Apple’s iPad Pro is still struggling to beat the MacBook Pro

Update: May 19: Article originally posted on May 18.

With the launch of the new iPad Pro, Apple has shifted focus from the Mac platform to its tablet range. With a large screen, thin build, and portable keyboards, the iPad’s marketing promise that “your next computer won’t be a computer” seems tantalizingly close.

Update: Sunday May 19: The challenge Apple faces in trying to keep the iPad and Mac platforms separate has been highlighted by Mark Gurman. Writing for the Power On newsletter, he argues that the two device families would be better served if they expanded on the differences and let the Mac and iPad excel at what they are individually good at:

“The Mac will always have more powerful chip options, larger displays, a built-in keyboard and trackpad, fans for heavy workloads, more ports, and better battery life. The iPad will always be much more portable, better for gaming, superior for video watching, and a device that can capture photos and video. It’s time for Apple to make the iPad and Mac both as capable as possible.”

Apple continues to try to bring the two systems closer together, allowing iPadOS apps to run on MacOS. Developers also have the option to create universal apps that can run on both platforms. Of course, the hardware may not be as expected from an app; the Mac platform doesn’t have a touchscreen, while the iPad family doesn’t have a touchpad or physical keyboard, unless you’re willing to increase the cost of ownership of the iPad and buy new peripherals that provide these services.

At this stage, after years of trying, the potential for a unified platform still feels remote. If Gurma is right, it’s time for Apple to focus on the individual benefits of each device.

But Apple’s dogma around the iPad will hold back the tablet platform, even if the Mac platform can easily deal with the same problem: the flexibility of third-party applications.

Apple may have equipped the iPad Pro with the new desktop-class M4 chipset months before it is expected to appear in Mac hardware, but harnessing the capabilities of this chipset is a huge challenge. Those reviewing the latest iPad Pro note the M4 and that iPadOS is not the best environment. Forbes – David Phelan:

“As powerful as it is, in some ways it feels like it’s being held back by the software. While iPadOS has changed tremendously, with the introduction of Stage Manager to make using multiple apps smoother, nothing compares to this in this regard. macOS. The new Magic Keyboard is light and comfortable, making text entry a dream. But it still doesn’t compete with a Mac laptop.”

The biggest consideration, however, is the closed nature of iPadOS. Everything you want to do must be approved by Apple before it can run on a device. Distribution will be solely through the App Store, and all revenue generated will be subject to Apple’s thirty percent rake.

(There is a caveat for Europe, as iPadOS is classified as a ‘gatekeeper’ service and must take steps to comply with the Digital Markets Act and open up the platform. However, the process for an individual developer to do this is long and complex).

Compare that to MacOS. Although the Mac platform has an App Store, this is not the exclusive route to the platform. Although Apple has a payment system that can be used, no developer is forced to use this system. And there are no limitations to what you can encode and distribute to the Mac platform. To take a recent example, retro emulation apps have long been a staple of the Mac platform, but until recently Apple had a blanket ban on these types of apps on iPhones and iPads. No matter how well coded they were, Apple deemed them unsuitable.

While debate rages over elements like the interface, touchscreens, trackpads, on-screen keyboards and mobile connectivity, the main advantage that any Mac has over any iPad is the open nature of the system. If you want to do anything on MacOS to use the full power of the chipset, there are no limits… unlike the iPad, where Apple watches your every move.

Now, read the latest iPad, Mac and iPhone headlines in Forbes’ weekly Apple News Roundup…

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