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Convergence on the Laptop Form Factor

Nick Heer, responding to arguments that, with the upcoming Magic Keyboard, Apple is moving the iPad in the direction of Microsoft’s Surface lineup:

I’m going to irritatingly self-quote here from a piece I wrote a couple of years ago:

If there is a smartphone-to-desktop continuum, with the tablet somewhere in the middle, Microsoft has long approached it as skinning Windows with touch drivers and bigger buttons, while Apple chose to start by making a touchscreen phone and build up from there.

The addition of real mouse and trackpad support to the iPad is not just a slapped-on version of the MacOS cursor, but a clearly considered rethinking of what that should be on a system that is still primarily used by touch. I expect to see plenty more changes like this as Apple continues to add more advanced features to iPadOS — features that will probably be similar to aspects of MacOS, but reconsidered for a touch-based operating system.

See also: Tom Warren’s take for The Verge: “Apple Finally Admits Microsoft Was Right About Tablets”, which is a borderline jacktastic headline.

I think Heer gets this right. It’s not about iPad moving closer to Surface conceptually; it’s about moving closer to the laptop ideal. For certain tasks nothing beats the laptop form factor, and quite possibly never will. All computing platforms that are used for such tasks inevitably take on that form. What’s new this decade is the detachable 2-in-1 form — one device that serves as both a laptop with keyboard and trackpad and as a handheld tablet. Microsoft got there from one direction, Apple from another.

Monday, 23 March 2020