When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad on January 28, 2010, he said it was going to fill the gap between smartphones and laptop computers. Many people expected the iPad to replace laptop computers soon, but 10 years later, laptop computers are still preferred by pros, who use computers to make a living. There are many reasons for it, but first, let’s see the man himself introduce iPad:
To find out the reasons behind iPad not being the revolutionary device people thought iPad would be, let’s start by The iPad Awkwardly Turns 10 by John Gruber:
“It’s just a big iPhone” was the most common initial criticism. Turns out, “just a big iPhone” was a fantastic idea for a new product — music to tens of millions of iPhone users’ ears.
But the iPad fell short of revolutionary:
Ten years later, though, I don’t think the iPad has come close to living up to its potential. By the time the Mac turned 10, it had redefined multiple industries. In 1984 almost no graphic designers or illustrators were using computers for work. By 1994 almost all graphic designers and illustrators were using computers for work. The Mac was a revolution. The iPhone was a revolution. The iPad has been a spectacular success, and to tens of millions it is a beloved part of their daily lives, but it has, to date, fallen short of revolutionary.
Because its UI is not intuitive:
On the iPhone you can only have one app on screen at a time. The screen is the app; the app is the screen. This is limiting but trivial to understand. On the Mac you can have as many apps on screen at the same time as you want, and you launch the second, third, or twentieth app exactly the same way that you launch the first. That is consistency. On iPad you can only have two apps on screen at the same time, and you must launch them in entirely different ways — one of them intuitive (tap any app icon), one of them inscrutable (drag one of the handful of apps you’ve placed in your Dock). And if you don’t quite drag the app from the Dock far enough to the side of the screen, it launches in “Slide Over”, an entirely different shared-screen rather than split-screen mode. The whole concept is not merely inconsistent, it’s incoherent.
However, Matt Birchler has a counter-argument in Mistaking Familiarity for Intuitiveness for iPadOS being unintuitive and macOS being intuitive:
Experienced pilots find flying pretty easy and they navigate the cockpit with ease, but that doesn’t mean that the cockpit of a 747 is the height of intuitiveness.
That’s not wrong, but that’s not what Gruber claimed in his original piece:
My criticism about iPadOS has little to do with intuitiveness. If anything, what the iPad gets right is clearly more intuitive than the Mac — direct manipulation with touch vs. indirect manipulation via mouse pointer is clearly far more intuitive and natural. That’s what makes the state of iPadOS so crushingly disappointing — it has an inherent leg up on MacOS on intuitiveness by nature of its conceptual foundation. The problems with the iPad are about consistency, coherence, and discoverability. Launching the first on-screen app with a simple tap, but the second on-screen app with a tap-and-hold-then-drag-to-the-side-but-make-sure-you-drag-it-all-the-way-to-the-side-or-else-you’ll-get-Slide-Over is inconsistent, incoherent, and requires unnecessary dexterous precision.
Another inconsistency in the iPad world is that its product lineup consists of several different models. In order to show why this is an inconsistency on Apple’s part, let’s go back to way before the iPad was introduced. Back in 1997, Apple was not the successful company it is right now, and Steve Jobs identified one of the root causes of the failure as having confusing product lineups. So, one of the things that Steve Jobs famously did after returning to Apple in 1997 was to limit Apple’s Mac computers to four categories:
It was so neat and elegant that it helped customers decide which device to buy. But it is not the same for the iPad:
Apple is not offering four different iPads, with iPad Pro being offered in two different sizes. I really like how Apple is now using the “Pro” naming scheme for distinguishing its high-end products (iPhone 11/iPhone 11 Pro, AirPods/AirPods Pro), and I think they should move in the same direction for iPad too. (On a side-note, Apple ditched this scheme for its MacBook lineup. They used to offer three different MacBooks: MacBook, MacBook Air & MacBook Pro, but they discontinued MacBook)
And for the last part of this piece, let’s see this beautiful infographic by Rafael Zeier:
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.