A Story Half-Told

Back in November I wrote about how the introduction of the first M1 Macs put extra pressure on Apple to differentiate the iPad Pro from the recently upgraded iPad Air. The Airs were colorful, performant, and supported all the new accessories. Meanwhile, the new M1 MacBook Air was light, blazing fast, and could run iOS apps. What would compel people to buy an iPad Pro?

In that post, I listed 10 things I thought Apple could do to make its pro tablet stand out in the line-up. This week, Apple addressed one and a half of them, and set the stage for a few more. It upgraded the port to Thunderbolt/USB 4 (but didn’t add an additional port like I hoped), added 5G, and gave the iPad Pro the very same M1 chip that powers its new Macs, making it more than capable of running things like Xcode, Final Cut, Logic, etc. The port could potentially point toward things like better external display support and fast Time Machine backups.

Disappointingly, the iPad Pro presentation lacked the colorful, whimsical joy of the new iMac introduction (though I was definitely impressed by the production quality of the M1 chip heist). Apple has doubled down on iPad Pros being Serious Business, which is just too bad, because literally everyone I know would love an iPad Pro in some other color than gray. In fact, I find myself in a strange position—the new iPad Air made me excited for the iPad Pro, which in turned disappointed me enough to make me hopeful that the next iPad Air will be released in some even more vivid colors. Apple has become a company of a thousand SKUs…you can’t tell me they can’t give us some more gosh darn hues. But, I digress.

Once upon a time, Apple made an outrageously powerful, desktop-class tablet, with artificially limited software and I/O.

…and then what?

Well, we have to wait until June 7 to find out. Or do we? The iPad’s future is just as wrapped up in the current anti-trust hullabaloo as it is in iPadOS 15. Will developers be allowed greater freedom to innovate without being fearful of App Review? Will Apple finally shift its focus to eliminating actual multi-million dollar scams and fraud instead of nitpicking honest developers who desire to follow the spirit of the law, if not the letter (which is usually pretty vague to begin with)?

If Apple is willing to give App Review a complete overhaul and also manages to release at least one first party “pro” app for iPadOS this June, I think the iPad Pro’s story will take a happy turn indeed. For now, however, it remains a half-told tale of wasted potential—a sleek, expensive “what if?”

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