The iPad’s Graduation

Ryan Christoffel wrote a great article for MacStories covering the features he’d like to see in future iOS versions for the iPad. I love a lot of his ideas — persistent background “daemons” and multiple instances of the same app, in particular — but its his conclusion that I want to draw attention to:

The iPad is already proving a formidable Mac-alternative for some users – what happens if it continues closing the gap by adopting the Mac strengths I’ve listed? If the iPad offered support for multiple instances of an app, was available in a more diverse array of hardware, allowed apps to get things done persistently in the background, was home to Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic Pro equivalents, and became a proper shared device with multiple user accounts – why would people continue using the Mac?

The Mac will always have a base of users who are most comfortable with it and don’t want to transition to a new thing. But that base, in this hypothetical advanced-iPad future, likely wouldn’t be big enough to merit continued investment from Apple into the platform.

Sales of iPads are already many times greater than sales of Macs, at least in units, but the Mac has generated more revenue over the past couple of years at least. But that’s okay — I think Apple would be completely happy to cannibalize lower-end Macs by selling more iPads.

But I don’t think that necessarily means investment in the Mac will be destroyed. If anything, it could allow Apple to focus on the development of higher-end Macs. Even if everything on Christoffel’s wishlist were to appear across an iPad lineup that spans the gamut between the entry-level $329 model and some crazy $2,000 high-end iPad Pro Pro, I’m not yet convinced that investment in the Mac line would be impacted for the users who most need a more traditional computer. I think Apple would be thrilled to have two platforms that people immediately think of when they think about getting things done.

For what it’s worth, I’m also not yet convinced that it will be easy or smooth to transition to an iPad for Mac users in the awkward not-quite-Pro middle ground — for example, me. But I will be concerned about that if and when it happens for me.