Editorial: The future of Steve Jobs' iPad vision for Post-PC computing

Posted:
in iPad edited February 27
In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad as a new product category between the smartphone and notebook. It ended up dramatically shifting demand in the PC industry, but sales have since plateaued. Here's what Apple can do, has done and is doing to build iPad into the Post-PC future of computing.

iPad vs. Mac

When I solicited ideas from readers on Twitter about subjects to write about this weekend, I ended up with a lot of competitive votes suggesting either Macs or iPads. Coincidentally, a provocative graph (above) of Apple's historical revenue mix by DataVisualisations was widely shared last Friday, showing the parallel trajectory of iPad and Mac sales.

What's so captivating about the graph is that it shows the evolution of Apple--from nearly exclusive sales of Macs 20 years ago, to a fairly even split between Macs and iPod ten years ago, to its status today as the iPhone maker that also sells iPads and Macs (along with Other Products and Services--much of which represents sales of iOS apps).

Note that the graph depicts a relative percentage of revenues by reported product categories over twenty years of sharply increasing revenues. Today's current slice of revenues from Macs is far larger than two decades ago, when Macs represented virtually all of Apple's income.

In addition to portraying Apple's shift from conventional PCs to mobile devices, it also shows the continual shift in demand from desktop Macs (which made up nearly 80 percent of Apple's revenues back in 1997), initially toward "portable" Mac notebooks (roughly equal by 2004, and growing into the majority of Mac sales over the past decade), to the more recent balance in relative importance between iPads and Macs.iPads and Mac are not only equally important revenues sources today, but they also serve different price points and audiences, meaning there's no reason for Apple to want to starve one to benefit the other

If you're still wondering why Apple hasn't updated its desktop Macs (the mini and Pro), their relative importance to Apple's revenues certainly plays a factor.

However, those products may also involve a strategic importance. Given that iMacs make up most of Apple's desktop sales, it's likely we'll see it updated first and the Pro next, while the mini might never be refreshed.

More interesting, it seems, is how much development effort Apple plans to invest in iPad vs. the Mac. Over the past few years, both have contributed similar revenues and profits, although iPad has sold in greater numbers (albeit at lower prices). However, this doesn't suggest a rivalry for attention over scarce resources.

iPad, Mac cross pollination

iPads and Mac are not only equally important revenues sources today, but they also serve different price points and audiences, meaning there's no reason for Apple to want to starve one to benefit the other (such as it did when it transitioned from Apple II to Macs in the 1980s, or in the 1998 cancelation of Newton to focus on Macs, or the discontinuation of PowerMacs for Intel Macs that started in 2006).

Additionally, the massive numbers of iPads sold since 2010 have actually contributed to Mac sales, in part because all the iOS software they run requires developers to use macOS and Xcode. Additionally, much of the manufacturing technology developed for light thin iPads has also served to enhance the design of new Macs.




Entire classes of new features developed for iOS have also benefitted Macs, from software frameworks to Touch ID to the ARM chips that run the Touch Bar on new MacBook Pros. There is heavy cross pollination between macOS and iOS. Focusing on one platform to the detriment of the other currently does not make any sense at all.

However, while iPads and Macs keep sharing various bits of software and manufacturing technology, there's also good reason for Apple to avoid the cliche advice that begs the company to blur the line between the two platforms in order to achieve some sort of hybrid convergence.

Much of what has made iPad successful as a product and as a platform is its clear differentiation from the conventional PC. Rather than relaxing that, Apple appears to be doubling down on Steve Jobs' vision of iPad as a "Post-PC" computing device.

iPad "better than a computer"

For years, critics have trotted out the trite notion that iPad is "not powerful enough to be a real computer" and therefore only good at "consumption." In response, Apple's latest batch of
iPad ads--responding to real tweets--positions iPad's design as "better than a computer."





In an homage to "Get a Mac" ads, one focuses on the iPad's inability to contract PC viruses. Other clips tout that iPad is "faster than most laptops," offers ubiquitous LTE data service and runs popular PC apps including Microsoft Word--albeit enhanced with support for drawing and annotations with Apple Pencil.

Previously, Apple's ads focused on iPad's ability to run a huge array of iOS apps, which defined iPad as being more of an oversized iPhone. Few people think of their phone as being a computer. By directly positioning iPad as being a PC alternative, Apple is increasingly targeting the money left in the market for conventional PCs.By directly positioning iPad as being a PC alternative, Apple is increasingly targeting the money left in the market for conventional PCs

Neither PCs nor tablets are growing rapidly anymore, at least not on a global scale. However, Apple has proven its ability to grow and profit within a stagnant industry via its premium products. Macs did that for years within the shrinking PC market.

iPads targeting PCs, not other tablets

The reason Apple is now increasingly targeting PCs in its iPad advertising--rather than other tablets--is that there's little value left in the outside "tablet market" to grab. Not even the second place tablet maker Samsung is doing well in tablets.

Both Amazon and Google raced to the bottom of the bargain bin, proving that while you can build an extremely cheap touchscreen device, it won't necessarily result in a good product or a viable software development platform--particularly if you don't bother to pay attention to detail or craft a workable strategy.

The largest segment (by far) of iOS apps is video games, but while Apple does focus on games in its marketing and works to delivers tools to support iOS game development, it hasn't really positioned iPad as being a gaming device, either.

Again, there simply aren't really tablet gaming devices that have sold well or represent a signifiant opportunity for Apple. Nvidia's Shield and Nintendo's previous Wii U tablet were both simply treading water; Nintendo's new Switch may find a new class of buyers, but that remains to be seen.

That leaves the PC as the best market to go after. Currently, most users are wildly over-served by an Intel PC running Windows. PCs are complex and designed to do virtually anything, meaning that simpler iPads can effectively leverage Disruptive Innovation to pry into the market from the bottom.

Apple already owns the majority of the top of the PC market; further gains there will require increased efforts with diminishing returns. The lower end of over-served PC users is prime for disruption by iPad.

Note that the Mac mini was first launched as a "Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard and Mouse" assault on lower end desktop PCs back in 2005. However, the low end desktop PC market has since dried up significantly, leaving behind PC notebooks in the $200-800 range, perfect for targeting with iPads.

Apple appears to have given up trying to win over basic PCs using Mac mini as a drop-in replacement. It hasn't yet discontinued the Mac mini, but also hasn't updated it since late 2014.


Apple is now thinking outside the box: with Post PC iPads

iPad Pro 2 & iOS 11

As a Post-PC device, iPad is purposely working to eat into basic notebook PC sales not as a drop in replacement, but by being far simpler and easier to manage. Its Intel-free design also makes it cheaper to build, fan-free and more power efficient with extended battery life. It's also extremely mobile due to being so light and thin.

Apple's apparent strategy means you shouldn't expect iOS 11 to shoehorn lots of desktop PC conventions into iPad. Instead, the company is likely to enhance features like Split Screen and Slide Over to make it easier to work between multiple apps in new ways.




Apple has already made some efforts to enable multiple users in education using the Shared iPad feature. This might evolve into new support for multiple users in iOS for managed iPads (such as in enterprise deployments) but this functionality is also limited by the hardware resources of iPads.

Faster silicon in the form of an A10X Fusion (or whatever Apple choses to name its next iPad Application Processor) will also assist in enabling more sophisticated screen UI features, as well as powering the advanced camera logic developed for iPhone 7 and providing the capacity to run more advanced games and powerful creative and business apps.

Another area where Apple could increase user satisfaction on its iPad lineup relates to the migration toward USB-C. Apple can be expected to rapidly move to the new connector type on its iOS wall adapters and Lightning cables, potentially also enabling faster charging. It would also be great to ship wall adaptors featuring two USB-C ports, so users gain a new benefit while making the transition.

Wall chargers with multiple USB-C ports could also incorporate a USB switch so that iPad users can easier connect a wired peripheral (such as a music interface or podcasting microphone) while plugged into power. The Smart Connector on iPad Pro models could also be exploited to work with new types of peripherals.


USB-C is already in use on MacBook and MacBook Pro models


Apple has also made Continuity a primary focus, so faster connectivity between iPads, iPhone and Macs could be rolled out along with greater efficiency, perhaps using Bluetooth 5, which promises "4x range, 2x speed and 8x broadcasting message capacity."

Other technologies that are likely to spread through the 2017 iPad lineup include support for Wide Color and the True Tone display introduced for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, as well as the new model's improved camera features and Retina Flash, and the multiple speaker sound developed for iPad Pro models.

Apple has typically launched enhanced hardware features on iPhone first, given that its smartphone is more expensive and drives larger sales volumes. However, it's still possible that Apple could debut new 3D sensors and Augmented Reality features on new iPads first, helping to fuel the demand for new apps before new iPhones are launched later in the year.

Another potential way Apple could drive iPad sales is by marketing models as an aftermarket solution for CarPlay, effectively selling tablets to serve as a dash-mounted, wirelessly connected display for use while driving.

Apple could also launch new education apps partners in the model of its IBM and SAP partnerships for enterprise apps. Working with education consultants and content developers to develop new workflows for use in education, Apple could strengthen its position faster than it can on its own.

There are a variety of opportunities for enhancing iPads--particularly new iPad Pro 2 models--that would serve to make them better as "Post-PC computers," but there's also good reason for Apple to avoid trying to make iPads too similar to existing Macs, as a followup second segment on Jobs' Post-PC vision for iPad examines.
«13456

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 113
    "Post-PC" : only two words to burry Microsoft ... Brilliant ....
    caliwatto_cobrajony0brakken
  • Reply 2 of 113
    Apple's ability to reinvent itself is uncanny.
    It bet the house on laptops when desktops were its bread and butter.
    It became a consumer electronics company and even dropped the word 'Computer' from its name with the iPod.
    When the time came to roll the iPod's functionality into a phone, it did it without hesitation.
    It launched a tablet that no one understood at first.
    The arrival of the iPhone 6 plus coincided with a slowdown in iPad sales, but the phone was a bonanza.
    It's now putting an emphasis on services b/c it has close to a billion devices running its OS's.
    But it's still thinking up ways to squeeze relevance out of the tablet.
    Its market cap is at a zenith

    This week is the anniversary of Steve Jobs' birth.

    Very few people really *get* Apple

    I believe DED does 
    DanielEranlolliverRayz2016SolicaliStrangeDayscharlesgresGeorgeBMacbaconstangjustadcomics
  • Reply 3 of 113
    WhyGee said:

    Very few people really *get* Apple

    I believe DED does 
    The problem is that a lot of people want Apple to be sort of personal to them. Perhaps once but now? The Behmoth/Juggernaut that is Apple today makes that impossible.
    My main criticism is that they have some  really great but very niche products that work day in/day out with no fuss that they just let wither and die. I'm sure many here can provide examples.
    They aren't sexy or even photogenic but they work and probably make their profit targets (a lot less than the iPhone etc) but try buying them either in store or online and they are there but only the dedicated reach their goal.
    I think Apple needs to setup a Core Systems Division. The wiFi routers etc could go there and get some focus and importantly some advertising exposure.
    Then we might see them not wither and die but get developed and updated and get that important better exposure. If people don't know about them, no one will buy them.
    Or apple needs to float them off into a company that can take them forward even keeping the Apple branding. I don't know what to do but thay have to do something.

  • Reply 4 of 113
    WhyGee said:
    Apple's ability to reinvent itself is uncanny.
    It bet the house on laptops when desktops were its bread and butter.
    It became a consumer electronics company and even dropped the word 'Computer' from its name with the iPod.
    When the time came to roll the iPod's functionality into a phone, it did it without hesitation.
    It launched a tablet that no one understood at first.
    The arrival of the iPhone 6 plus coincided with a slowdown in iPad sales, but the phone was a bonanza.
    It's now putting an emphasis on services b/c it has close to a billion devices running its OS's.
    But it's still thinking up ways to squeeze relevance out of the tablet.
    Its market cap is at a zenith

    This week is the anniversary of Steve Jobs' birth.

    Very few people really *get* Apple

    I believe DED does 
    It also disrupted the smartphone market in 2007 with a transformative device that was unlike anything else available at the time.
    edited February 26 justadcomicswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 113
    Good article, but a lot of links went wrong (showing up in bold instead of links).
  • Reply 6 of 113
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition. If you have a touch sensitive screen and a stylus, why do you have to mimic a PC and have an on screen keyboard, or look even more like a laptop and have an attached keyboard? Clearly, people who want to use a keyboard or voice dictation should be able to have that flexibility, but that freedom should also be extended to people who would prefer to write (and I suspect that with good enough software that would be most of us). Apple holds all the best patents on HWR (a legacy of the Newton), so they should either (A) develop the functionality into a future iOS release, (B) spin off a separate company (like Filemaker) to develop it as an app, or (C) sell off the patents. Options B and C make no sense to me, so here's hoping that they will finally realise that while a finger is great as a mouse replacement, the stylus is great as a pen replacement, and both should be supported. Native HWR will truly be the killer app for the iPad - and if the patents are strong enough, uncopyable.
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 113
    steveau said:
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition. <...>
    Handwriting ! relics of the past ! who still uses handwriting ?
    caliGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 8 of 113
    Unfortunately my use case moves out of Apple's focus more and more.

    I don't need a MacPro and I don't want a iMac because I don't want to replace the whole thing when either the PC or Screen is dying (the all in ones are not very green products in my mind).
    I don't need a laptop for private use (I don't need to check my Facebook page, twitter account ... on the couch). If I use a computer on a private basis a bigger screen (24'' and plus) is beneficial.
    I don't want commodities as computers, I can handle a replacement of memory, hard disks or ssds or even a processor.

    /end rant  :/
    asdasd
  • Reply 9 of 113
    smalmsmalm Posts: 609member
    copeland said:
    Unfortunately my use case moves out of Apple's focus more and more.
    Your use case left Apple's focus years ago!
    GeorgeBMacmacplusplus
  • Reply 10 of 113
    smalm said:
    copeland said:
    Unfortunately my use case moves out of Apple's focus more and more.
    Your use case left Apple's focus years ago!
    That isn't true at all and later I will explain why.
  • Reply 11 of 113
    The vision for post PC computing seems to be smartphones if the graph is to be taken as gospel. 
    bb-15
  • Reply 12 of 113
    hopefully everyone remembers "post" means "after", and not "replacement". thus Post-PC is what comes after the PC, and doesn't mean everyone must use a tablet for everything. Jobs' cars and trucks analogy is a good one. most of the time i just need my car/ipad. sometimes i need my truck/mac. each of my parents never need a truck/mac and only use their car/ipad.
    edited February 26 baconstangai46watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 13 of 113
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 2,635member
    smalm said:
    copeland said:
    Unfortunately my use case moves out of Apple's focus more and more.
    Your use case left Apple's focus years ago!
    His use case will continue to fall out of most companies. Its not like Apple is the only company starting to do this. I like working on devices as much as the next person but I also realize that this is the way thing are going down the road. You can have adapt with the times and get over your I want to be able to expand RAM, change processors, etc, etc.This is a dying trend in a lot of areas.
    edited February 26 baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 113
    foljsfoljs Posts: 250member
    steveau said:
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition.
    Huh? That's totally irrelevant to the post-PC era.

    Few people write by hand anymore, and even fewer want to.

    If you input to a computer (including iPad like devices), you either use a keyboard (touch or hardware one), or you speak into it.

    Nobody is gonna start handwriting to their computers in 2017...
  • Reply 15 of 113
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 2,635member
    WhyGee said:
    Apple's ability to reinvent itself is uncanny.
    It bet the house on laptops when desktops were its bread and butter.
    It became a consumer electronics company and even dropped the word 'Computer' from its name with the iPod.
    When the time came to roll the iPod's functionality into a phone, it did it without hesitation.
    It launched a tablet that no one understood at first.
    The arrival of the iPhone 6 plus coincided with a slowdown in iPad sales, but the phone was a bonanza.
    It's now putting an emphasis on services b/c it has close to a billion devices running its OS's.
    But it's still thinking up ways to squeeze relevance out of the tablet.
    Its market cap is at a zenith

    This week is the anniversary of Steve Jobs' birth.

    Very few people really *get* Apple

    I believe DED does 
    Great post! Very true...most people don't really get how Apple works. Too many are just worried about Apple's damn stock price and too many here (and other forums) think they can run Apple better than Apple can yet somehow, someway, Apple seems to keep producing smash hits and very high revenues/profits even without Steve Jobs. I think there are still people convinced that Apple cannot survive without Steve Jobs, and these are most likely the people who always write about how Steve never would have done this and Steve never would have done that, or if Steve were here this wouldn't have happened, etc. 
    andrewj5790watto_cobraRayz2016
  • Reply 16 of 113
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 2,635member

    steveau said:
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition. If you have a touch sensitive screen and a stylus, why do you have to mimic a PC and have an on screen keyboard, or look even more like a laptop and have an attached keyboard? Clearly, people who want to use a keyboard or voice dictation should be able to have that flexibility, but that freedom should also be extended to people who would prefer to write (and I suspect that with good enough software that would be most of us). Apple holds all the best patents on HWR (a legacy of the Newton), so they should either (A) develop the functionality into a future iOS release, (B) spin off a separate company (like Filemaker) to develop it as an app, or (C) sell off the patents. Options B and C make no sense to me, so here's hoping that they will finally realise that while a finger is great as a mouse replacement, the stylus is great as a pen replacement, and both should be supported. Native HWR will truly be the killer app for the iPad - and if the patents are strong enough, uncopyable.
    You've been watching too many Microsoft ads....
    StrangeDaysandrewj5790hydrogenbaconstangpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 113
    steveau said:
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition. If you have a touch sensitive screen and a stylus, why do you have to mimic a PC and have an on screen keyboard, or look even more like a laptop and have an attached keyboard? Clearly, people who want to use a keyboard or voice dictation should be able to have that flexibility, but that freedom should also be extended to people who would prefer to write (and I suspect that with good enough software that would be most of us). Apple holds all the best patents on HWR (a legacy of the Newton), so they should either (A) develop the functionality into a future iOS release, (B) spin off a separate company (like Filemaker) to develop it as an app, or (C) sell off the patents. Options B and C make no sense to me, so here's hoping that they will finally realise that while a finger is great as a mouse replacement, the stylus is great as a pen replacement, and both should be supported. Native HWR will truly be the killer app for the iPad - and if the patents are strong enough, uncopyable.
    The only people that would use handwriting on their computing devices when a keyboard is available are:

    1. Those that don't have a working keyboard
    2. Those that are too lazy to learn how to type
    3. Those that have a very special use-case

    Very few people can write on anything by hand much faster than 20 words per minute, while a common typing speed is 40 WPM, and that's not remotely fast: I was able to do that while doing hunt-and-peck over 20 years ago: at this time, I'm capable of typing (no hunt-and-peck) at 90 WPM.  I'm not saying everyone can hope to get that fast (as a software engineer, and before, I've been typing for ~=35 years of my 45 year life, no typing class, just experience) but the point is, even the best handwriting recognition won't make handwriting nearly as efficient as typing is now, for those that know how to type.

    Here's the thing: if you have the coordination (which I really don't) to handwrite decently fast, you can also do the typing faster as a result: thus, there's no valuable reason to depend on handwriting on a computer if you have a keyboard you can use, if you don't need to do other graphic input at the same time.

    The only meaningfully valid use-case for handwriting recognition would be for something like taking notes in a math class where you are also drawing complex equations with symbols and want to see the graphical representation: in that context, typing with a regular keyboard would possibly be less efficient for regular typing, largely because higher math symbols are a nuisance to work with on any keyboard, and arranging typographical relationships via a keyboard is less than ideal.
    StrangeDaysbaconstangpscooter63waverboy
  • Reply 18 of 113
    hentaiboy said:
    The vision for post PC computing seems to be smartphones if the graph is to be taken as gospel. 
    Yeah. I would say that the smartphone is the most personal computer ever. Is it as versatile and general purpose as a desktop or laptop? No. But people have adapted extremely well and it does about 90% of what most people want to do. The larger format phones (for those who like them) probably removed the last little bit of complaint of too small a screen for some people. It is the one computer that almost everyone has. There are people who don't have "regular" computers but have smartphones. People still share computers (and tablets) in their homes. But almost no one shares their smartphone. The smartphone is really the post-PC personal computer.
    baconstangpscooter63tmaybb-15waverboywatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 113
    calicali Posts: 2,906member
    steveau said:
    Good analysis and the suggestions for improvements are all relevant, but you have missed the big improvement that is totally necessary if the iPad is to be truly post-PC: native handwriting recognition. If you have a touch sensitive screen and a stylus, why do you have to mimic a PC and have an on screen keyboard, or look even more like a laptop and have an attached keyboard? Clearly, people who want to use a keyboard or voice dictation should be able to have that flexibility, but that freedom should also be extended to people who would prefer to write (and I suspect that with good enough software that would be most of us). Apple holds all the best patents on HWR (a legacy of the Newton), so they should either (A) develop the functionality into a future iOS release, (B) spin off a separate company (like Filemaker) to develop it as an app, or (C) sell off the patents. Options B and C make no sense to me, so here's hoping that they will finally realise that while a finger is great as a mouse replacement, the stylus is great as a pen replacement, and both should be supported. Native HWR will truly be the killer app for the iPad - and if the patents are strong enough, uncopyable.
    The only people that would use handwriting on their computing devices when a keyboard is available are:

    1. Those that don't have a working keyboard
    2. Those that are too lazy to learn how to type
    3. Those that have a very special use-case

    Very few people can write on anything by hand much faster than 20 words per minute, while a common typing speed is 40 WPM, and that's not remotely fast: I was able to do that while doing hunt-and-peck over 20 years ago: at this time, I'm capable of typing (no hunt-and-peck) at 90 WPM.  I'm not saying everyone can hope to get that fast (as a software engineer, and before, I've been typing for ~=35 years of my 45 year life, no typing class, just experience) but the point is, even the best handwriting recognition won't make handwriting nearly as efficient as typing is now, for those that know how to type.

    Here's the thing: if you have the coordination (which I really don't) to handwrite decently fast, you can also do the typing faster as a result: thus, there's no valuable reason to depend on handwriting on a computer if you have a keyboard you can use, if you don't need to do other graphic input at the same time.

    The only meaningfully valid use-case for handwriting recognition would be for something like taking notes in a math class where you are also drawing complex equations with symbols and want to see the graphical representation: in that context, typing with a regular keyboard would possibly be less efficient for regular typing, largely because higher math symbols are a nuisance to work with on any keyboard, and arranging typographical relationships via a keyboard is less than ideal.
    Why all the fuss? Wasn't the original suggestion optional? If so that would be great as a lot of writers like hand writing. 

    I actually want an iPad Pro because of handwriting. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 113
    hentaiboy said:
    The vision for post PC computing seems to be smartphones if the graph is to be taken as gospel. 
    What about those who are actually building the environments and systems that the Smartphone owning public can use?
    IMHO, the term 'Post PC Computing' refers to the sorts of consumers that soemd their lives glued to Social Media or playing the latest cRAP tunes.
    There is a whole big world outside of that that if Apple turns its back on (it is sideways on at the moment) then a lot of people will turn their back on Apple. The thing about the Apple ecosystem is that it is pretty seamless. They'd be totally bonkers to destroy that. AFAIK SJ was passionate about 'Ease of Use'. That is why the iPad and iPhone are so easy to use. Even Mac's are eacy to use compated to that total crapfest that is Windows 10.
    Apple should not give that up.

    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.