Back in late 2009/2010 before the launch of the first iPad, I did a series of articles on what the design could potentially be (you can find my concepts before the launch here, a feature wishlist, and a discussion on whether the iPad should have a stylus). As a side note, you can also read my scarily accurate prediction of TV which we will discuss in my next post on the Internet of Things.
After the 2010 launch, I was disappointed in the iPad (essentially a large iPhone) but today, I am a little more excited as the iPad Pro edges its way to fully replacing the laptop. Though there are some flaws – a pencil that sticks out perpendicular to your tablet when charging presents an ergonomic problem – it’s a step in the right direction.
I initially hypothesized that the iPad would be essentially a MacBook Pro without a keyboard, and slowly but surely the iPad Pro is becoming that original concept, 5 years later. So, does that mean the death knell for the MacBook for the average user? I believe so, but some other things need to happen culturally before we start adapting tablets as laptops:
iOS replacing OSX – or in general, the majority of users not needing an OS at all. Many tasks traditionally done on laptops: reports, word doc, browsing, can all be done on a tablet – but there is a psychological barrier of a generation letting go of the archaic concept of files, folders, etc. and letting everything be in the cloud. Expect the MacBook to be a backup drive for most folks who do not require a heavy CPU for the majority of their tasks. The follow through feature between iPad and MacBook certainly helps that transition.
A redesigned experience – not just visually, but more from the UX. The advantage of a laptop OS is the applications within easy (but not invasive) reach and the ability to have multiple windows. This type of paradigm should be possible in the iOS world but requires a rethink in order for users to experience both the mouse-driven and touch experience when the Pro is docked/undocked. And, in landscape or portrait mode, the experience must be seamless.
Perception of professionalism – this is the reality: if people see you on a tablet, they just assume you are watching a movie or playing a game. It’s a weird catch 22 which has held the iPad within the grasp of a traditional laptop, never being seen as a work tool in its own right, but a periphery. The 3rd device that Steve Jobs originally pitched has become a legacy, which is now hurting its evolution. Certainly, offering themes in iOS for the professional – rather than the default candy color – icons might be a step in the right direction.
Where’s my mouse? You simply cannot beat the mouse for precision pointing and clicking on a user experience. Its that last bastion of comfort that business professionals need to start viewing the iPad as a meaningful enterprise device.
There have been a few attempts for this integrated tablet/laptop experience that uses apps and a browser to function, not a desktop – the Chromebook, the Surface – but each one has not been a hit the way the iPad Pro potentially could be if its takes the next step in evolution.