Dr. Drang makes the argument that software not hardware is holding the iPad back from becoming an independent platform. He compares the iPad’s capabilities to features the Mac had during its first seven years of life.
What’s surprising to me is how slow iPad software has advanced in the seven years since its introduction. I’ve always thought of the iPad as the apotheosis of Steve Jobs’s conception of what a computer should be, what the Mac would have been in 1984 if the hardware were available. But think of what the Mac could do when it was seven years old:
- You could write real Macintosh programs on it, both with third-party development software like THINK (née Lightspeed) C and Pascal and Apple’s Macintosh Programmer’s Workshop. You may not care about writing native apps, but the ability to do so brings with it a lot of other abilities you do care about, like the bringing together of documents from multiple sources.
- You had a mature multi-tasking environment in the MultiFinder that worked with essentially every application that ran on the Mac.
- You (and all your applications) had access to a real hierarchical file system.
- You had what many people still consider the best personal software development kit in HyperCard.
The missing features Dr. Drang cites are reasons why I can’t use an iPad as my primary computer. But these features alone are not keeping the iPad from becoming an independent platform. For some people the lack of these features and the complexity they eliminate are a feature in itself.
The iPad doesn’t need to replace Mac OS to become an independent platform, it needs a killer feature to differentiate itself from other platforms.
- The Mac’s killer feature was its ease of use and graphical user interface.
- The iPod’s killer feature was its integration with iTunes and large capacity storage.
- The iPhone’s killer feature was its multitouch user interface and mobile Internet access.
- The iPad is remains a large screen iPhone.
The Apple Pencil and Split View are good attempts, but until Apple finds the iPad’s killer feature it will remain an also-ran.