Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Rediscovering the Mac

Federico Viticci (tweet):

As much as I love the iPad, at some point I have to face its current reality: if Apple thinks iPadOS isn’t a good fit for the kind of functionalities people like me need, that’s fine, but perhaps it’s time to try something else. If my requirements are no longer aligned with Apple’s priorities for iPadOS, I can switch to a different computer. That’s why I believe 2022 – and the upcoming WWDC – will be a make-or-break year for iPad software. And I don’t think I’m the only iPad user who has felt this way.


For the past six months, I’ve been using my MacBook Pro instead of the iPad Pro to get my work done on a daily basis.


Now, it’s not like all these things are possible on macOS because of ports (except for, you know, the multiple monitors thing): it’s just that they’re more user-friendly and well, nicer than trying to do the same on iPad. The computer doesn’t punish you for trying to do computer-y things.


Then there’s the keyboard. It’s a real keyboard: the layout and size is perfect for my hands, the keys feel great, and I love the black area around the keys; it’s a very tasteful look. More importantly, however, this keyboard has an extra row of function keys, whose absence I’ve long considered the single most limitating aspect of the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro.


The single most important quality of macOS I’ve rediscovered over the past few months is the freedom to use my computer however I want. With the MacBook Pro, the App Store does not dictate the kind of software I can run on my machine; I am free to create my own experience – and tweak it over time – by installing apps and system modifications that go beyond putting apps on my Home Screen.


There are several Mac-only features in Shortcuts, but the multitude of ways to run shortcuts in the background on macOS is the one that truly sets it apart.

Matthew Cassinelli:

Things like running multiple shortcuts at once using keyboard shortcuts, setting up all my shortcuts on the Stream Deck, and the kind of power user apps available on the Mac are pushing the Shortcuts ecosystem much further in just one year than iPad saw in multiple years of development — beyond everything else Federico lists[…]


21 Comments RSS · Twitter

Fred Flintstone

It's astonishing to me that this far into its history the iPad doesn't support multiple accounts.

If the kids were still at home, I'd want the "house" iPad to have multiple accounts so individual users could have their own settings (you know, for all the reasons you want multiple accounts on a shared device.)

My 85 yr old mom keeps her passwords in one of three files called "passwords" in one of three folders strewn about her MacBook. I have an admin account on that machine and she can't lock me out. She's locked herself out of her iPad because she changed the password and can't remember what she changed it to and I can't do anything to help.

The iPad is the perfect device to tackle the daily needs of the average Senior Apple VP, and because of that I'm not sure it'll be possible for it to become something different.

"computer doesn’t punish you for trying to do computer-y things."

"It’s a real keyboard"

"the freedom to use my computer however I want"


This (at least that which is quoted here) reads like an Onion piece.

That’s why I believe 2022 – and the upcoming WWDC – will be a make-or-break year for iPad software.

I feel like I've heard this every year. I expect to hear it again next year after Apple again underdelivers.

I'm sorry (and correct me if I'm wrong), but isn't that the one of the same people who jumped head first into the "what's a computer" propaganda campaign that disparaged Mac users as old fashioned "truck drivers?"

As for the iPad, it's a handy device. They can say "this is the year it needs to prove itself" but I suspect they already blew it around the time they ousted Forstall. Pretty clear that the original intent of the iPad was to run "magical" software designed for it. Not quite mobile, not quite desktop, but would have software to make it more than a giant iPod touch (rip). All of that magic got completely ripped out with iOS 7 and autolayout, never recovered, and now 12 years after it's introduction the product line is still trying to prove itself? Kind of tragic, in spite of it's sales figures.

If you can manage to get your hands on an iPad running iOS 6 or earlier, you can really see the difference in terms of the kinds of applications the iPad was supposed to be running.

>It's astonishing to me that this far into its history the iPad doesn't support multiple accounts.

And we know that Apple has developed this functionality, because their specialized education-focused iPads allow multiple-login capability. (Students sign in with their iCloud logins, so not quite like MacOS's Unix-style user accounts.)

Strange to have the power of an iPad Pro with an M1 chip, and still not offer this feature.

Mark Gurman is predicting power-user features like windowing for iPadOS 16, so surely multi-user is coming too? C'mon it *has* to at this point, right? Right??


iPadOS Multitasking is a very misleading term. Most of the time it's not multiple tasks running at once, it's more about multiple app UI presented at once. There is some multitasking in PiP, but in general, most of the task will stop or pause once you actively do other things in other apps.

And this is just one of many many other issues that hold iPads back. For example slow UI, very limited file management mechanics, single account only, draconian limitations on app developers and so on. Everyone has their own list of things that are detrimental for iPadOS, since iPad devices are just awesome

Apple should make a tablet Mac. Because iOS is a jailed crippled toy compared to macOS.

I read a vision for how tablets could fit into the eco system of gadgets once. It boiled down to "All the heavy lifting has to be done elsewhere, and the tablets are just for simple tasks like reading reports and maybe trigger some pre-canned actions"

But. Why? Why spend all the money on making a highly polished app for a niche product that hardly anyone use? Why try to fit the square peg into the round hole?

Leave the tablets for the children

Meanwhile, Windows 11 on convertibles is pretty damn cool.

I recall, when using the original iPad in 2010 I got a questionnaire 'pop-up' asking what features I felt the iPad needed and I, of course said a less abstracted file system. (I had just used a photo editing app with built-in ftp to send pictures to a newspaper so maybe Apple somehow saw the usage)

It was such a kludge (you had to name the files one at a time while sending etc) that I never tried it again.

All these years later and it feels like Apple are still dancing around trying to avoid the inevitable fact the they already nailed it with the Mac UI; A desktop, user-sizable and movable windows, and a Menu Bar.

@Plume Agreed, touch on a full fledged OS is a positive, not a negative.

People aren't making touch specific "PRO" UIs, and I don't see that changing. So either drop the "PRO" iPad, and focus on the very real "iPad as pacifier for children" use case, or.. add a touch screen to MacOS (and focus the iPad on the very real "iPad as pacifier for children" use case)

Wow, so much scorn and hatred for ipad users. So much venom directed towards non-technical users. (those two groups are not the same). No wonder so much software is user hostile and hard to use, if the above bigoted elitism is typical of programmers as a whole.

There are more kinds of "real work" in the world and more ways of making your money on a computing device than are dreamt of in your narrowminded philosophies. Not everyone uses their computing device in the same way. Not everyone needs the same things out of their computing devices. Ipads remove a lot of the complexities and mental overhead of using a computing device, and for many people, including a non-trivial number of perfectly capable adult professionals who get paid for doing things on their ipads, that's a Good Thing.

I feel as if I failed to make my point.

The iPad doesn't magically remove complexity on it's own, programmers and designers do all that, and they have to put a lot of hard work into it.

But, the market you reach with that kind of app is too small for it to be worth it. (Otherwise we'd see more apps like that)

On top of that you have Apple taking a big chunk out of the already too small sum you could make, so why bother?

And if that wasn't enough, you have Apple releasing productivity apps that are good enough, for free. Driving the already low prices further down the drain by setting unrealistic expectations.

Thanks for the interesting observation re make or break. Other than that, I wholeheartedly agree. I use MacOS, Linux (Pop!_OS), and Windows. I’m more on the switchy side as a user, I’m very fast, and Mac is the system with the best ergonomics by far. Windows is insanely broken. I have a 10.5” iPad Pro with two different, amazing stands and a Magic Keyboard. I use it for work when I travel extremely light which is about once every two years. The iPad never offered what normal-to-fast paced work needs and still doesn’t, so I never switched. The complexity is not in the design but in the task and its being functional, situated, and embodied just requires a design that’s adequate and not eyes-first.

@Niall The abstracted file system on iPadOS is finally what killed the iPad for me this year. After getting frustrated with the file system, closed off environment, and always online development tools, I decided to give my iPad Pro to a family member and move all my portable computing back to a full fledged desktop OS. I have been without the iPad for 3 months now, and honestly don't miss it. The Macbook Pro I'm using now makes wonder why I didn't ditch the iPad sooner.

Ghost Quartz

I think 10ish years ago there was the perception that the iPad was to the Mac what the Mac was to the Apple II… a new paradigm in computing that would soon surpass the capabilities of the platforms that preceded it. But that vision never panned out, and desktop platforms still carry a sizable advantage in flexibility and capability, at the expense of complexity and accessibility.

Would it have been possible to build a tablet OS that carries all the power of a desktop operating system without the burden of all its accumulated complexities? Apple’s stubborn insistence on a locked down environment is clearly holding the platform back, but perhaps their fundamental mistake was using iPhone OS’s application model and file system abstractions as a foundation. Still, it’s not clear to me that a capable replacement for modern desktop operating systems wouldn’t merely recreate what we already have, save for a different input method. (I suppose that’s what many had hoped for.)

As it is, I think the iPad excels at focused tasks. It’s derisively labeled as a “consumption machine”, but I don’t think that’s particularly fair. All the artists I know who have one love it.

Only that a MacBook can't be hold like an iPad for reading and movie watching, and doesn't have a pen to scribble on PDF (just go to any university and see how many relies on this for note taking).

Hardly a surprise.

Even though I use my iPad throughout the day (even now as I’m typing this) and rely on it for all my personal e-mail, writing and even coding (mostly via terminal emulators and remote desktops), the fact that we still can’t have a sandboxed environment for local development (like iSH, but native) and keep waffling about with a half-baked file system makes it really hard to rely on it for professional activities (other than photography or media production, which it can perform OK for small setups).

On the other hand, my Windows machines now have a Linux environment, all the development tools I need, and touchscreen support. If the hardware and power requirements were worked around, things would likely be different.

"I think 10ish years ago there was the perception that the iPad was to the Mac what the Mac was to the Apple II… a new paradigm in computing that would soon surpass the capabilities of the platforms that preceded it. But that vision never panned out"

The iPad would have needed only three things to make this transition possible for the vast majority of current Mac users:

1. Better file management
2. Better multitasking/multi-window/multi-screen features
3. Sideloading, so actual professional programs can be developed without fear that they will be rejected from the App Store

All the other issues would have been manageable (or even solvable, with proper sideloading support). But these three restrictions ensured that the iPad would never be more than a toy.

Imagine if the Mac never had any killer apps. No PageMaker, no QuarkXPress, no HyperCard, no MacCAD, no Photoshop... It would have never replaced the Apple II. That's what Apple did to the iPad.

Generally I think that the main issues aren't UI multitasking related but OS level multitasking related. Everyone conflates the two and thinks we need the iPad to have multiple resizable windows to fix its pro-workflow problem. We don't the iPad OS multitasking UX is pretty fantastic (if hard to discover) as it stands. What we need is OS level multitasking - make it easier for apps to run tasks in the background, make it easier for apps to talk to each other. Expose more app surfaces for scripting and automation. Fix the file system access issues, fix the USB port access issues, give us swap files (8GB of memory isn't enough for quite a few tasks).

So many of the problems are at the OS structure level rather than the UI level and I think we are going to get a multitasking UI update at WWDC that isn't going to fix anything but will give all the people who have confused this issue something to talk about.

I really hope they don't give us Mac like multitasking because that isn't the problem... as Viticci mentions, overlapping windows suck and I don't want that, I want improvements to iPadOS multitasking not macOS multitasking.

If people want a touch based Mac, that is what they should ask for. Don't ruin the iPad without actually fixing the problems (OS level multitasking).

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