Are we in Apple’s post-iPad era?

The consensus about the new iPad Pro is in: the hardware is more powerful and impressive than ever, but it’s still largely hampered by software that just hasn’t managed to keep up.

Such has been the story of the iPad Pro almost since its inception almost nine years ago, and despite moves that would seem to augur good things for the platform—like forking iPadOS off from iOS—Apple hasn’t exactly done a bang-up job of assuaging users about its commitment to making the tablet a full-fledged citizen of its lineup.

But zooming out there’s a larger question at play here: what are the long-term prospects of the iPad? Once heralded the future of computing, the iPad seems to have fallen short of that promise and, in the process, become Apple’s most at-risk product line. And compared to the rest of Apple’s offerings, the iPad increasingly looks like it may be the one left standing when the music stops.

iPhones to the left of me

For many people, the smartphone is the most important device in their lives. It goes everywhere with them, serves as their primary communication device, their recorder of memories, and their omnipresent time-waster. When prompted to give up a single technological device, most people would probably pick anything but their phone.

Chris Martin / Foundry

As the smartphone has gotten more mature, it’s also gotten larger. Apple’s current biggest phones, the iPhone 15 Plus/Pro Max, have a 6.7-inch display compared to the 3.5-inch on the original iPhone. The current iPad mini, it should be pointed out, has an 8.3-inch screen, making it much closer in size to the larger iPhone than the current models are to Apple’s first phone.

Today’s large iPhones would seem to push the limit of what works in someone’s hand. But rumor has it Apple has been investigating foldable screen technology, which might conceivably someday allow you to carry an iPhone-sized device that folds out into an iPad-sized device. While it might not be a powerhouse in the class of the iPad Pro, it does mean a possible world where the iPhone might start eating away at the low end of the iPad market. After all, why carry two devices when one might do?

Macs to the right

On the other end of the scale, the iPad Pro’s power and high price tag force a comparison with the Mac. After all, these devices have the same chip line (if, for the moment, newer in the iPad) along with similar amounts of RAM and storage. Only a few factors set them apart: first, the versatility of the iPad form factor; second, its touch interface; and third, the comparative flexibility of the Mac’s operating system and software.

But just as iPad proponents might argue that, with time and effort, Apple could improve the tablet’s software capabilities to rival macOS, the analog is true on the Mac side: nothing stops Apple from bringing some of the flexibility of the iPad’s hardware to its laptops. MacBooks might someday boast cellular connectivity or perhaps even a touch interface. Could that extend to a detachable display that could be used as a tablet? It’s not impossible. Reports already suggest that touchscreen Macs are being tested inside Cupertino, and that shouldn’t cause any surprise; not investigating the possibility would be more shocking.


As with the possibility of foldable iPhones eating away at the iPad’s low end, a convertible MacBook, were Apple to make one, could threaten the iPad Pro. If a Mac can offer what an iPad can and more, then once again, why carry two devices?

Stuck in the middle with you

There are a few wildcards as well. Take the Apple Vision Pro, which more than a few early reviewers have described as “an iPad you wear on your face.” One of the device’s more applauded uses is as an immersive media player, something that has traditionally been one of the iPad’s strengths. Might a more affordable and more ergonomic Vision Pro successor steal some of the iPad’s thunder?

To be clear: none of this is intended to condemn the iPad. In the here and now, it’s still a popular and useful device—even in a quarter where the tablet didn’t fare particularly well, Apple still sold millions. But it wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has cannibalized one of its own product lines—the iPod once seemed unbeatable too.

The question is one of the iPad’s future—and, specifically, where Apple sees its future. In a recent interview, an Apple executive told the Wall Street Journal that the company doesn’t view them “as competing devices. We see them as complementary devices.” Not that I’d expect Apple to say anything different; it would dearly love to sell everyone one of each.

But it’s also hard to overcome the feeling that Apple’s slow development on the software side has hamstrung the iPad’s future with a steadfastness that borders on pathological. What could have been the computer for the rest of us instead feels like it might become an evolutionary cul-de-sac, an also-ran, a coulda-been-a-contender. That future isn’t written in stone, but the longer Apple goes without changing its tune, the more it looks like it doesn’t mind if the iPad’s time in this world is finite.

Source : Macworld