Will Apple Ever Make A Convertible Mac?

Definitely maybe

Key Takeaways

  • Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Detachable would make for a great Mac.
  • Apple’s M1 Macs already run iPad apps.
  • Imagine a MacBook whose screen pops off to become an iPad.
A closeup of a convertible computer/table with a keyboard attached.

Ashjan Forouzani / Unsplash

Pop the screen off a Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Detachable, and you have a tablet. The problem for Mac users is, it’s a Windows tablet. Would Apple ever make a convertible MacBook?

Apple’s next round of MacBooks could be pretty radical. Freed from the constraints of hot Intel chips, Apple Silicon laptops could be as slim as an iPad. Apple’s M1 Macs already can run iOS apps, but the experience is poor because those apps are built for touch. So what might a future convertible Mac look like? One thing is almost certain—it won’t be a macOS tablet. 

"Mac isn’t a touch-focused machine. If you want a touch experience with the power of Mac, Apple will still expect you to buy an iPad Pro," Martin Meany, founder of tech site Goosed, told Lifewire via email.

"They simply don’t live in a world of compromise, and that is exactly what a hybrid machine is. It’s neither a tablet nor a laptop. It’s cutting costs somewhere to be both."

The Mac and Touch

Apple’s approach to tablet computers is quite different from Microsoft’s. A Windows tablet is a modified Windows PC. Apple’s iPad is a scaled-up iPhone. And this difference is fundamental.

If you ever have tried to use the Mac via touch, you’ll know how bad it is. You can try this out at any time by using Sidecar.

Sidecar lets you use the iPad as a second screen for your Mac. It’s almost impossible to tap accurately on anything without a mouse.

"Mac isn’t a touch-focused machine. If you want a touch experience with the power of Mac, Apple will still expect you to buy an iPad Pro."

Even the Apple Pencil doesn’t help much. That’s partly because macOS just isn’t designed for touch and partly because everything on the screen is too close together, intended for a super-accurate mouse pointer.

To make the Mac touch-ready would involve completely redesigning how the Mac user interface works. And Apple already has redesigned OS X for touch—that’s iOS.

"Sidecar is a critical piece of software for me. I regularly use my iPad as a secondary screen for my Mac. But it’s literally a second screen," says Meany.

"The iPad, which is very much a touchscreen device, will only allow very limited touch inputs when being used [this way]."

Detachable iPad?

Right now, Meany’s comment is right on the money. If you use a desktop Mac, then the iPad is an amazing companion. You can save any Mac-only tasks for when you’re at your desk. The iPad is more than capable of anything else. And iCloud makes working back and forth between the two pretty seamless. 

Meanwhile, the iPad is far superior in many situations. For reading, you can hold it in portrait orientation and not be encumbered by a keyboard hanging off the side. There’s no way I’d read a MacBook in bed, but I read my iPad there all the time. 

As we mentioned above, the M1 Macs already can run iPad apps just fine. You just install them from the Mac App Store. Imagine, then, a MacBook with a detachable screen, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12.

Side view of an iPad on a Magic Keyboard.

Ernest Ojeh / Unsplash

Only when you separate the screen, it turns into an iPad. It runs iPad apps, and when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, it might show an iPad-style home-screen. Or perhaps a touch-enabled Mac desktop.

That way, you’d get the best parts of everything—Mac’s power and flexibility, combined with the superior touch experience of iOS. Such a device might leave the touch-screen active when in "Mac Mode," but only for convenience. A quick tap on the screen is often easier than reaching for the mouse/trackpad. 

This may sound crazy. It may even be crazy. But consider this: Apple already added mouse and trackpad support to the iPad and did it well. You even can buy a Magic Keyboard accessory that turns your iPad into a laptop.

The iPad remains touch-first, but works great with desktop input, too. Is it so wild to think that the Mac could move in the opposite direction? It would certainly be welcome to pull off the MacBook’s screen and use it to read the news in my favorite iPad RSS app.

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