My 10 Years of iPad

Dear iPad, you’ve come a long way. You were not perfect. You lacked a USB port. Most of your apps were “blown up” iPhone apps. Yet, I fell in love with you instantly. Here is a brief summary of my 10 years of iPad.

My 10 Years of iPad
My first iPad.

Dear iPad, you’ve come a long way. You were not perfect. You lacked a USB port. Most of your apps were “blown up” iPhone apps. Yet, I fell in love with you instantly. Here is a brief summary of my 10 years of iPad.

This article was first published on January, 28th, 2020. More than four years, with a major overhaul of the iPad line coming up this year, this article is more relevant than ever.

The intro

Apple’s keynote with Steve Jobs introducing the iPad was one of the best. Steve had a story to tell. The on-stage setup was clearly intentional (remember the couch where Steve Jobs sat to demo the tablet?). The root of the iPhone was actually work done by Apple on a tablet, later named the iPad. In some way, the iPhone came to be because of the iPad.

Then, a few months later after the iPad unveiling…

This is the first customer coming out of the Apple Store with a brand-new iPad on hand

The iPad launch day

I was there at the product launch in Montreal, Canada. The Apple Store entrance was crowded. The waiting line many blocks away long. I was interviewed on the national TV network too. I can’t even remember my answers to the numerous questions the journalist had for me. It doesn’t matter. But I do remember when I came back home with my new iPad, as well as the unboxing experience. These were magical moments for sure. But it was only the beginning.

Over the years, I owned the following models:

  1. The original iPad (the beginning of a long journey)
  2. The Retina iPad (iPad 3) (it was all about the display)
  3. The iPad Air (the physical device reinvented)
  4. The iPad Air 2 (run baby, run!)
  5. The 2018 11″ iPad Pro (the best tablet yet, one of the best Apple product in recent memory)
The Retina iPad after a restore operation – remember iOS look and feel?

Iterative improvements

Each iPad iteration was a substantial refinement over the previous generation. Each time, with each new version of iOS, oops, iPadOS, the vision of the future of computing for the masses came into focus. Sadly enough, the software side of the iPad equation always lagged behind. It's still the case in 2024. It’s strange to see the operating system holding back the full vision of this platform. Steve Jobs talked about the tablet becoming whatever the software behind it could be. Apple still has room to grow the software, as many still perceive the iPad as a media consumption device. Yet, it does so much more.

A Controversial nature

From the beginning, the iPad sparked controversial views. Even today, people are still asking if it can replace a traditional computer. Some think it can. Others think it cannot. I think it can, depending on your use cases. That is an easy answer.

I think the source of these discussions lies around the operating software limitations at the center of the iPad experience. Apple tried over the years to fix some design shortcomings, but much still has to be done. Multitasking and discoverability are major roadblocks to ease the relative complexities of working around iPad shortcomings. The iPad still asks too much from human mental models to bend themselves towards what is required in many simple tasks, even in 2024. Is it because of our macOS reference? Who knows.

Can’t wait for the future

I can see the day when my only general-purpose computing device, after the smartphone, will be the iPad. We are not there yet, but as Apple continues to invest in this platform, we will get there soon enough.

The iPad continues to grab one use case out of my numeric life after another. The latest use case being photo processing with Adobe Lightroom. These days, the iPad is really a joy to use in so many scenarios, at home or at the office. Third-party software is at the center of my joy using the iPad. Apple showed the way (their way, at least) in software for tablets, and many followed and even surpassed the initial vision these first-party applications embodied. Even if today Adobe Lightroom is no longer part of my digital playground, Photomator for iPad replaces it quite easily.

As we are entering the second decade of the iPad story, I cannot wait to see what Apple will bring to the platform this year with iPadOS. Sure, the hardware story is not complete yet, but I see most of the future improvements to come from the software side. We will see soon enough with iPadOS 18, but the next iPad Pro iteration should be help get a better view.

From other points of view

Great summary post on Six Colors [The iPad era turns 10]. An even better summary here, from MacRumors [Today Marks the 10th Anniversary of Steve Jobs Unveiling the iPad]. But, here is a different point of view on the iPad, and its potential being left behind from John Gruber: [The iPad Awkwardly Turns 10].

The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one. To reach that potential, Apple needs to recognize they have made profound conceptual mistakes in the iPad user interface, mistakes that need to be scrapped and replaced, not polished and refined. I worry that iPadOS 13 suggests the opposite — that Apple is steering the iPad full speed ahead down a blind alley.John Gruber
This is my 2018 11-inch iPad Pro that I'm going to sell before getting the new iteration.