Apple won't converge iPads and Macs... until it has to

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Apple won't converge iPads and Macs... until it has to
Apple has a long history of claiming it won't do something, until it does. Of course, at the same time, Apple has a history of assuming it knows what users want, even as users consistently disagree with Apple's vision. These two things have often come to a head with Apple waiting until the very last minute to introduce a feature or product that users really do want. Sometimes, Apple waits until well past the last minute, and that appears to be the plan when it comes to dealing with the overlap between iOS and MacOS.

Apple execs have said before that the company has no plans to converge iOS and MacOS with the standard excuse being that doing so would not only make MacOS "less good" at being a Mac while also causing problems with altering what people expect from iOS and iPads. Tim Cook has continued on with that message while traveling in Europe, telling Independent.ie (an Irish publication):


On its surface, the comment seems to be a pretty standard "we're not doing it... until we do" comment from Apple. Sure, right now, it appears that combining the two products would diminish both to a certain extent. But, Microsoft has been getting closer and closer to successfully converging Windows devices with the Surface Pro and Surface Book, and Apple already has the pieces in place to be able to succeed where Microsoft has not in that regard. 

Critics generally enjoy the hardware that Microsoft has created with the Surface Pro and Surface Book, and have applauded the way Windows 10 fixes the problems of Windows 8. The problem for Microsoft is still in a weak tablet app ecosystem. Windows always has a solid app ecosystem for desktop software, but its mobile offerings are still lacking. The hope is that by giving away Windows 10, Microsoft can kickstart developers into making more universal apps, but that is slow going. 

On the other hand, Apple has both a wealth of desktop apps and the best tablet app ecosystem around. The number of apps optimized for the iPad Pro's 12.9-inch display is reportedly still pretty low, but Apple has proven time and again that it can get developers on board when it has a device to push. MacOS and iOS have been getting more similar, so bringing the two together might not be a big issue. And frankly, rather than diminishing either side by converging the platforms, it is very likely that Apple would be able to significantly improve the iPad Pro in the process. 

Apple won't converge iPads and Macs... until it has to

The iPad Pro has been getting generally good, albeit ambivalent, reviews. People generally like the hardware, the new split-screen apps, and the Pencil. But, the general consensus also says that it is unclear who would actually benefit from the iPad Pro over a Macbook. Even those whose jobs revolve around graphics say that they like the Pencil, but the iOS and the iPad apps are simply not as powerful as their desktop counterparts, even with Adobe apps where Apple specifically worked with the company to bring professional-grade apps to the iPad Pro. 

So, right off the bat, the idea Cook floats that "customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad" doesn't ring true, nor does the idea that converging the platforms would hurt iOS, because bringing a proper windowing system and touch-enabled desktop-grade apps rather than tablet-grade pseudo-professional apps would certainly be something that users want, at least in the market that Apple is trying to target with the iPad Pro. 

Why Apple won't converge


The real reasons why Apple won't converge the platforms are partially technical and partially financial. Starting with the technical side of things, iOS and its apps have been extensively optimized to run on Apple's own chipsets, which are ARM-based, while MacOS and its software has been optimized for Intel chips. One of those platforms would have to undergo a pretty substantial shift in order to properly converge. This would be no small task, and it would not only be expensive for Apple to pull off, but would cause a lot of trouble with developer partners, unless Apple could come up with a universal app development platform similar to what Microsoft has created for Windows. 

Universal app development has been in the works for all of Apple's competitors in one way or another. Microsoft has had the Windows universal apps development kit in the hands of developers since April 2014. Canonical has had Ubuntu developers working on apps that can transition from phone to desktop, despite Ubuntu phone not taking off and its desktop convergence feature continuously delayed. Even Google has options to either bring Chrome Apps to mobile, or have Android apps run on Chromebooks or within Chrome on other platforms. 

Apple won't converge iPads and Macs... until it has to

Apple doesn't have any of those options. Instead, Apple has been working on ways for mobile and desktop to simply trade the relevant info, so people can keep working. While there were early rumors of something called iAnywhere, which would have allowed for mobile iOS devices to be connected to a dock in order to run full Mac apps, similar to functionality in the works for Windows and Ubuntu, Apple released just Handoff

Handoff allows for users to start something on an iPhone or iPad and switch to a Mac. Apple has opened up Handoff to third-party developers, potentially allowing Apple to offer features similar to convergence without putting in the work to create a universal app ecosystem, that is assuming developers put Handoff to use. It might even make it easier on developers who wouldn't need to necessarily rebuild apps, but rather add hooks to send across relevant information or files. That might be enough to hold Apple over until it has no choice but to converge. 

Apple's game doesn't recognize hybrids... yet


Apple has a reputation of being a company unafraid to cannibalize itself, but that doesn't mean the company will jump the gun on a move that would kill one of its own products. Apple put out the iPhone, knowing that it would eventually kill the iPod (which it has), because it was obvious that smartphones would be a much bigger market than portable media players. Unfortunately, that same distinction isn't clear right now between tablets and laptops. 

Apple won't converge iPads and Macs... until it has to
The tablet market has been on the decline recently, and laptops have been rebounding. Macbooks have been driving laptop sales for years. Converging tablets and laptops will fundamentally change the market, and PC makers have jumped on that trend. But, Apple is doing very well in laptop sales, and it doesn't want to jeopardize those sales by trying to boost iPad sales. Handoff means you need to have both a Mac and an iOS device, but true convergence would mean you only need one, and that would mean fewer sales for Apple. Right now, iPads are still selling enough to justify their existence while Macbooks are doing very well. 

The same can't be said for Windows or Android. No one is buying Windows tablets and although Android tablet sales are healthier, the margins on Android tablets are very low, leaving manufacturers to try making money in other ways. For Microsoft, the hope is that if enough people buy hybrid devices or Surface devices, maybe developers will work harder on tablet apps, and the entire Windows ecosystem can see the benefits. Microsoft needs convergence because it needs Windows 10 and hybrid devices to convince developers to make apps which could lead to improved sales of Windows phones and tablets. 

Android doesn't really need the same thing, per se. Android has a better tablet app ecosystem than Windows, though not as good as iOS, but Google needs something to extend to traditional laptops. Chromebooks are great, but they have their limitations right now. Android has more potential, so Android will keep being put on more devices in order to fill in those limitations. 

Apple may be forced to converge eventually, if iPad sales really do tank. But, for now at least, it can pretty safely keep its devices separate and wait to see where the market goes. Apple has a history of legitimizing or popularizing features and products that have existed from competitors for a long time (see: smartphones, tablets, NFC payments, etc.), but there is no benefit to Apple legitimizing the hybrid market right now. Hybrids may well be the future, but until that future is more solid, don't expect Apple to give credence to the movement. 

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31 Comments

1. darkkjedii

Posts: 30786; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

C'mon Apple, give us the iPac.

5. buccob

Posts: 2949; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I am with you on this... ever since I bought the Atrix I believe that the future is in convergence... in fact the present has been converging our devices for years and our phones now replace over a dozen of older single-function devices... The Atrix had a great idea but it was way ahead of its time and the execution was poor. Then Asus came along and brought us Tablet-Notebook hybrids, Phone-Tablet-Notebook hybrids... and the execution was a lot better, but the muscle behind the company had little reach... nevermind publicity. And now we have everyone trying a little bit to enter the hybrid market some way or another...The Lumia with Display Dock, the Surfaces, iPad Pro, etc... it is all awesome and pointing in the same direction... but there is still a road to walk.

8. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

OG PadFone. #NeverForget

36. Dr.SamX

Posts: 233; Member since: Jan 19, 2015

They already gave us the is**t and the iCrap. What more do you want?

2. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

This whole thing is stupid, Pro will flop, I don't think it's sequel will come in next few years. Of course it will sell in few milions but it won't be enough for Apple to make another one. They will probably take some things from it like Pencil and add them to Air 3

7. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Just the icing on the cake to a year that also saw Apple release the Watch and the MacBook. All bizarre products that have a very obscure niche. I would be all about an iPad Air 3 with Pencil support. The Pro is just too damn big, comically so.

13. bucky

Posts: 3771; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

You know thinking about this year, it definitely was a weird year for Apple apart from the iPhone 6s and Apple TV 4. Felt like there was no real direction or streamlined approach.

24. magnanimus

Posts: 565; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

I felt the same way. It doesn't feel very Apple-like. I remembered swearing on the fact apple wouldn't release a 12.9 inch tablet with iOS. I was also expecting stylus support on the ipad air. Oh well

32. jontaylor07

Posts: 169; Member since: Oct 12, 2015

It's because the direction is largely absent. Steve is gone, and most of the plans he laid have probably been accomplished. I think he was a lot of what made Apple what it was. We'll see if they can keep it up though.

37. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Now if I had said the same thing, you'd say I was a hater.

3. theguy2345

Posts: 1216; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

They can't converge iPad and Mac. IPads are too mainstream, and then who would sit at Starbucks all day, pretending to write screenplays with their full iMac. It would destroy the hipsters.

4. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

That is stupid comment

10. theguy2345

Posts: 1216; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

That is stupid grammar.

21. TechKnowledge

Posts: 55; Member since: May 05, 2013

Great comment. I couldn't have said it better myself. "Pretending to write screenplays!" My thoughts exactly.

6. TBomb

Posts: 1134; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Why sell 1 combo when you can keep selling 1 of each?

9. vuyonc

Posts: 1088; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

"We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad." 'Stuck between a rock and a hard place' is all I'm hearing. Usually Apple waits until they 'get it right' before occupying an apparent niche. That niche was already filled with superior products from the likes of Microsoft, Lenovo and Dell. This won't be like a new iPhone 'revolutionising' something. The ARM tablet market is dying and will take the iPad down with it. Mac OS doesn't have a lot of market share in computing. Apple better think of something fast to break out of their near one-trick-pony operation.

12. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Everyone's stuck between a rock and a hard place considering the PC market is apparently dying as well (though it still is too early to tell whether or not Windows 10 will have the major impact Windows et al are hoping for.)

18. j2001m

Posts: 3060; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Hm, in the uk, tesco as just stared selling like 100£ full Windows 10 tablet, a 179.99 laptop with again Windows 10, no joke, this is over ther cheap android tablets they was selling, I.e. They gave up on android and moved to Windows 10, so I try again if I was you Android tablets are out and Windows 10 tablets are in (Tecos are like the biggest supermarket In the uk, the above is the display they have in there small shops that did have the cheap android tablets before, so like it's in all there shops covering millions of uk customers)

26. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Shops around the entire world sell Windows 10 tablets but it doesn't mean their sales are improving. (As an extreme example, because in no way are sales THIS bad, but) remember the HP Touchpad. http://www.forbes.com/sites/aarontilley/2015/07/10/pc-sales-tank-and-microsoft-windows-10-may-not-rescue-the-market-this-year/

33. jontaylor07

Posts: 169; Member since: Oct 12, 2015

PC sales will likely never be what iPad sales were. This is due to PC being a big market, there will be standouts though, who make trendy devices with frequent refreshes and high margins. However, most PC buyers are pragmatic and only replace when they need to. That doesn't mean that PC's aren't replacing iPads or Androids, just that people aren't replacing their PCs so quickly.

15. Hexa-core

Posts: 2131; Member since: Aug 11, 2015

Mac OSX is nowhere near selling as well as Windows PC and Laptops (outside of Apple's home nation).

11. HildyJ

Posts: 332; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

The problem for iFans is the OS. The chip argument is a red herring; there are plenty of tablets with Intel x86 inside. Most of them run off the shelf Windows - 7, 8, 8.1, or 10. The problem is that Apple is years (and in some cases over a decade) behind Microsoft in supporting touch/stylus in their big boy OS. In 2002, Windows XP Tablet Edition was released supporting stylus (this was before 5 years before the iPhone's capacitive touch screen) input and navigation, on screen keyboards, handwriting recognition, and pressure sensitive drawing (aslo speech recognition - sorry Siri). These were incorporated in standard Windows with Vista, which also added touch support. Win7 added multitouch. Win8 added a touch friendly interface. Win10 is trying to merge Win8 modern and Win7 desktop. OSX has almost nothing from the iOS touch or pencil world anywhere in the OS. Windows has everything from iOS or Android, touch or stylus, baked into the deepest levels of their OS. I don't know of a Win tablet with a capacitive screen that measures pressure (aka force touch) but if one is made Windows could support it. So Cook is baked into a corner. The OSX world is not popular or profitable enough to justify development of touch/stylus APIs or hardware. I suspect that he meant that Macs are on their way out, he just didn't mean to say it.

17. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 399; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

We won't converge since we can sell you both products for a combined $2000. That way you can still get the best of both worlds! TM. Tim Cook #BendOverAndTakeIt

19. Arthurhkt

Posts: 717; Member since: Apr 19, 2012

Damn, it's been a while I never saw any post posted by Michael H., we sure miss you out man, or I am the only one miss out something?

20. .VELOCITY.

Posts: 35; Member since: Nov 15, 2015

Include me as well.

25. ananthu07 unregistered

In other words, Tim Cook will wait to see if surface book will be a success like the surface pro and then make an iBook like they copied surface pro with iPad Pro

30. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Wow, this article is so unbiased, it's hard to believe it's coming from iphonearena...

31. kultissim

Posts: 6; Member since: Oct 14, 2015

Was thinking the same ha

34. pankajxdx unregistered

iPad sales may not be a lot, but people refresh their iPads more like phones, every year or two unlike their Macs, so I can see why Apple isn't considering a hybrid. Besides the point that OS X is no where near to be easily ported to a touch based device. But certainly the future is one (touchscreen) device to rule them all. It'll be downhill for Apple if they don't make a move soon.

35. MDave

Posts: 210; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

"On its surface, the comment seems to be a pretty standard "we're not doing it... until we do" comment from Apple. Sure, right now, it appears that combining the two products would diminish both to a certain extent. But, Microsoft has been getting closer and closer to successfully converging Windows devices with the Surface Pro and Surface Book[...] " That's like, your opinion. Windows has turned into an abomination in the pursuit of that goal, and that's mine.

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