyboard, is blurring the line but coming from the tablet direction.
Your comment that “iPad is just getting more iPad-like” ducks the question about this convergence. I think it’s pretty hard to argue that Apple is sticking by Tim Cook’s anti-convergence stance from 2012. I don’t have a problem with Apple updating that stance, just as I don’t have a problem with Apple reversing earlier opposition to small iPads and large iPhones. Technology and customer preferences change. To me, “froaster” simply means “tablet-laptop convergence.”