Is the iPad a Professional Machine?

This is sort of a follow up to a post I wrote last month. I had this thought at like five in the morning as my cat was waking me up for breakfast. There has been a lot of strife in the Apple tech community about iPads and Macs and what “professional work” is and what the future of computing looks like. My opinion on this probably means very little. I’ve been an Apple fan for years, but I’ve been a planning on moving to Windows/Linux and Android recently. So take all this with a grain of salt.

As I mentioned in my “OS is the new Linux” post, there are plenty of people who run their professional lives on an iOS machine, mainly the iPad Pro. However, just because Apple markets the iPad as a “Pro” machine, and just because some people can do their professional work on an iPad, doesn’t mean that iPads are Professional computers, or even general purpose computers. For example, you cannot write and publish iOS apps (or web apps for that matter) on iOS. You must own a Mac if you want to make apps for Apple’s platforms. So by design, there are things a Mac can do that are not only difficult, but impossible on an iPad.

Is Apple motivated to change this? I don’t think so.

Lets ignore the fact the right now, there are hundreds of engineers within Apple that need tools to do their job that will probably never be available on iOS. I doubt the team designing Swift would be able to do their job without a command line. For the sake of argument, lets ignore internal Apple needs.

Say the magically overnight, you could do software development on an iPad, how many programmers would switch to using an iPad? Some probably would, especially if iPads are the future of computing. Say that iPads become truly a general purpose computer and that Apple stops making Macs altogether, that means that they just lost the product line with the highest average selling price by far. Maybe, maybe, Steve Jobs would have done this, cannibalized Apple’s highest ASP product for the sake of progress, but Tim Cook absolutely will not. Maybe I am putting too much stock in how much Apple cares about ASP, but even leaving that behind, Tim Cook has shown that he is willing to keep products around just because someone will buy them, hell look at the Mac Pro.

If you remove every other factor that differentiates iPads and Macs, and just look at iOS app development, it seems reasonable to me that Apple would want to keep app development as something that you can only do on the Mac if for no other reason than to continue to require developers to buy an extremely expensive Apple product. Maybe its in Apple’s best interest to keep the iPad a consumption only device.