Why the iPad can’t replace a PC – explained by Apple

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  • Apple’s SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi gave an interesting answer to Wired when asked if we’ll ever see a Mac computer with a touchscreen.

  • “We really feel that the ergonomics of using a Mac are that your hands are rested on a surface, and that lifting your arm up to poke a screen is a pretty fatiguing thing to do,” Federighi said.

  • Federighi’s statement unwittingly explains why the iPad is not a good replacement for a laptop or desktop computer.

https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-exec-craig-federighi-ipad-bad-computer-replacement-2018-6?r=US&IR=T&IR=T

Comments (56)

56 responses to “Why the iPad can’t replace a PC – explained by Apple”

  1. Avatar

    skborders

    I think that is just their excuse for not having touch on the MAC. To add touch screens, they would have to build objects in MacOS that you could touch. Having a touch screen doesn't mean you have to touch it. I think the reason the iPad cannot replace a computer is no pointer support. I could use an Ipad for all my personal computing, but without mouse support, I could not replace my work computer.

    • Avatar

      Jeffery Commaroto

      In reply to skborders:

      Agreed and in part for the reason Craig gives. It would be exhausting if touch was the sole input. Which is why they should add pointer support to the iPad.

    • Avatar

      curtisspendlove

      In reply to skborders:

      I could use an Ipad for all my personal computing, but without mouse support, I could not replace my work computer.


      I'm reasonably certain Apple doesn’t care if you can’t replace your work computer with an Apple device. Sure, they’d take the money if you could.


      But they definitely want you to use an iPad for your personal computer.

    • Avatar

      tradikal

      In reply to skborders:

      Macs perfected the touchscreen. It's called a trackpad. A method to move your finger anywhere on the screen and poke it with less fatigue, smudging, obstruction... and without looking ridiculous.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to tradikal:

        If a trackpad is a touchscreen, my desk is a mousescreen.

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to skane2600:

          Yes, I was being a bit sarcastic, but to qualify as a "something"screen, there has to be a screen.


          From a practical POV, the difference between a trackpad (or a mouse for that matter) and a touchscreen is that with the latter you are performing an action that is very like a real-world behavior, you are bringing your finger to touch something and your eyes are following your finger to guide it to the target. You lose that natural real-world action when using a pointing device.

      • Avatar

        AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to tradikal:

        The trackpad is always the input device I am least likely to use, I much prefer a mouse or the TrackPoint on ThinkPads. That said if it works for you, great. Different strokes as they say.

        The comment on touch though is totally wrong. Apple also made the touchscreen ubiquitous. People who use touch on phones and tablets, certainly want it on their computer. It may not be the first choice, but it should be there. I have heard no one complain of their fatigue brought on by constantly having to touch the screen. I will give you smudging, but again, people are used to it from tablets and phones...they may even carry a microfiber cloth to clean the screen.

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

          I think it makes sense that when one is in consumption mode, a touchscreen may be preferred by some, but I doubt many people use it exclusively unless consumption is all they do. Personally I find switching between a mouse and a touchscreen to be a distraction, but I'm sure others see it differently.

  2. Avatar

    Bats

    With regards to the second bullet point "We really feel that.....," I understand that. I use a 27" HP Envy AiO PC and I rarely, rarely touch the screen. However, you know what? It's nice knowing that I can. I don't understand, why can't Apple just do it. So what if it's a pretty fatiguing thing to do? If the user wants to do it, then let him/her. It's like saying, we're not going to install an air conditioning unit in your car, because you could just roll down your windows, plus it's guzzles down more gas and is bad for the environment.

  3. Avatar

    dave0

    Nothing wrong with having a diversity of form factors and power for each machine. Tablets will never kill laptops or desktops.

  4. Avatar

    2ilent8cho

    I would not want a touch screen Mac. When i was on my last training course for Visual Studio and Reporting Services they had Touch Screen PC's running Windows 8.1. You end up touching the screen to point at something and the curser moves or it highlighted stuff , ahhhh was driving me nuts. I've seen many YouTube videos too where they go to show something on the laptop screen with touch and they end up touching it and messing up whats running as the computer thinks its input. I do have an external iPad Keyboard i sometimes use on rare occasions when i need to do lots of typing on my iPad and i get annoyed at the ergonomics of having to raise my arm and press on the screen, its horrid.

  5. Avatar

    Michael_Miller

    Apple wants product diversification, I.e., touch for its IPAD devices, no touch for its laptops, etc. The worst thing a manufacturer can do is cannibalize its own product line with too much overlap. Read the “Innovators Dilemma” to get a better view of why product diversification is necessary. Apple wants people to carry three devices (actually four if you count an Apple Watch), an IPad, a MacBook, and an iPhone. They have succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to Michael_Miller:

      Of the three you mentioned, only the iPhone is an unquestioned sustained success. Like all Macs, the MacBook is only a moderate success compared to the market share of competing products. I think the iPad hasn't met Steve Job's expectations which were to usher in a new Post-PC era that never materialized.


      That's not to say that the MacBook or iPad are bad products.

      • Avatar

        Michael_Miller

        Apple is selling 40-45 million IPADs a year. MS wishes it had a fraction of that volume with its devices.

        In reply to skane2600:


        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to Michael_Miller:

          In the context of Post-PC, its iPad vs all computers running Windows, MacOS, and Liinux. When it comes to devices in that group, MS is a relatively minor player.

          • Avatar

            MikeGalos

            In reply to skane2600:

            Nope. If you aren't counting phones then Windows is still, by far, the biggest player.


            Even using pro-Apple numbers like Michael_Miller's above you see bragging about 40-45 million iPads per year. Compare that to the (mocked by Apple fans) 700 million copies of just Windows 10. Then add in the Windows 7 and Windows 8.x and Windows Server devices and it's not even a serious discussion.


            In fact, even if you DO count iPhones and Android phones you still end up with Windows taking roughly half of the total computing device market. That's not a minor player, relatively or not.


  6. Avatar

    Minke

    I have yet to find touchscreen typing that comes close to using a real fullsize keyboard, and for anything beyond text messages or short emails typing becomes a real chore if you only have a touchscreen. Everyone I know has full blown PCs and/or laptops at work and at home, even if they don't use them most of the time. When you need the fullsize keyboard you need it, even if it is only once in awhile. So, I can imagine using nothing but an iPad if I also had the use of a keyboard, but then I might as well purchase a laptop and have a device that functions better and is easier to transport and is much more versatile than an iPad plus a real keyboard.

  7. Avatar

    Daekar

    What amazes me is that we even bother to have this conversation about iPads at all. Android supports mouse and keyboard just fine. Why even consider the iPad when there is another much more capable mobile option? There is literally zero reason to ever consider an iPad for productivity.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to Daekar:

      I guess amazement is in the eye of the beholder. I'm amazed when people talk about Android as if it were a viable productivity platform.

      • Avatar

        Daekar

        In reply to skane2600:

        Do you have reasons? Or are native file managers, excellent Office apps, and significant customization not enough to go with the superior pointing devices?


        OK, that was a little snarky. Seriously, what in particular makes you feel like you couldn't do work on a decent Android tablet?

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to Daekar:

          Certainly compatibility with existing standard programs is an issue. A windowing environment that wasn't designed around multiple overlapping windows. A limited ability to automate applications. Killing apps when the system decides to kill them rather than when the user decides.

          • Avatar

            Daekar

            In reply to skane2600:

            Oh, I certainly agree with your comparison to traditional desktop environments, you're absolutely right. If you need a PC, an iPad is no replacement. What I was getting at was more a comparison between Android and iOS.

  8. Avatar

    Minke

    By the way, some of us have problems utilizing touchscreens (Google "zombie fingers") making touch first devices frustrating at times. I am one of them. Phones have gotten much, much better with this over the years, but I still experience problems daily where I just can't get the phone to do something. I can't imagine trying to do precision work on a touchscreen, like adjusting text and images in a layout in InDesign, for example. For that matter, how is one supposed to layout a fullsized magazine or book spread on a 10-inch screen?

  9. Avatar

    dstrauss

    Come on folks, get over the "fatigue" and "gorilla arms" excuses already. That's just Apple's code for we're too lazy (and profit driven) to add touch to the MacBook screen. Touch is just another input method which works beautifully when you are scrolling, zooming, or even selecting links. It is not a substitute for the mouse or trackpad when selecting or manipulating text, even on the iPad. I get so frustrated listening to both Apple and Windows "experts" and user deriding touch; "you'll get my hands off my keyboard when they are cold and dead" - so be it.

    • Avatar

      curtisspendlove

      In reply to dstrauss:

      Touch is just another input method which works beautifully when you are scrolling, zooming, or even selecting links.


      I won’t say it is worse for you, it might be better. But none of those things you mention are faster for me to do by lifting my hand from the trackpad and touching a screen. In fact all of those would be slower when I already have my fingers near the trackpad.


      Scrolling and zooming are amazing on Apple trackpads. And it takes me a fraction of a second to flick over to a hyperlink. :: shrug ::


      I mean those are many of the reasons people ask for a mouse on iPad. So they can move an arrow over and click a link, or more fine grained text cursor positioning.


      I still don’t see much benefit to touchscreens on traditional computers. But I guess I just haven’t met a touch monitor I liked.


      That said, I’d be more than accepting if they removed the Touch Bar and spent some of that money on a touch panel. I wouldn’t use it, and I’d likely be irritated with it, but I don’t begrudge those that want one.


      Don’t think it will work well with the current touch targets in macOS though.

  10. Avatar

    BlackForestHam

    Yes, I agree with this post. But here's what PC (and Mac) fanboys always forget: not everyone needs a PC/Mac. That is how the iPad "replaces" the PC, by freeing consumers from the requirement of buying something with more capabilities than what their needs call for.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to BlackForestHam:

      But to "replace" something requires that you had the replaced item in the first place and that you no longer use the item that was replaced. Many people who never owned a PC or Mac own iPads and many people who own IPads are still using PCs and Macs.

    • Avatar

      Minke

      In reply to BlackForestHam: Maybe not everyone, but I would argue that most people who have a smartphone needs a PC. Every household with children needs at least one for their kids to do homework, apply to colleges, and then apply to jobs. Anyone who applies for a job at any time in life needs one. Anyone who wants to try to navigate their social security account now needs one since they require you do everything online. The list goes on and on. I personally think a real PC or laptop with a keyboard is a basic necessity of modern life, and without one you are seriously handicapped in doing ordinary things nearly every day. A tablet just doesn't cut it without a keyboard, and then you might as well get a laptop and have one device instead of multiple ones. The other day I was trying to fix something on my online phone account and the instructions were to log on to the website with a PC since it didn't work properly on a phone!


  11. Avatar

    skane2600

    I agree with his assessment, but I'm not sure if it is "unwitting".

  12. Avatar

    jules_wombat

    First two statements are True, the last statement is False.

    • Avatar

      longhorn

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      Use your PC without a mouse and trackpad and see how that goes - maybe you can do it thanks to keyboard navigation. However, the iPad is nothing more than a big iPhone. I doubt iOS has good keyboard navigation so you are left with your fingers or a stylus. Compared to an iPad a Chromebook makes much more sense as a PC replacement.


      An iPad should never be mentioned as a PC replacement. That's like swearing in church, not respecting what the PC stands for. If you can replace a PC with an iPad then you didn't need a PC in the first place but a bigger iPhone.


      • Avatar

        jimchamplin

        In reply to longhorn:

        For everything but gaming I could use an iPad.


        One day if things like HotS and Overwatch make it to iPad, I might never need another PC. It would have to be the actual games, not mobile versions and not third party clones.

        • Avatar

          wright_is

          In reply to jimchamplin:

          I couldn't. It certainly isn't a replacement for my PC. A single 10" screen is not a replacement for a 34" ultra wide display or multiple displays.

          For example I have tasks and their details on one screen and the application or remote desktop on the other, so that I can work on one and refer back to the task just by glancing.

          Likewise, an iPad is not really a good replacement for a Ryzen machine with 32GB ram for testing multiple VMs or photo editing and management.

          • Avatar

            jules_wombat

            In reply to wright_is:

            Oh dear, the same old Trope from PC geeks: "Well I couldn't use an iPad because I need Blah Blah Blah… "

            The PC is falling flat, because for Most people (i.e. NOT you and your own minority needs) a full blown OS is unnecessary, and for most people the iPad DOES meet the majority of their computing needs. Specifically Android does support mouse, so I would suggest that is sufficient for meeting the majority of productivity needs, admittedly iOS less so. ChromeOS, MacOS and Windows will continue to decline, and Android will prevail in most consumer client and business client domains. Its pretty obvious to all except the fat OS fanboys.

            • Avatar

              skane2600

              In reply to Jules_Wombat:

              Except that Most people aren't using Android and iOS for those things that people traditionally use PCs or Macs for. Android may support a mouse, but how many people use it on Android devices? Probably less than 1% and they're probably geeks who are a much tinier "minority" than people whose needs can be filled by cell-phone-centric operating systems.

            • Avatar

              wright_is

              In reply to Jules_Wombat:

              Nor could around 500 other employees at work. About 20 others have jobs where a truly mobile device makes sense and they have tablets of some description or other (Windows, Android or iPad).

              The problem isn't the "well I couldn't use an iPad..." crowd, it is the crowd that says that the PC is dead, because an iPad can replace it, without actually thinking what PCs are actually used for and whether an iPad makes any sense at all in those situations. For jobs that involve 2, 3, 5 or more monitors, an iPad isn't going to make a sensible alternative, at least not without a lot of re-working and additional processing power. But most people think web browsing, mail and a few simple, full screen apps, mainly requiring little or no input.

              I use ergonomic keyboards, a touchscreen is in no way a suitable alternative to that, either.

              What about braille readers? Tactile displays? Poor vision enhancers - something that will blow up a normal screen to produce 2 or 3 characters on a 24" display, or zoom documents placed under its camera to the same extent?

              The tablets have their uses, where a highly mobile, but more restricted device makes more sense than a desktop or a laptop, but it also goes the other way. Some jobs don't involve mobility, but digesting or creating lots of information from simultaneous sources all visible at once, the tablet doesn't offer any improvement at all in such scenarios.

              Don't get me wrong, I don't think the PC is a particularly good solution and keyboards are dreadful, but they are still miles ahead of tablets and voice recognition at the moment for many tasks.

              • Avatar

                jules_wombat

                In reply to wright_is:

                I look up from my desk, 60 people in m open plan area. They are using Word, Excel, Email , Browser on big fat PCs. They can all be replaced by Android based clients, and far far lower through life support costs.

                I believe most office environments - ~ 90% business Use cases don't need full blown Windows. Because guess what, they don't need two screens, they don't need 'Pro Software', or any special mice keyboards. When over 90% business users realise they can do the same work on light weight Android based PCs, then the era of Windows dominance is over. Ignoring the inevitable is just dumb.

                • Avatar

                  skane2600

                  In reply to Jules_Wombat:

                  Given the fact that Android has close to zero presence in productivity environments, the inevitability of them taking over that space is wildly speculative at best.

                • Avatar

                  Daekar

                  In reply to Jules_Wombat:

                  I dare you to try to take away the dual 24" monitors the folks in our offices use and give them a little tablet. In fact, I'll even cover half your hospital bill after everyone without perfect vision beats you with the tablets.


                  You also get major props if you can get the ERP and other proprietary software almost everyone in every department needs to use to run on something other than a desktop device.

            • Avatar

              ErichK

              In reply to Jules_Wombat:

              Well, I have an iPad, and a PC, and I use the one that matches the needs for the task at hand. iPad is great for content consumption. But I can't run Pro Tools on it.


              And I'm going to continue to use Windows when I need it. I couldn't care less if it levels off or declines. (That event is a source of pride for the Apple faithful, even though they claim to be off in their own world doing amazing things and not caring about Windows' market share.)

              • Avatar

                skane2600

                In reply to ErichK:

                It's also worth noting that the Apple faithful didn't write-off the Mac when it's already small market reached it's low point prior to the iPod. Windows would have to decline a very long time to reach a similar market share.

                • Avatar

                  curtisspendlove

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  There’s a lot of old animosity from the “old school” Mac users. Particularly those with a platform from which to pontificate. It is what it is.


                  :: shrug ::

                • Avatar

                  skane2600

                  In reply to curtisspendlove:

                  I don't know much about Mac culture. Are there "new school" Mac users?

                • Avatar

                  curtisspendlove

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  Well. Yes. Perhaps “new school” and “old school” aren’t the best of terms.


                  But it all goes back to the whole PC/Mac stuff from decades ago.


                  Mac users of a certain feather “endured” years of ridicule for liking their Macs over PCs.


                  This is is a large reason for the psychological “cult” feeling of affinity between Mac users, particularly older Mac users.


                  I never really bought much into that, but I’ve encountered it quite frequently “in the wild” and in my personal friends groups.


                  When the iPhone (and to a lesser degree, iPod) took the world by storm, many took it as validation that a much larger group “saw the light” of the glory of Apple design.


                  It served as an internal validation that they were right all along...and everyone else was just too stubborn to have seen the inherent superiority of Apple’s designs. ;)


                  There *is* a certain something that Apple can just do well that appeals to a certain personality type.


                  Regardless, there’s a common...refrain, perhaps... that if you “suffered through the growing pains of the Mac”, before the iOS “halo effect” brought tens of millions of “new” Mac users into the pool, that you’ve ...maybe earned your dues (or something).


                  I dunno, exactly. I’ve had Macs, *nix, and Windows PCs my whole life. And I’ve always seen the benefits of each. Though I have been fortunate enough to be able to have the disposable income to support that.


                  Anyway the “Mac faithful”, as you described, are primarily of the “old blood” those washed in the “ridicule of the past” and tend to have fondness and defensiveness for a platform they have adored from a tender young age (for instance I was coding on the old classic Macintosh computers when I was barely into double-digit years).


                  Most have a very specific affinity for their preferred OS and will never “write it off” even if Apple were to stop selling them as they currently do.


                  A lot of the “iPad hate” actually comes from this “old school” Mac group. They tend to see the iPad as a cannibalistic threat to their beloved Mac.


                  :: shrug ::


                  It is all a little fascinating to me as a fan of sociology and psychology.

      • Avatar

        curtisspendlove

        In reply to longhorn:

        If you can replace a PC with an iPad then you didn't need a PC in the first place but a bigger iPhone.


        Excellent point. And I’d guess the majority of consumers have *never* needed a PC. They just had to buy one because there wasn’t anything else that did what they needed done.


        Now there is. Wonderful how this world is full of personal choice, no?

  13. Avatar

    lordbaal1

    But with touchscreen laptops, you do not have to use the touchscreen all the time, or ever if you don't want to.

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