No FridgeToaster for You: Let the iPad Evolve

All evolution in thought and conduct must at first appear as heresy and misconduct.” — George Bernard Shaw

EvolutionDuring Apple’s Financial Results Conference Call on Tuesday, Tim Cook dismissed the idea of a hybrid device, the convergence of the MacBook and an iPad. He clearly stated, “We’re not going to that party.” I think the reason is related to the natural selection and evolution of the iPad.

The Apple iPad is in its infancy. While it took 24 years for Apple to sell 67 million Macs, it’s only taken two years to sell 67 million iPads. It’s a brand new technology, almost a new life form, if you will. It’s growing, morphing, and inventing itself at an enormous pace. One early misstep could seriously impact the full course of development.

Therefore, the idea of a hybrid device, a MacBook-like notebook with a display that can be twisted around, closed, and act like an iPad is really just a bad habit from 24 years of life with Macs. It’s an old generation dream that doesn’t allow for the natural evolution of this new breed of product.

The FridgeToaster Disaster

I think Tim Cook must have been aware of things on the drawing board that would suggest the natural evolution of the iPad when he made his remarks. The fact that he took the opportunity to reveal that Apple isn’t going down a specific path was probably intentional and strategic, but it still made me think that the the context was Mr. Cook’s knowledge of future products — without revealing anything specific.

For example, suppose the iPad as we know it were to morph into this:

Hybrid MacBook/iPadImage Credit: Brydge

Ok, that’s possible, engineering-wise. I’ve already seen Toshiba Windows notebooks whose top twists around and close to become a tablet. In this case, the keyboard is just about the right size.

But let’s say the 7.85-inch iPad launches at Christmas, and, oops, it’s too small to have a keyboard. The result is that the iPad line becomes fragmented, a few vocal customers (and columnists) complain that the 7-in iPad has no keyboard, and suddenly the evolution of the product becomes tangled. Strangled.

Mr. Cook was right that different customers need MacBooks and iPads at different times and for different uses. Holding the iPad back, trying to make it half-baked MacBook hybrid would constrain the technology and sales.

Historial Perspective

I remember when the original Mac came out in 1984. Under the Apple Menu were what was then called Desk Accessories: a calculator, a notepad an alarm clock and so on. (Think of them as widgets.) Initially, it wasn’t possible to alter the set of DA’s. Then, with some changes in the OS and clever developers, we had, voila!, the Font/DA Mover. We Mac users were in heaven. It was a small change, but it seemed like a seachange to us.

It seems to me that we’re more or less in that phase right now with the iPad. It has some quirky limitations related to files, folders, finding which screen an app is on, moving files back and forth to a Mac and so on. The iPad is a very locked down appliance, just as Steve Jobs envisioned the 1984 Mac as an appliance.

With any new product, it has to be fairly limited or it would never ship and the developers could never get started. Then, the user base grows, they mature and the technology matures. New ideas come along to make our lives easier. The OS mutates. It is always so.

Synergy Rules

Over the next 10 years, the iPad will change dramatically. We may come to dispense with any keyboard at all as voice input gets to the Star Trek level of perfection. There will be better ways to move files around and renew the synergy between apps. New physical sizes will come along, both smaller and larger than the current 9.7-inch model that will meet the new needs of customers. This will be in response to the improved OS technology, and in turn, the many new uses that the technology invites.

For example, improvements in optics could mean that the 7-inch iPad becomes the quintessential personal video recorder. Improvements in iOS and materials could mean that we can comfortably sit at our desk and create content on a 21-inch iPad instead of a 21-inch iMac. Larger iPads could become the next generation TV.

These are just some casual thoughts on how the iPad could evolve over the next decade. I am very sure that Mr. Cook understands this evolutionary process and is going to let the iPad grow and evolve in its own way, leaving the classic PC permanently in the past.

This is no time for a strained, artificial convergences. I can fully see how Apple wants to let iPad natural selection run its course.


Evolution Image Credit: Shutterstock.