After only three years on the market, the iPad has today realized its destiny: it has usurped, overtaken, and cannibalized the Mac.
Although such a statement is admittedly aggressive, I cannot shake the sense that we've just witnessed one of the most remarkably subtle (albeit enormous) shifts in the technology industry in years.
Last week, with the release of Apple's Q1 2013 financial report, we collectively witnessed the decline of Mac sales. Many fairly attributed this to constraints in the supply of the new iMac and the shorter space of time in this quarter compared to last year. But, it seems to me, the far more logical cause of the decline lies with the iPad.
Listed in the sub-heading of the report, Apple touted the record-shattering sales of the iPad and iPhone. The Mac, meanwhile, is not mentioned until the third paragraph, its numbers down by roughly a million units compared the year ago quarter.
Although the correlation between rapidly increasing iOS sales and decreasing Mac sales is rather obvious in retrospect, it wasn't until today that the significance truly hit home.
With the release of a $799/$929 iPad with 128 gigabytes of storage, Apple has ostensibly realized the dreams of a professional tier of iPad. Rumors have been swirling around the prospect of a professional-grade iPad for years and, with today's release, Apple has obliged such rampant speculation.
Moreover, with a price immediately comparable to the 11-inch MacBook Air, Apple has ostensibly released an iPad that broaches into the realm of full-time workhorse device. Boasting enormous storage for a predominantly cloud-driven iOS device, a Retina display, enormous battery life, and an extensive suite of software, today's addition to the iPad line brings the entire product-line into the realm of the Mac.
When considering the iPad, we infrequently consider specifications. This is primarily due to the fact that the iOS ecosystem has mostly done away with the need for knowledge of core speeds and memory allotments. Although they certainly play into device capabilities, Apple has simply not widely shared this information with its consumers.
And yet, today, thinking about a 128 GB Retina-enabled device available for several hundred dollars less than my 128 GB non-Retina Air, specifications become a rather interesting narrative to follow. Today's iPad, available for $929 with an LTE radio, improves upon the battery life, display, storage, portability, and connectivity of my 11-inch Air.
Perhaps I can't perform all of the work I do on my Air on an iPad, but the knowledge is nevertheless stunning when presented in a side-by-side comparison.
Funnily enough, we've been bracing ourselves for this shift since 2007 following Steve Jobs' famous prediction of an impending post-PC era. And yet, the subtlety of the era's arrival is remarkable to behold.
iPad sales over the holiday season outweighed those of the Mac by more than 18 million units. And the growth of the iPad product-line is only increasing.
Although many, myself included, are reticent to wholeheartedly embrace the iPad as a primary computing machine, there's an increasingly large amount of people who are more than willing to do so. With each passing day, the compromises of relying upon an iPad for work are dissipating, whilst the Mac is steadily becoming more and more resigned to niche tasks for power-users.
The Mac obviously remains important for Apple, though. Without it, the iPad and its software simply would not and cannot exist. But, with the steady convergence of OS X and iOS over the past two years, it seems to me that 2013 will be another year in which we collectively move closer to a more-and-more capable mobile operating system in iOS.
The shortcomings of iOS are the only barrier to an all-out dismissal of the Mac, but it's historically not been in Apple's best interests to simply leave OS X by the wayside in favor of such a nascent mobile operating system. But, as iOS devices continue to proliferate at increasingly astounding pace, the Mac and OS X become less incentivized for Apple to rely upon.
That's not to say that the Mac will simply disappear. Rather, the iPad and iOS will simply become the core thrust of the company's efforts — more so than they are already.
In the word's of Phil Schiller, "With more than 120 million iPads sold, it’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and everyday they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs."
The rhetoric is telling. The PC is "old" and the iPad and iPhone are at the forefront of the company's profitability and growth. The iPad is the future of the company's presence in computing and today, in my eyes, marks the beginning of the company's true and emphatic push into that era.
In other words, today's the day the iPad became the Mac. And that's no small matter to consider.