Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

It Is Once Again Time for Apple Executives to Say That the iPad and Mac Are Not Merging

It is a couple of days after Apple has announced a new iPad, which means it is also time for the company to drop the big no as it frustratedly explains why the iPad and Mac are remaining separate products. This time, the job has fallen on Greg Joswiak and John Ternus.

Andrew Griffin, the Independent:

“There’s two conflicting stories people like to tell about the iPad and Mac,” says Joz, as he starts on a clarification that will lead him at one point to apologise for his passion. “On the one hand, people say that they are in conflict with each other. That somebody has to decide whether they want a Mac, or they want an iPad.

“Or people say that we’re merging them into one: that there’s really this grand conspiracy we have, to eliminate the two categories and make them one.

“And the reality is neither is true. We’re quite proud of the fact that we work really, really hard to create the best products in their respective category.”

An iPad that runs MacOS would suck just as much — albeit for different reasons — as a Mac that ran iPadOS. But now that they are all on the same silicon, it makes the ways in which the iPad is limited by its software that much more noticeable. Griffin points out that Apple demoed Final Cut Pro on a Pro Display XDR to show how powerful the M1 is in a Mac, but could not do any of that with an iPad because the software does not exist. He even tries to coax Joz into admitting that Apple is working on professional apps for the iPad, with predictably little success. Jason Snell pointed out, in an article for Macworld, many other ways the new iPad Pro cannot use all the power it has.

But I see it in more simple terms than that. If you toggle between a few resource-hungry apps on a Mac and then go back to Safari, it picks up where you left off; if you open the camera and a few other apps on an iPad and then switch back to Safari, your open tabs might reload. If you pause the music you are listening to so you can watch something in your browser, then try to resume playback, it is a crapshoot whether it resumes correctly, starts the song again, or entirely forgets that you were listening to music — and it is worse with AirPlay.1

There are plenty more of these tiny little friction-increasing flaws showing that iPadOS remains similar to the smartphone operating system it was derived from. They are particularly frustrating on a product that shines when it most feels like your finger is directly manipulating the onscreen elements. There have been issues just like these since I bought my very first iPad and, though I want one of these new iPad Pro models, I find it hard to justify being frustrated by the same problems on a much nicer screen.

I do not mean to be so critical or negative all the time. It is just that I really love using my iPad, and it could so easily be something I pick up more often if not for these seemingly ground-level issues. I hope, as Federico Viticci wrote, the gaps in this story will be filled in come WWDC.


  1. You may remember that, earlier this week, I said that I own a base model iPad, so you may think memory exhaustion is a reasonable side effect of not having a higher-end model. But I would counter that I have never had these problems on a Mac of any specification, though I have only owned models from the Mac OS X era. ↩︎