Apple’s latest foray into processors, SIPs (system-in-package) and SOCs (system-on-a-chip) have been nothing short of an astounding success. The clear advantages offered by M1 in performance and battery life have overshadowed concerns about stagnant design, third party repair, user upgradability and consumer freedom.
Bringing it to iPad clearly showcases Apple’s intention of slowly phasing out the Mac and making the iPad the goto device for consumers. The past few years, Apple has taken many steps to liberate the unnecessary constraints it had initially placed on the iPad platform. However, to assume that Apple will seek to merge Macs and iPads is an inordinately misguided assumption.
While in the past Apple has given the processing chops for iPads to be truly effective and productive workhorses for a few professionals, it viewed iPads as a companion device and not a primary device. It was clear when the iPad was introduced as a replacement to the highly compact yet ineffecient netbooks segment of the market. The initial focus was to be used as a reading device, a larger touch-screen based internet portal, an on-the-go entertainment hub and mobile gaming.
However, with the clear shift to more portable, touch-based interfaces every industry was moving towards, iPads began to look more lucrative than traditional clamshell laptops. Initially, Apple refused to even entertain the idea of a stylus. Then, about a decade later, a u-turn in policy and they sold their own stylus.
More examples can be drawn from features in both hardware and software as well as marketing decisions and product positioning to showcase Apple’s push for users to adopt iPads over Macs. Even the processor architecture transition from x86 to Apple’s ARM-based ISA was indirectly a way to push developers to make applications for the iPad.
Apple refuses to adopt a touchscreen on its Mac platform when clearly all its competitors have adopted them and implemented them to some degree. There no longer exists any valid reason for macOS being a primarily point-and-click interface and not optimized for touch. Project sidecar, which converts an iPad into a secondary “touch-based” display shows that operating a stylus on that display works. As in, macOS could easily be optimized for touch-based inputs.
In reality, everything boils down to control. Apple has maintained a very tight control over the software distributed on its iOS based devices. This generates immense value and revenue for Apple while providing unique closed-system features only found with Apple’s ecosystem. Mac, by no means, is an open-system example. However, the ability to bypass Apple’s Mac Store and freely reconfigure the device in many respects devoids most of the control Apple holds over macOS, the same way it does with iOS and iPadOS platforms.
With M1 and macOS 11 (Big Sur), Apple has not only partly established frameworks for future control on the Mac, but also brought about a common architecture in all its platforms that indicates a Universal App framework. Create an app for Macs? Easily port over to the iPad. Consumers want a touch-device with pro-level computer software? Here’s the iPad Pro 2021 with the innards of the most powerful, ultraportable, consumer laptop and an exhaustive suite of cross-device professional applications.
Rumors suggest that Apple is going to bring its on suite of Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X and Xcode to iPads. Adobe has been hard at work creatings applications for iPads and now that Macs are running the same ISA as iPads, applications written on Macs are bound to make their way to iPads. So is Microsoft. It is safe to assume other big name software companies are doing the same. However, with iPad AppStore, the developers need to be interested and willing to leave 30% of their revenue in Apple’s coffers and that might deter potential consumers. And from past experience, it is clear most of them are.
Apple’s endgame has always been the same thing since its founding. Control, not choice, is the only way to have a profitable monopoly on consumer choice.