The Untapped Potential Of Pro iPads

As Apple released its latest batch of iPad Pros, the reviews were a familiar refrain: “the hardware is awesome but held back by iPadOS.” But this time, a different idea has been getting floated around more: what if we could virtualize macOS on our iPads?

After years of begging Apple to give iPadOS some more pro desktop features, it seems iPad power users have started to give up on any hope that Apple can actually ship a version of iPadOS that is suitable for them and instead, they’d rather see Apple do the easy thing (“easy” relative to building out tons of new iPadOS features) and just turn macOS into an app that you can run on your iPad.

And to be honest, I find this prospect really appealing. On my most recent trip, I skipped both my iPad and my Vision Pro and instead just brought a Mac and my iPhone. An iPad that can also run macOS transforms it from being fairly nonessential into a must-have device for traveling.

Apple is either unable or unwilling to turn iPadOS into a full computing platform. When iPad users lamented the lack of multitasking on iPad, Apple’s first answer was a simplistic split screen, and then years later they followed it up with Stage Manager, which looks like a decent windowing system if you squint, but falls apart as soon as you try to use it. No one expects Apple to ship a working version of Stage Manager this year, and even if they do, there are still dozens of functional gaps in iPadOS that add up to serious friction if you wanted to use a pro iPad for things you might otherwise do on a desktop.

But two things have happen that make iPad a great candidate for running macOS: 1) Apple added trackpad support with the Magic Keyboard in 2020, and 2) Apple now builds macOS to run on the same architecture the iPad uses. Between those two things, iPad has all the building blocks needed to work as a Mac. It is, from a hardware standpoint, a Mac with a different form factor.

The thing that makes iPad a great device is its ability to transform into anything based on what app you’re using. It can be a musical instrument. It can be a drawing pad. It can be a textbook, or a personal movie theater. The idea of being able to attach a keyboard and pointing device and let iPad transform into a Mac would not only be a massive leap forward in the possible uses an iPad Pro could have, but it’s not even compromising the iPad’s coolest characteristic: it would still be a magical piece of glass that can radically transform into a variety of things depending on the app and attachments you’re using.

Even a Mac.

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