The iPad Pro is a computer for everything — mostly

On Wednesday, MacStories's Federico Viticci published a retrospective on using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro as his primary computer for a year:

There's no doubt in mind now: the iPad Pro is the best computer I've ever owned not only because it's powerful, but because iOS apps unlock a different kind of productivity on the big screen. More than any other iPad before, the iPad Pro is the strongest argument in favor of iOS for as a primary computing platform.

As someone who also spent the better part of the year working on iPad Pro, I have to agree. The potential of the iPad platform remains huge, but Apple has made great strides in realizing some of that potential, giving its users more control over the last twelve months. Thanks to third-party apps like Workflow, I've been able to recreate — and in some cases, better — daily work tasks. The iPad has also succeeded in focusing my productivity where the Mac scattered it, thanks to dedicated app windows for writing and other tasks. And I love being able to switch on a whim between writing on a keyboard like the Logitech Create and sketching with the Apple Pencil.

Where I'd like to see the company bring deeper updates is iOS and the iPad accessory department. The iPad's multitasking UI needs a visual overhaul and integration with external keyboards. It's also time for a system-wide drag & drop framework that can provide a suitable alternative to the clipboard and extensions. There should be support for in-app split views (like Safari's) in more Apple apps, too. Hopefully, Apple had the time to measure the response to iOS 9, and they're working on a proper follow-up for 2017.

This is the big pain point I still have with working on iOS: For certain tasks, it's too cumbersome to use an iPad over a Mac. I feel lucky in that I can switch to my iMac or MacBook Pro in those cases — a 9.7-inch iPad is the perfect accompaniment with a MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Pro — but not everyone is going to have the luxury to own multiple devices. In truth, your primary device needs be able to do 99% of the work you need it to, not 50% or 65%. At this point, I find the iPad great for about that percentage of my daily activities, but certain tasks just aren't enjoyable on iOS. (Especially those that involve drag and drop gestures in Safari: Trello, whose app remains sub-par and lacking features on iPad, is a constant source of frustration when I'm working with iOS.)

Even if this discussion was settled a long time ago, it bears repeating: millions of people today like working on iOS more than they do on macOS, and the iPad Pro is the best machine to run iOS. There is no sarcastic subtext about the Mac here, which is still a fantastic environment that many Apple users love and need for their line of work. The Mac and the iPad can coexist in a market where customers believe one is superior to the other. I prefer working on the iPad; others like their Macs more. And that's fine because, ultimately, the Apple ecosystem as a whole grows stronger and we all reap the benefits.

I remain convinced that Viticci is correct here: I don't foresee the Mac melding with iOS as Microsoft has melded Windows with multitouch in its Surface tablets, and I don't want to go that direction. iOS and macOS may share more similarities as the years progress, but they're built for different interactions: iOS is direct touch, macOS is indirect input. As such, each will have its own strengths and weaknesses: The Mac will never be as good a platform for drawing or image correction as a tablet, and the iPad won't ever be the multitasking giant the Mac is today.

I'm okay with that. As users, we can want iOS to improve without championing the death of the Mac — I have use cases for both machines, and I want to see both succeed. And if we can get some of the Mac's brilliance on iOS and vice versa, it only helps both platforms move forward.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.