Tim Cook is not quite right about users not needing or wanting a touchscreen MacBook that operates a bit like an iPad. In a recent interview, he mentioned how such a device would cause confusion in the market.

A combined device, while possibly cannibalizing the sales of both the iPad and the MacBook, could create a productivity powerhouse--a work machine that rivals the iPhone. It's just a matter of figuring out the technical requirements.

I'm not exactly a big fan of the 2-in-1 products from companies like Acer, Dell, and HP. I know what they're trying to do. You can switch between "real" work and "lean-back" activities. On a plane, you can type up a Word doc or watch a movie.

In practice, these touchscreen laptops usually become full-time laptops.

The problem is that Windows 10 is a terrible tablet operating system. The apps are almost non-existent, the interface is clunky, and the concept is flawed. You use Windows to crank out complex business reports, do detailed work in Photoshop, or make a video. Also, to play high-end shooters. Or to hold a videoconference with your team.

As a tablet? It's awkward.

Combining an Apple MacBook with an iPad makes way more sense. Yes, people use the MacBook to do high-end video editing work, to produce amazing brochures using Adobe products, and to run their startup using apps like Trello and Slack. But MacOS is also so streamlined, clear, and useful that it makes a better candidate for the 2-in-1 approach. And the iOS interface on an iPad is the best one around, unless you prefer Android.

I can easily picture how this would look.

First, Apple would need to come up with a new name for the operating system. How about iOS Pro or MacOS Mobile? The concept would be fairly simple. The operating system would look like iOS, with finger-touch access and Apple Pencil support. But under the hood, you could also run the full desktop apps for Adobe products, Microsoft apps, and everything else in between. And this new device--I like the name MacPad myself--would use a powerful desktop-grade processor. If you tapped on Adobe Photoshop, it would "just work" without the pain and confusion of doing that in Windows.

Most importantly, the entire concept would draw from the best of both worlds. The interface would look like iOS, but when you start up Photoshop or Word, you'd need to switch to a keyboard and mouse, which is already possible with the iPad anyway. No need to reinvent the wheel here; the desktop apps would look like they are running on a MacBook.

The issue is not related to user preference or interface paradigms; it's related to how this new MacPad operating system works. It would need to run both iPad apps and desktop apps, and it would have to be seamless. The MacPad would need to be powerful enough for desktop apps, but also light enough and portable enough to work like a real iPad.

And here's the real test of the concept.

I'd buy one.

I'd love to have a tablet that runs the Texture app, Skype for video calls, plays iOS games, and does everything an iPad does today. And I've love to use the same device to run desktop apps for real productivity work. At my desk, I'd have a full widescreen display, a keyboard, and a mouse. On the go, I'd be able to use the MacPad as an iPad, but also still run my desktop apps as needed, especially for making light edits.

And, of course, I could use a cover keyboard, the Pencil, and a mouse. A 2-in-1 approach doesn't work that great in the Windows world. Apple? They could own the market.

Published on: Apr 20, 2018