The iPad Pro is ready to supplant the Mac just as the MacBook Air is great again

Now, apparently, Apple has decided that the iPad Pro “is not a computer.” Okay.

Of course, the whole idea here isn’t actually to define “computer,” in a strict sense, but instead to play with the concept of what we expect a computer to be and do. I’m obsessed with the evolution of big-screened computers over the past few years because it’s become the locus of so much experimentation.

Apple, Microsoft, and Google have each taken multiple shots at repeating the revolutionary change the iPhone effected on the phone world, but doing so with tablets. None have managed to pull it off, and so watching their iterative attempts every year is interesting primarily because they have to keep trying new things.

An iPhone-sized revolution isn’t in the offing, but the same-old laptops feel increasingly disconnected from the way we actually do our most important computer tasks — on our phones.

And so: the new thing Apple is finally coming around on is putting real trackpad support on the iPad. There’s a whole riff here about how it’s a vindication of Microsoft’s original concept for the Surface line.

Apple disagrees, for the record. On a call yesterday with journalists, an Apple representative said that very few people who are going out to buy a device are actually confused about which one they want to get. I think that’s right, honestly, but that it won’t be right forever.

Will the iPad cannibalize the Mac? In some ways this question has become boring even as it continues to be vital. There are lots of questions like this in tech, and answering them requires cleaving a Gordian knot rather than trying to untie it. For Google, it’s “will Android and Chrome OS merge?” For Microsoft, it’s “can Windows stay relevant in the age of smartphones?”

The fact that these questions become tiresome doesn’t mean they don’t continue to be vital. For Apple, the problem is that the obvious trajectory the iPad is on right now runs smack into MacBook territory. Making two directly competitive products is a recipe for one of them to stagnate.

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