Further apart, not closer together

My friend and erstwhile colleague Barry Collins thinks Apple should make a hybrid laptop/tablet which combines OS X and iOS. I think that in this regard at least my friend and erstwhile colleague Barry Collins is a bloody idiot.

I can completely see the place he’s coming from. I can see the thought processes that brought him to where he is, and I don’t doubt his ‘MacPad’ would appeal to some – maybe even many.

Apple, though, is never going to make it. And nor should it.

Its vision for OS X and iOS seems very clear to me: let each do its job well, but provide ways to share information between them. It’s never been more explicit than in Yosemite and iOS 8, where the Continuity suite of features means that now more than ever you can reach for whatever device is best for you at the time to complete a particular task, and find the task to hand and ready to be worked on. To be sure, the vision is still nascent, but the point is that despite the harmonisation of chrome and the back-and-forth borrowing of features when it’s justified, OS X and iOS are, and for the foreseeable future will remain, completely distinct.

None of this, of course, explicitly argues against Barry’s MacPad – indeed, I don’t doubt he read the preceding paragraph while spluttering something about this making his hypothetical product even more feasible.

Apple, though, prizes clarity, and rightly so. If its vision is to keep OS X and iOS distinct, then it won’t make a product that muddies that distinction. Marketing it would be tricky in part because of the lack of clarity in the message; aiming a product at everyone is aiming a product at no-one. And it just is an inelegant product; it smacks of a Microsoft-like notion of a ‘no-compromise’ device, when it seems obvious to me that a no-compromise device is impossible.

Barry’s isn’t a bold new vision for what a new category of device from Apple could be. It’s a tired, unimaginative, tech-led mash-up of a couple of things we see, use and like.

I’ve made a bet with Barry that Apple won’t make his MacPad in the next five years (so, by 16 October, 2019); if he’s right, he’s asked I stay off Twitter for a week save to tweet ‘Barry was right’ daily at 9am. If I’m right, well, that will suffice! Tim will arbitrate.