On the 10th anniversary of the iPad, I still believe in Steve Jobs' original pitch for the iPad. It's a third category of device in between a laptop and a smartphone. And it's not supposed to replace either one. View newsletter on the web.
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Issue #44: The iPad is the Future of iPads

The iPad just turned 10, and some folks are not happy about it.

On January 27, 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPad. Five years later, his successor Tim Cook called the iPad “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.”

Well here we are, another five years later, and every time I walk into a coffee shop in beautiful Portland, Oregon, I don’t see everyone using iPads. I see them using MacBooks Pro and Air. Occassionally a Dell or HP. Occassionally.

If I see someone actually using an iPad Pro, I’m flabbergasted. (I’ve gotten more than a few surprised looks and compliments from people whenever they see me using one!)

What’s the moral of this story? Did Apple drop the ball in iPad software or hardware? Are folks just stuck in the old paradigm of schlepping a laptop around? Was Tim Cook dead wrong?

Depends on who you ask.

I still believe in Steve Jobs’ original pitch for the iPad. It’s a third category of device in between a laptop and a smartphone. And it’s not supposed to replace either one. The way we get into trouble is when we try to make it fit into any of those existing slots. Sure, for some people and for some of the tasks they might need to use a laptop for, they could get along just fine with an iPad. But as a wholesale replacement across the board? Meh.

The other problem is Tim Cook’s whole “what’s a computer?” narrative for the iPad. It doesn’t make sense, because the iPad, like the iPhone or the MacBook, is a computer. It’s just a different kind. And virtually all of the ways the iPad has improved as a product over the last few years has been in the way iPad hardware and now iPadOS make the iPad function more like a traditional computer, not less. While it’s looking less and less like the iPad is indeed the future of personal computers, it’s clear the iPad is the future of its own widespread and largely unchallenged market segment. And as a loyal iPad customer, that sits just fine with me.

With those caveats out of the way, my simple take on the iPad after 10 years is that it remains a magical and delightful product that is capable of doing extraordinary things not possible with any other category of device. Right now as I type this newsletter on my Logitech Slim Folio Pro + iPad Pro using 1Writer (as I discussed on my previous podcast episode), I continue to marvel at the best writing experience I have ever had the pleasure to use. And when it comes time to take notes or brainstorm for future creativity, my Apple Pencil 2 remains a superlative stylus that is impossibly light, accurate, and enjoyable.

For this conversation and much more in podcast form, I go all into the genesis of the iPad 10+ years ago as well as my wishlist for the next generation of iPadOS on my latest podcast episode. I also go toe-to-toe with one of the grumpier iPad skeptics John Gruber.

Even if you’re not a big iPad user yourself, I think you’ll enjoy the history and geek fandom of this fascinating product regardless. Listen here:

🎙 Episode 49: OK Gruber

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