However, I don’t find it plausible to conclude that just because the iPad isn’t growing right now that that means it can’t grow again. For me, it’s a fallacy to think that the iPad we have today represents the peak expression of what an iPad can be. Yes, you could argue that the trend towards larger smartphones and thinner laptops has robbed the iPad of some of its distinctive qualities, but that would really only be true from a hardware perspective. There’s loads of untapped potential in iPad software.
I’ve talked in the past about decoupling development of iOS for iPhone from development of iOS for iPad, which would allow the former to take on more and more unique capabilities. Whether that step is necessary or not, Apple showed how interesting the platform could become when it started to introduce a handful of iPad-specific iOS features in 2015—slide over apps, split screen view, picture-in-picture and Apple Pencil support have all become indispensable. That hardly seems like the limit of what can be done; if we had a sustained burst of similar innovations on this platform, there’s no doubt in my mind that the devices would become much, much more compelling.
The reality of it all though is that Apple is moving on many different fronts at once, and each one requires massive effort. The iPad is both blessed and cursed by its provenance as an Apple product. On the one hand, no other company could have brought it to life. And on the other hand, it’s like a very, very talented child born into a very large family full of talented children, all clamoring for parental attention. Fans and true believers in the platform, and I count myself among them, can only hope that Apple loves it as much as we do.