The iPad turned 10 a bit more than a week ago and I was somewhat shocked, although pleasantly surprised, to see the Apple blogosphere express their disillusion about ipadOS, led mostly by John Gruber’s piece:
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.
That’s always been how I felt about Apple’s tablet, and tablets in general. The iPad Pro is an awesome piece of hardware – I carry mine around all the time and use it every day. But I use it only for a subset of the things I wish I could do on it.
The most maddening thing about its software is the sandboxing, and how you just don’t have access to the damn file-system. It’s gotten marginally less worse with the recent Files app, but it’s still vastly unusable.
The sad thing is that, as a result, even if you consider the iPad as a consumption device (something that “post-PC era” afficionados were always quick to “disprove”), it’s not even a good consumption device. It’s only good at consuming online media, like news and YouTube videos and Netflix series and such. If you buy, own, and store your own media, like buying music on Bandcamp, PDFs on DriveThruRPG, or comicbooks from (not so) indie publishers, the experience is worse in almost every way compared to the experience on your Mac or PC, because you have to go through uselessly complicated lengths to be able to get the files on your iPad before you can even consume them. Often, these PDF or comicbook reader apps have to implement their own (generally poorly made) network copy feature to be able to get your files.
My theory has long been that Dropbox would have never been so popular if it wasn’t for the iPad: during the early 2010s, Dropbox was pretty much the only way to get files in and out of your tablet, and many apps, from text editing to drawing, integrated Dropbox to that effect. Apple must have been kicking themselves that they couldn’t get iCloud to be used for that instead.
My new, more dire theory is that the iPad contributed to the soloification of the internet and the erosion of ownership. When consuming “rented” media from a handful of companies, like Spotify music and Comixology comics, is vastly easier to consuming owned media, like those bought directly from various content creators, the distributed nature of the internet dies a little.
So yes, I agree with John. The iPad is an awesome device. But it’s also a big disappointment.