Why Apple Should Ditch the iPad Pro, and Make the Mac Better

Apple's artificial divide is holding the computer back

  • The iPad Pro continues to be a disappointment to power users.
  • Meanwhile, the Mac lacks long-overdue features like a touch screen and a cellular connection. 
  • The iPad Air can already do everything the Pro can do, and a Mac iPad could offer so much more.
Someone using a MacBook computer at night, touching the screen with a fingertip.

Qi Yang / Getty Images

What if the iPad Pro was Apple's biggest mistake? Without it, Apple might be able to make the Mac even better. 

Apple invented the modern notebook computer. The Powerbook introduced the familiar hinged laptop design, and the aluminum MacBooks perfected it. But then the Mac stagnated. Its Apple-Silicon MacBooks might be the fastest, coolest-running, longest-battery-lived machines around, but they're stuck in the past while PC makers bang out all kinds of cool convertibles with touch screens, removable keyboards, and so on. And the reason for this stagnation? The iPad Pro.

"The iPad Pro has indeed blurred the line between Mac and iPad Pro. As a filmmaker, I often find myself wishing for a device that combines the best features of both products, allowing me to work seamlessly on my projects. In my opinion, a convertible touch-screen MacBook that could run iPad apps would be the ideal solution," filmmaker Neil Chase told Lifewire via email. 

The Line Between iPad Pro and Mac

Apple seems hamstrung by its own arbitrary product divisions. If you want powerful, uninhibited software, then you buy a Mac. If you want a touch device that you can use as a tablet, as a laptop, or with a stylus, then you buy an iPad and suffer the lack of fully-featured apps, the poor file manager (Files vs. the Mac's Finder), and the omission of basic amenities, like having control of the audio system. 

From the outside, it sure looks like Apple has drawn a line between the iPad and the Mac, which neither can cross. And this may be down to the iPad Pro.

I admire the discipline Apple has had in keeping its product lines separate, but it feels like that decision is starting to harm the futures of both products.

Apple introduced the iPad Pro in 2015, a 12.9-inch tablet (and also a 9.7-inch version) that added neat hardware features like a Pro-Motion display and the Apple Pencil. Over the years, the iPad hardware got better, but the software was—and is—still stuck. Conceptually, it's essentially still just a big iPhone, with any extras (like the frustrating Stage Manager window view) grafted on top. 

At one point, while the Mac languished in the mid-2010s, it seemed like Apple saw the iPad as the future of personal computing. But since then, it seems more like the iPad has been deliberately limited, so it remains distinct from the Mac. And now, the iPad even uses the same M-series processors as the Mac, so this divide really is purely arbitrary. 

A New Mac iPad?

The Mac has been held back by Apple's reluctance to give it iPad features. The MacBook is already amazing, with its all-day battery life and ability to run cool without a fan. But why doesn't it have a touch screen? This seems especially weird when it can run iPhone and iPad apps. Those mobile apps can be a real pain to use with a trackpad or mouse, but imagine if you could use, say, all those great iPad music-creation apps and record them into a desktop-class app like Logic Pro or Ableton Live. 

Even better, how about a flip-around MacBook where you can stow the keyboard around the back and use it like an iPad Pro? Yes, that might "cannibalize" iPad Pro sales, but who is buying those iPad Pros anyway? Apple's iPad and Mac sales are almost the same in terms of revenue (7 percent of total sales for Mac, 8 percent for the iPad). Most Mac sales are MacBook Airs, and the iPad Pro surely sells the least of all iPad models. 

Apple is holding back its best-selling Mac to benefit a high-end, niche iPad. 

A MacBook and an iPad together on a home office desktop.

Elise Bouet / Unsplash

"I admire the discipline Apple has had in keeping its product lines separate, but it feels like that decision is starting to harm the futures of both products. The Mac and the iPad are on a collision course, and I'm concerned that they're both about to run into the brick wall that Apple has erected between them," says Apple-centric journalist Jason Snell on his Six Colors blog

The question is whether Apple should make a Mac iPad or a convertible touchscreen Mac that can finally run all those iPad apps properly. And make sure to put a cellular connection in that touchscreen Mac because that's getting embarrassing too. 

Mac lovers can pay extra for a MacBook Pro with touch, and a removable or flip-around keyboard, and iPad Pro lovers, already paying close to MacBook Pro prices, can switch and finally enjoy some really deep, 'Pro'-level apps and software features on a Mac iPad. And if you really want a plain iPad? The iPad Air can do almost everything the Pro does at a better price—without all the disappointing expectations.

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