The iPad is Our Vision of the Future - It's Not Going Away - Ever

The iPad is a fine, precision instrument.

Many millions of people get good use from their iPad.

Thanks to Apple, the iPad continues to evolve technically.

My own tech life is better for having used iPads since 2010.

Does anything else need to be said?


The Future Isn't Going Away

The iPad will always be a part of our technical future. It's a product that's so compelling, so useful, and so ingrained in our technical psyche that I don't think it's reasonable to surmise that it's a dying breed.

Geordi La Forge shows Zefram Cochrane his warp calculations on his tablet.
Image credit: Paramount Pictures.

Today, you will read perhaps several articles about the sales slide of the iPad. Here's one from a very good reporter, Gregg Keizer, who simply lays out the facts. "Mac sales reach record high as unrelenting iPad slide continues." And yet, I believe there is a larger context.

The iPad, like the original 1984 Macintosh and 1993 Newton before it is, in reality, an unfulfilled vision. However, the relentless development of technology always comes along to breathe life into a vision that, in eagerness, arrives before its time.

A few weeks ago, I wrote "Apple and Microsoft Race to Rethink the Tablet."

On Apple's side of the fence, the company realized (I suspect) that iOS, supremely tuned to the iPhone, was holding back the iPad. After all, the home screen on an iPhone, which works so well, seems just silly these days on a 9.7 or 12.9-inch display. And so Apple realized that to support larger, more productive iPads, iOS would have to include new capabilities, Split View multitasking displays, picture-in-picture, Slide Over and better stylus support.

I believe that firmly. The iPad Pro is the beginning of a new way of thinking about a tablet and what role it should play in our lives. My opinion is that iOS is, in its current design, holding the iPad back. In other words, we all had to learn how to use a modern tablet like the iPad, and the iPhone OS, iOS, was the perfect OS to give us on the original, feeble iPad hardware.

The Hardware is Great. And It's Not There Yet

In a few years, it will become even more apparent that the way we want to use a tablet will be more fully supported by fabulously more powerful hardware. At that point, there will an inflection point. The classic iPad will have matured from being an over-sized iPhone into an essential element of our lives. The iPad Pro is that first tentative step into a new vision for how an iPad should function.

iPad sales are declining because, I think, it's the kind of product that doesn't need to be refreshed every year like an iPhone. But, more importantly, the limits of the hardware and iOS, good as they are, are keeping it from growing by leaps and bounds. And so, for now, an iPad 4 is "good enough" for many.

Once the technical ignition point happens, the iPad will take off again and truly replace what we've been using. After all is said and done, the future is the tablet, not the notebook. We're simply at the classic inflection point of any product that is grand in its vision but shackled by the current  limits of technology. To put a futuristic turn on it, don't look for notebooks to appear in our ideas for the future.

The iPad is our best vision, it isn't going away, and its future has not yet been written.

Captain Kirk works with his tablet and stylus. We're never going backwards on that vision. Ever.
Image credit: Paramount Pictures.