In this post, I present my opinion on why unifying the iPad and MacBook lineups is a good idea, from the perspective of a regular user of both these devices and keeping in view Apple’s planned processor transition.
Firstly, consider the recent events
- Apple has added cursor and keyboard support since iPadOS 13.4. Although I must admit the cursor is a bit unusual experience for some, I think Apple at least has their foot in the door for now.
- Apple planning a future MacBook based on ARM processors with 12 cores. Similar to the A-series processors used in iPads and iPhones. UDPATE: They’re calling it Apple Silicon now, the architecture is definitely ARM though.
- Project Catalyst for porting iPad apps to the macOS.
- Apple is further planning on bringing Mini-LED displays to both Macs and iPads around Q4 2020. It’ll supposedly bring the best of both worlds from the current LCD Mac displays and the OLED displays used in iPhones.
Frankly, it doesn’t make much sense to include processors of similar power in two different devices running two different operating systems - one providing a touch-based experience, but as of now, sucking at the other one, and the other providing a non-touch experience that has matured quite well at this point, but completely lacking in the touch domain.
Taking the case of MacBook Pro:
- With Apple Silicon, one can expect that the battery savings brought by adopting ARM architecture and using 5nm processors should be able to bring in a few more hours of juice with the almost 100Wh battery (assuming they decide to stick to that).
- If they go even further and remove the AMD GPU (I’m quite certain they will if they do so) in favor of their own in-house implementation, or better, integrated into the SoC itself, we can have further power savings.
- The power savings mentioned above can be utilized in two ways: having smaller batteries for non-touch variants of the MacBook and maintaining the current batteries to power-up touch-screen variants.
- USB 4 is now on the way in 2021, since Intel as opened up the Thunderbolt 3 specification. And since it is backward compatible, I don’t think we’ll be facing problems peripheral wise. Writing drivers for ARM-based MacBook is a completely different area, however. UPDATE: Apple has promised to continue supporting Thunderbolt on its ARM Macs.
As for the variants, I could totally see:
- MacBook Air (non-touch variant, cheapest option)
- MacBook Air Touch
- MacBook Pro 13-inch (non-touch variant)
- MacBook Pro 13-inch Touch
- MacBook Pro 16-inch (I’d say make this entirely touch-screen)
For now, iPad in itself remains a desktop-class device that runs lightweight mobile apps and feels too limited for its own good. Its high time that Apple considers unifying the MacBook and the iPad to provide a device that can truly be the best of both the worlds. Maybe consider some ideas from the Microsoft side, like their Surface Book series.
For now, it feels like the biggest thing standing in the way of realising the full potential of Apple devices is Apple itself.