Thought experiment: if Apple said fuck it and just gave the new M1 MacBooks touchscreens and bare bones touch APIs, but no further direction or “UX investment,” then 5 years later which do you think would be home to more exciting touch apps and UX developments: macOS or iPadOS?
I say the Mac: if for no other reason that a tinkering community could actually exist. It wouldn’t be about wondering if *this is the year* Apple really decides to take the iPad seriously. Some passionate college kid could come up with a cool idea and ship it — for the whole OS!
But here’s another thing: either way we’d be maximizing our options. Currently, Apple has simply decided by decree that the future of touch has the evolve up from the a phone OS to Desktop workflows. They’ve forbidden trying to evolve down from an existing Desktop OS.
Which is an increasingly bizarre stance when you consider that the history of the iPad is kind of just repeated concessions to the Desktop way of doing things. E.g. after 9 years of hinting at a revolution… they just added mouse support & sold us a laptop conversion kit for $349
And of course they finally agreed that there *is* value in having a menubar to see your options instead of divining dozens of gestures. Only, you know, on the bottom instead of the top, cuz it’s new! Kind of like how Windows put the close button on the right instead of the left…
I sometimes kid that growing up is begrudgingly admitting over the years that your mother was right about more and more things. It kind of feels like the iPad matures in the same way: all those silly outdated “Desktop affordances” seem to have a habit of finding their way back in
But then what was the point? Why have we gone through this exercise of trying to redefine everything just to end up with two nearly identical machines, that now even use the same processor and have *multiple bridging technologies* (Catalyst and unmodified iPad apps on Big Sur)?
Here’s the thing: I don’t actually think Apple spent 9 years secretly trying every idea they could come up with, only to come to terms with the harsh realization that touch screens still need trackpads. And if they did, then they clearly just aren’t cut out for this job.
The reason I think this is because the apps aren’t there. Apps are like fossils, evidence of the past research. Go look at early iPad. It launched with a thoughtful new touch-enabled iWork. A year later a completely reimagined Garage Band *designed for* (*not ported to*) the iPad
None of us can know the *right* touch UI until we try it. And you can’t really try it if you’re not trying it on *real* apps. But here’s the thing: after that initial creative burst, Apple stopped writing new flagship iPad apps. So it’s no surprise that the ideas stopped too.
Every iPad app since has just been an “OS parity” play. FindMy has to exist on every platform.  News (ugh) has to exist on every platform. The incentive is to create lowest common denominator “universal” apps, not *tailored platform specific experiences* that push the envelope.
So if your goal was to actually create a new touch-first paradigm, this tweet has it backwards: you shouldn’t wait until you’ve divined the building blocks out of thin air to write Final Cut Pro. You should instead write Final Cut Pro in order to discover those building blocks.
If you were presented with the goal of making a worthy successor to Final Cut Pro on the iPad, you would immediately be faced with real world problems that would *have to be solved*. There’s no “release APIs and see what happens.” The success is gauged on the app, a higher bar.
And it goes without saying, if you released such a Final Cut Pro for iPad, one that you could actually be proud of as the replacement to Desktop Final Cut Pro, one that made people immediately want to switch, well, you’ve probably fixed iPadOS along the way.
This is a better strategy than every year doing another “safe” iteration where you take a bunch of demo ideas and see whether 3rd party devs make good use of them. Because putting  News and Notes in split screen sure as hell isn’t going to push the limits of your UI proposals.
And that’s how the iPhone did it btw. It didn’t have an existing platform to piggy-back off of. We had to reimagine things like Safari and Mail on the phone and m make a plausible case for their use. Apple didn’t ship a blank iOS with UIKit and wait for devs to figure it out.
But perhaps that was the first problem with the iPad: it got those iPhone apps “for free.” And like the stereotypical rich kid that underperforms because they could just ride on their parents’ money, the iPad was denied a trial by fire. We all already knew touch *could* work.
It’s still admirable that the iPad team didn’t slouch though. That first year was incredible thanks to iWork & Garage Band. It just sucks that after that, the iPad went on cruise control apps-wise (probably due to the shift in focus to a different vanity *cough, Watch* project).
Anyways, I think that’s how we ended up where we are today: 9 years going in circles with respect to touch UX, making us think “oh, add a trackpad.” Like when you keep reading the same paragraph over and over without understanding it because you’re thinking about something else.
So in some sense, this tweet is correct. We now have all the pieces to awkwardly shove a Desktop Final Cut Pro clone onto the iPad. Same processor, same peripherals, even a menubar. Too bad in the process we gave up the opportunity to find anything that would make it special.

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More from @tolmasky

7 Jun
This really goes to show how disconnected Apple employees and execs have become from the everyday experiences of users. When I first joined the iPhone team, I wasn’t allowed to do anything until I first went through a grueling hour-long user test of the then unannounced iPhone.
At the time, QA was desperate for new hires on the team to test with because, well, they couldn’t test it with anyone else! It was fascinating the care they went through for everything to “just make sense” with zero instruction & left a really positive initial impression with me.
This would ironically be harder today, *because* everyone has used an iPhone. It’s like trying to find an “untouched” jury for a high profile case where everyone has already been bombarded with news. But using the iPhone today, I don’t feel like even the spirit of that is there.
Read 5 tweets
2 Jan
As I hit "Buy Movie" in the Prime Video app (which only Amazon is allowed to do), it saddens me that the entire AppStore infrastructure is wielded as a comically complicated bargaining chip just so that Apple and Amazon can bully each other into... not charging each other fees.
Years of poor customer experience, putting themselves in danger of anti-trust actions, all of it just for the supremely unambitious goal of being able to hold something over Amazon when they do their boring Apple TV+ on Fire TV negotiations.
It kind of feels like how on Day 1 of the Trump presidency he just tried to get better hotel deals with foreign countries. It was like, really, that was the big plan? That’s how you’re going to abuse the office? At least do something more diabolical! This is just… boring. Tacky.
Read 6 tweets
7 Nov 20
Don’t be fooled by this drawn out counting process, this *is* what a repudiation of the last 4 years look like. Biden and Harris have done something incredible here, and they absolutely have a mandate. Let me tell you how big of a deal this is. (1/x)
Despite the feeling from polls going into this, this was not our election to win. DJT is only the 4th President in the last *87* years to lose re-election, and only the *11th* ever. And his approval rating was much higher than many of those (44.7% vs. 32.6% Bush and 37.9% Carter)
“But it should have been easy with COVID!”. WRONG. Crises *help* incumbents. When people are scared they rarely choose revolutions. Iraq was a disaster and we re-elected Bush. Kerry got historic numbers and lost to Bush’s more historic numbers.
Read 9 tweets
11 Sep 20
Forget what developers think of Sign In with Apple, as a *customer*, I’m never going to use it again. I was already skeptical of routing all my email communications through Apple, but the fact that Apple can drop it arguably affects me more than the developer.
In the best case scenario, it's a hassle for me to have to transfer my account in an event like the Epic situation. In the worst case, it seems like I could potentially lose my account? Maybe that doesn't matter for a game, but I certainly won't trust it for stuff that matters.
I'm really not impressed with this “it's such a weird edge case!" excuse either. Only at Apple is it considered an edge case that your service could possibly *also* exist outside the AppStore, and thus someday possibly exist *only* outside the AppStore.
Read 4 tweets
23 Aug 20
Isn’t it funny how “if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?!” seems to be most employed when it’s hardest to leave? I feel that if there were a ton of phone options, criticism would probably be reasonably considered, not treated as a sign of disloyalty meriting banishment.
The same is of course true of countries. The most low effort response to any criticism of a country is to suggest you go fuck off to another country if you hate it so much. What? In what universe is “I want to invest *my* time to explain how this could be better” a bad thing?
And of course, if you do leave, then it proves you’re a traitor and thus no one should listen to your criticisms. He was never *really* “with us”. The same people who’ll tell you to leave the US often hate Eduardo Saverin for renouncing his citizenship and going to Singapore.
Read 7 tweets
23 Jun 20
In *2018* I tweeted about my exhaustion with the “forever transition”: this perpetual state of “bare with us”. We have to use these inbetween states for years, they’re not free. At some point we started treating entire product cycles as betas. (Thread)

And for what — I’m not seeing the unification that matters to me, a unification of UX, a vision of how we should *use* our computers, all I see a unification of component pipelines or perhaps arbitrary refactoring of internal shared components of academic interest.
I keep harping about this but it matters: 10 years after the iPhone the “unification” we’re getting is the one that matters least: the chip architecture. Remind yourself of the excitement from hearing iPhone ran OS X. We’re you excited about potentially sharing instruction sets?
Read 8 tweets

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