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Apple says it has no plans to merge Mac and iPad

Published Apr 23rd, 2021 7:31AM EDT
iPad Pro 2021 vs. MacBook Pro
Image: Apple

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The new iPad Pro that Apple unveiled on Tuesday runs on the same powerful M1 chip that’s packed inside the 24-inch iMac’s bottom bezel, a device that was also introduced at the show. The M1 powers three other Macs, the Mac mini desktop, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Air laptops launched last November when the M1 system-on-chip was introduced.

For years, some Apple fans have been hoping that Apple would merge the Mac and iPad products to offer the computing experience that’s only available on Windows. But Apple kept denying plans to unify macOS and iOS for its tablets and computers each time those speculations came up. And with each year, the iPad looked more and more like a great MacBook replacement, prompting more speculation that the two devices were on a converging path. The 2021 iPad Pro is as fast as the MacBook and iMac right now. But Apple made it clear, yet again, that it has no plans to merge the Mac and iPad.

The iPad and MacBook are more alike than they’ve ever been. Apple last year released macOS Big Sur, which brings over a massive design makeover that makes the Mac look just like the iPhone and iPad when it comes to user experience. It’s now easier than ever to get a Mac if you’re a Windows user with an iPhone. Everything will feel familiar and easy to get used to because the UI looks a lot like iOS. But macOS remains just as powerful as before, offering the kind of multitasking that iOS and iPadOS can’t offer.

iPad Pro 2021
iPad Pro (2021) specs and features announced at Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event. Image source: Apple Inc.

Add the M1 SoC into the picture, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro becomes almost the same device as the 13-inch MacBook Pro or Air. If the Mac’s advantage over the iPad is clear, the software capabilities, the iPad has several hardware advantages over the new MacBooks. The new tablet features a better front-facing camera, a superior mini-LED display, optional built-in 5G connectivity, and a touchscreen that works with a stylus.

Buyers who want both experiences have to purchase two different devices. There’s no way to merge those experiences by, say, running macOS on the iPad Pro.

Apple exec Greg Joswiak and John Ternus talked to The Independent about the new iPad Pro, insisting that the company doesn’t have any plans to unify the two devices. Instead, Apple is looking to create the best possible products it can make in each category, and it’s up to the buyer to choose.

“There’s two conflicting stories people like to tell about the iPad and Mac,” Joswiak explained. “On the one hand, people say that they are in conflict with each other. That somebody has to decide whether they want a Mac, or they want an iPad. Or people say that we’re merging them into one: that there’s really this grand conspiracy we have, to eliminate the two categories and make them one.”

“And the reality is neither is true. We’re quite proud of the fact that we work really, really hard to create the best products in their respective category.”

“Customers agree with us, right?” Apple’s marketing chief added, explaining the iPad Pro is in a product category that’s better than regular tablets. “We have the highest customer satisfaction, again for each of those products in their category.”

“And they’re voting with their pocketbook, right? Both these categories have grown, but iPad and Mac have greatly outgrown their category. And so that’s what our strategy is: create the best product of both.”

Ternus also notes that there’s another part of the narrative that is “very untrue.”

“We don’t think about well, we’re going to limit what this device can do because we don’t want to step on the toes of this [other] one or anything like that,” he said. “We’re pushing to make the best Mac we can make; we’re pushing to make the best iPad we can make. And people choose.”

“A lot of people have run both. And they have workflows that span both – some people, for a particular task, prefer one versus the other,” Ternus added. “But we’re just going to keep making them better. And we’re not going to get all caught up in, you know, theories around merging or anything like that.”

Joz did acknowledge that the new iPad Pro has extra headroom when it comes to what it can do. The tablet is more powerful than needed. But that extra power will be utilized by developers. The upcoming iPadOS could also take advantage of that extra power, but that’s just speculation. The Apple exec would not say what’s coming to the iPad Pro in terms of software.

The Independent’s full interview is available at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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