Archive for January 28, 2020

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

iPad at 10

John Gruber (tweet, Hacker News):

Ten years later, though, I don’t think the iPad has come close to living up to its potential. By the time the Mac turned 10, it had redefined multiple industries. In 1984 almost no graphic designers or illustrators were using computers for work. By 1994 almost all graphic designers and illustrators were using computers for work. The Mac was a revolution. The iPhone was a revolution. The iPad has been a spectacular success, and to tens of millions it is a beloved part of their daily lives, but it has, to date, fallen short of revolutionary.


Software is where the iPad has gotten lost. iPadOS’s “multitasking” model is far more capable than the iPhone’s, yes, but somehow Apple has painted it into a corner in which it is far less consistent and coherent than the Mac’s, while also being far less capable. iPad multitasking: more complex, less powerful. That’s quite a combination.


The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one. To reach that potential, Apple needs to recognize they have made profound conceptual mistakes in the iPad user interface, mistakes that need to be scrapped and replaced, not polished and refined.

John Gruber:

This is so convoluted, so undiscoverable, so easy to make a mistake with, that it proves my point that the multitasking interaction model on iPadOS is a shambles far better than if it weren’t possible at all. Just try doing this while hold your iPad in your hand, not resting it on a table. It’s like playing Twister with your hands. This reads like a joke and in practice it’s worse than it sounds. It’s embarrassing.

Mike Rundle:

A snapshot of Techmeme on the day of the original iPad announcement, ten years ago. It’s so incredible that @gaberivera built a website with this capability.

Benjamin Mayo:

Cool interview with Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno on the iPad during their tenure. A noted ‘regret’ is letting the iPhone dominate resources and attention too much.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Of all Apple’s products, I feel iPad was the one most damaged by the loss of Steve; it took years until Apple figured out a path forward (: copy what MS was doing in Windows 8 & Surface). I’ve always feared that Apple squandered an opportunity to build a true successor to macOS

Steven Sinofsky:

The announcement 10 years ago today of the “magical” iPad was clearly a milestone in computing. It was billed to be the “next” computer. For me, managing Windows, just weeks after the launch of Microsoft’s “latest creation” Windows 7, it was a as much a challenge as magical.

Federico Viticci:

Writing about the iPad over the last 10 years has fundamentally changed MacStories and my career.

Here’s a thread with some highlights on a decade of iPad stories.

Chris Espinosa:

And I will now admit I was wrong: ten years ago today I tweeted that the personal computer was dead.

It didn’t die. Maybe it won’t. But I’ve been tablet-primary for 8 years now and would never go back to carrying a non-touch device.

Matt Birchler:

10 years ago the iPad was “about to replace the personal computer.”

Today the iPad is “about to replace the personal computer.”

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be “about to replace the personal computer.”

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

Jeff Johnson:

iPad’s inherent limiting factor is its form factor. You canna change the laws of physics, or the laws of ergonomics. Replacing laptops makes about as much sense as replacing human laps.

Power and convenience comes at a price, both in money and in physical space.

Dominik Wagner:

Sadly the Apple platform departed from being an easy thing to recommend and give to anyone disregarding of computer experience. Instead it morphed into something that has many quirks that are hard to explain and discover, and sometimes even hard to be the helpline for. Essentially this trend started since iOS 7 and never reversed.

One of the other symptoms of this is that you no longer can hand your iPad to a toddler without putting it into guided access. Otherwise they just trigger a lot of weird app switching based behavior.

Kirk McElhearn:

I don’t use my iPad a lot, but I know there are people who use it as their main computing device. While some of them leverage every possible feature of multitasking, shortcuts, etc., most probably just use a one-app-at-a-time approach. Why? Because it’s not confusing. When I have used multitasking, I’ve never felt that I accomplished any app-arranging actions by anything other than luck.

It’s not Apple’s fault that they couldn’t come up with a better system, it’s just the limitations of the device and its interface. If they want people to use these features, they need to figure out a way to make them easy to use, and, above all, easy to discover.

Rui Carmo:

And yet, after a full decade, it is still nigh on impossible to use an iPad for self-hosted development of anything but JavaScript. Pythonista, Codea and the like are amazing, but for me the lack of a shell (and a UNIX userland, even if sandboxed) is something I just can’t quite get over.

Nick Heer:

I find myself increasingly frustrated by the myriad ways using an iPad makes simple tasks needlessly difficult — difficulties that should not remain ten years on.

There are small elements of friction, like how the iPad does not have paged memory, so the system tends to boot applications from memory when it runs out. There are developer limitations that make it difficult for apps to interact with each other. There are still system features that occupy the entire display. Put all of these issues together and it makes a chore of something as ostensibly simple as writing.


No device or product I own has inspired such a maddening blend of adoration and frustration for me as the iPad, and certainly not for as long in so many of the same ways.


My single biggest problem on the iPad is the way Safari just randomly kills your background tabs. Filling out a web form? You’d better hope that their half-baked tab state saving worked! (Spoiler alert: it probably didn’t)

If iOS isn’t going to have virtual memory, why can’t Safari at least save the page contents itself? I have to screenshot a page that’s open just be sure I’ll be able to view it later.

Craig Hockenberry:

Universal apps are the worst thing that ever happened to the iPad.

The economics for developers are to make a big iPhone app or ignore the device altogether. No business model = no innovation.


After years of Apple insisting it won’t add touch inputs to macOS because it’s not ergonomic to reach up to your screen, that’s exactly how you have to control an iPad when you have it in ‘laptop mode’ (ie. w/ the keyboard case).

See also: Rene Ritchie, Joe Rossignol, Jason Snell, John Voorhees.


Update (2020-01-30): John Gruber:

I’m aware of no other graphical user interface that offers a setting like this. The existence of this setting — and that it is not tucked away under Accessibility — feels like proof that Apple knows iPad multitasking is often invoked by accident and can be confusing.

Fraser Speirs:

Brilliantly expressed article by @gruber - captures my feelings exactly. iOS multitasking took a serious wrong turn with iOS 11 and more and more has been heaped upon its creaking foundations ever since.

Ben Thompson:

In my opinion, multi-tasking on the iPad is an absolute mess, and it has ruined the entire interface; I actively dislike using the iPad now, and use it exclusively to watch video and make the drawings for Stratechery. Its saving grace is that it is hard to discover.


It’s tempting to dwell on the Jobs point — I really do think the iPad is the product that misses him the most — but the truth is that the long-term sustainable source of innovation on the iPad should have come from 3rd-party developers. Look at Gruber’s example for the Mac of graphic designers and illustrators: while MacPaint showed what was possible, the revolution was led by software from Aldus (PageMaker), Quark (QuarkXPress), and Adobe (Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat). By the time the Mac turned 10, Apple was a $2 billion company, while Adobe was worth $1 billion.

There are, needless to say, no companies built on the iPad that are worth anything approaching $1 billion in 2020 dollars, much less in 1994 dollars, even as the total addressable market has exploded, and one big reason is that $4.99 price point. Apple set the standard that highly complex, innovative software that was only possible on the iPad could only ever earn 5 bucks from a customer forever (updates, of course, were free).

Ben Bajarin:

I remember when we talked about this early on and debated it’s upside. I think you succinctly made the ultimate point which was iPad was a luxury not necessity.

iPhone is the indispensable platform which is why it has always had the most momentum.

Francisco Tolmasky:

I don’t think if I went back in time 10 years & gave myself an iPad Pro that I’d be blown away by the progress. I think I’d say the hardware is nice but be shocked that that’s all the progress the software had made.

Compare that to showing devices from 2010 to people in 2000.

The thing is, I don’t think it’s because we reached a “natural” plateau in these areas. Sometimes you really fully exercise the capabilities of a technology or fully saturate the market. Not the case here in my opinion. I think a bunch of (bad?) business decisions led to this.


As someone who worked on the iPad v1, I can tell you, it was a product built in search of a problem.

Alexander Griekspoor:

I still feel a lot of the failure is due to restricting developers so much when it comes to sandboxing, private APIs, etc, it’s those gray areas where the innovation is, or better used to be (on the mac)

Daniel Cook:

Ten years ago I thought the iPad was going to change the world, now in my family we have Chromebooks to solve the same use-cases. I’m not sure if it is the multi-user or the keyboard but they fit the need for a simple, small computer in ways the iPad never did.

Lukas Mathis:

The fact that [iPadOS] is based on Apps as first-level objects, instead of files, is what hurts it most as a productivity device. An App-oriented user interface works well for playing games, browsing the web, and answering an email once in a while, but real work is typically file-centric.


Who is going to write something like Switcher for the iPad? Nobody, because it can’t get on the App Store, so it can’t be sold.

Who is going to write a real, truly integrated file manager for the iPad? Nobody.

Who is going to invest a year - or more - into creating an incredible, groundbreaking new app, the killer app, the desktop publishing equivalent for the iPad? Knowing that Apple could (and probably will) just decide to not put in the App Store, destroying all of that work?

Nick Heer:

The other thing that stood out to me was a year-over-year decline in iPad sales. It may have been the tenth anniversary of the iPad yesterday, but this was its fourth-lowest holiday quarter. I imagine that many users are hanging onto their older iPads, as iPadOS 13 supports models all the way back to the five-year-old iPad Air 2. But I imagine that not updating the iPad Pro at all in 2019 muted sales somewhat.

Riccardo Mori:

What I believe is that the iPad and its OS could have been so much more than a reinvention of the computing wheel adapted for a touch interface. What I believe is that Mac OS could be so much better if it kept evolving on an ‘open’ path, not a progressively locked-down one.

Update (2020-01-31): Matt Birchler:

Most people get maybe 2% of the potential of their Macs and Windows PCs today. Have you watched most people use a computer laterly? Most people I see have all apps in full screen all the time, no matter how big their screen is. Most people I see use keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste, opening new tabs, but basically nothing else.


I could go on, but my point is that most people don’t use computers like we do, and for us, I think we have the tendency to look at a platform and UI paradigm that we’ve been ising for 30 years and say "look how natural this is!" when of course it’s natural in large part because we’ve gotten used to it over 3 decades. I don’t mean to throw shade at the Mac and say it’s trash, but there is a ton there that is far from intuitive.

John Gruber (tweet):

But how many people think iPadOS has a good interface for managing files? Crickets. The Mac interface for managing files is too overwhelming for typical users to understand, but somehow iPadOS offers something worse.


The problems with the iPad are about consistency, coherence, and discoverability.


Affordances are not clutter.

Matt Birchler:

The points John and Dieter Bohn brought up are valid, too.

  1. The iPad’s multitasking interface requires too much fine grain motor movements, and it’s too likely you’ll make a mistake.
  2. The iPad’s multitasking is hard to learn inside iPadOS, you really need to watch/read a tutorial to see how it works.

My feelings are this is an opportunity for refinement, not a “throw it in a fire and start over” situation.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

There’s plenty of iPad’s multitasking UI that I think is great at a conceptual level, but affordances (like a tab bar, or window controls) just aren’t there for users who don’t want to have to learn arcane gestures. Even I lose track of what windows are open in iPad’s junk-drawer

Loren Brichter:

Also, the App Store is what killed the iPad.

Update (2020-02-04): Dave Nanian:

My only real comment on the iPad anniversary/success:

If I had to give up one Apple “computer”—iMac, Laptop, iPhone, iPad—it wouldn’t even be a difficult choice. Three out of four are essential.

Dave Nanian:

Most of my other writing is support email, and that’s what I tried to do on vacation. It was damn near impossible. Wasted so much time.

The next year I was able to do it no problem, though, on a Surface Go. (“Go” figure.)


So want to use the iPad for this…

Jean-Louis Gassée:

The trap Apple seems to have fallen into is in trying to ape some of the features of the old UI model without quite duplicating them entirely. Not as powerful as a classic PC UI, but without the simplicity of the original iPad.


The iPad situation is serious. As an old warrior of the early Mac years recently said, one worries that Apple’s current leadership is unable to say No to bad ideas. Do Apple senior execs actually use the iPad’s undiscoverable and, once discovered, confusing multitasking features? Did they sincerely like them? Perhaps they suffer a lack of empathy for the common user: They’ve learned how to use their favorite multitasking gestures, but never built an internal representation of what we peons would feel when facing the iPad’s “improvements”.

Marc Verstaen:

Excellent opinion on the iPad by @gassee. Ten years ago, I was part of the team working on the iPad (delivering the tools to build third party apps). Today, I don’t use an iPad anymore. There is something not right here.

Craig Mod (via John Gruber):

Having used the heck out of iPads these past few years, I believe there are two big software flaws that both make iOS great, and keep it from succeeding as a “pro” device:

  1. iOS is primarily designed for — and overly dependent on — single-context computing
  2. Access to lower level (i.e., a file-like system) components is necessary for professional edge-tasks

And one big general flaw that keeps it from being superb:

  1. Many software companies still don’t treat the iPad as a first class computing platform

Update (2020-02-17): See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2020-02-22): Mike Rockwell:

I have a more optimistic outlook on the iPad than many of the bigger influencers within the community. It’s far from perfect, but I think the state of iPad is overall positive. There are issues with the multitasking interface, text selection, mediocre mouse support, and more — I trust that these annoyances will be smoothed out over time, though.

And even with these issues, my iPad is still my primary personal computing device.


There are still plenty of limitations on the iPad, but the ceiling feels higher for me than it does on macOS. The key is access to automation through Shortcuts. On macOS, I’ve used Alfred, Quicksilver, Automator, and countless other apps within the category, but I’ve never been able to build anything quite as advanced as I have with Shortcuts.

Jason Snell:

Yes, iPad file management finally exists. But it needs to be a lot better.

Update (2020-03-12): The Talk Show:

First-time guest Federico Viticci joins the show. Topics include how the coronavirus outbreak might affect WWDC, speculation on a possible March Apple event, the state of iPad keyboard (and trackpad) support, and iPadOS multitasking.

Above Avalon Podcast:

A discussion of the iPad’s first decade and why we shouldn’t feel bad for the iPad. Additional topics include a diff. way of looking at the iPad unveiling in 2010, how the iPad foreshadowed iPhone success, and the iPad pivot.


It was an interesting point I hadn’t really thought of.

Essentially, the iPad revolution did happen; it just happened on 4.7-6.5” screens rather than 9.7”.

Kind of interesting how that played out. Instead of 3.5” phones & 9.7” computers, we have 4.7 to 6.5” phone-computers.


Update (2021-03-22): Greg Morris:

This is all after spending weeks getting my head around the new multitasking and app pairing because they changed the way the iPad worked AGAIN. I feel like I’m splitting up with my long term partner now they have their stuff sorted and I’ve realised it wasn’t worth the pain after all.

Jack Wellborn:

The problem is the iOS paradigm completely breaks down as soon as the one-to-one relationship between screens and apps is lost.


I first assumed that iPadOS’s command-tab was just poorly thought out because app switching should be conceptually simple. The reality is app switching isn’t conceptually simple on iPadOS. This becomes obvious when comparing app switching on iPadOS to other platforms.

Update (2021-04-16): Jack Wellborn:

This screenshot perfectly illustrates just how incompatible a macOS-style app switcher is on iPadOS, where the primary user interface element is screens.

macOS 10.15.3


The macOS Catalina 10.15.3 update improves the stability, reliability, and security of your Mac, and is recommended for all users.

  • Optimizes gamma handling of low gray levels on Pro Display XDR for SDR workflows when using macOS
  • Improves multi-stream video editing performance for HEVC and H.264-encoded 4K video on the MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

The security notes are here. The combo update is here, but the Download button currently downloads the macOS 10.15.2 file.

There’s nothing about it in Apple’s release notes, but from what I’ve heard macOS 10.15.3 fixes the bug where large numbers of messages stored “On My Mac” could be deleted when updating to Catalina or rebuilding Mail’s database. It does not fix the bugs where moving messages between mailboxes (via drag and drop, rules, or AppleScript) can delete them, duplicate them, or simply not move them at all.


Update (2020-01-31): Mr. Macintosh:

The macOS Catalina 10.15.3 Update is only about two days old and is already receiving mixed reviews.

Update (2020-02-04): Howard Oakley:

Your mileage may vary, of course, and there are some irritating effects which can mar this update for some.

Howard Oakley (Hacker News):

We’re now past Catalina’s midpoint: with four versions already released, there’s only three more to go before we prepare for the first release of 10.16. That’s a stark fact, that we’re now at the point where the more cautious should consider whether they’ll run 10.15.


The upshot is that there are going to be many Mac users who simply can’t risk upgrading to Catalina, and will be stuck running High Sierra, whose support is expected to end later this year, or Mojave, whose support should expire in just over 18 months. Apple needs to reconsider whether its current support policy is realistic if there’s a growing number of users of currently-sold Macs who are stuck running older versions of macOS in the future.


For many users, the drawbacks in Catalina are largely the result of Apple becoming over-extended: Catalina runs best on Macs with hardware specifications that Apple marketing isn’t yet prepared to make the baseline for models such as the iMac.

Lloyd Chambers:

Photoshop benchmarks are consistently a little slower to a lot slower (15%).

I always follow a strict procedure/protocol to get consistent repeatable results and there can be no mistake about this downgraded performance.

Because there are two changes (macOS and Photoshop), I don’t know if macOS is to blame, or Photoshop, or both.

See also: philux.

Lloyd Chambers:

Today, I received a new 28-core Mac Pro and it fails to be able to update to 10.15.3 repeatedly as part of the Migration Assistant process, WiFi or Ethernet. It never succeeeded so I did “skip” and updated separely. There seems to be ZERO quality control in place.

I also learned today that it is IMPOSSIBLE to uninstall some kernel extensions with 10.15.3.

Update (2020-02-06): Jon Alper:

Running the 10.5.3 Updater bricked my 16 Core Mac Pro (black screen w/back light). Then in recovery mode it triggered activation lock and then couldn’t find a user when attempting a reboot. The ultimate cure was a Recovery Mode OS install whereupon users/data & config welre back.

See also: Siri Stores Encrypted E-mails in Plain Text.

Disk Prices on Amazon

Disk Prices has a nice filterable table of hard drives and SSDs by price, capacity, and warranty (via Hacker News).

See also: Price per TB.