I enjoyed Apple’s opening keynote presentation for this year’s WWDC. It wasn’t a particularly flashy event—this far into the COVID pandemic, they’ve toned down their “look at me” camera work and are mostly focusing on delivering information,1 of which there was a lot.
However, what I did find frustrating, as someone who enjoys using their expansive iPad Pro for both play and work, is the continued lack of extended display support for this device.2 It’s an unpleasant situation that persists, year after year. There was a lot of speculation that 2021 would be the year that iPad fans would be gifted with the ability to completely fill our widescreen displays, run different apps on different screens, and move content between our devices and the monitors to which they can be connected. Alas, that did not happen. We’re stuck with the inferior mirroring support we’ve always had.
The puzzling part of all this is the new iPad Pros have the same M1 chip that can be found inside Apple’s far more display-capable Mac computers. There should be nothing preventing the M1 iPad Pros from enjoying the same external display abilities that are given to all of the Macs. And yet, here we are again. I can think of two reasons why this might be the case:
There’s no evidence to back up the first possibility. Heck, they just spent a large portion of their April 2021 event talking up the truly amazing mini-LED display in the new 12.9” iPad Pro. It may undercut the unique advantage it has if they were to release a product that removes that advantage so soon after its respective event.3 Why buy the 12.9” iPad and that hypothetical monitor when I can just get the monitor for the iPad I already have?
Indeed, there’s no definite indication from the people that matter, i.e., Apple, that there’s any sort of forthcoming monitor. Their current stance boils down to “if you want an Apple monitor, then you can feel free to spend at least $5,000 on our glorious Pro Display XDR.” At the moment, any possible Apple alternative to that display lives only in our collective dreams.
The far more likely possibility is that iPadOS 15 continues the long tradition of the iPad’s software falling far short of its amazing, powerful hardware. This is also the sadder possibility. While we were gifted with a preview of some truly excellent upcoming features during this year’s presentation, to omit the sort of external monitor support that they grant their other computers sends the message that Apple still doesn’t fully believe their own iPad messaging. An iPad can be so much more than “just a computer,” but despite what they think, it’s still a computer. Either all that or they’re continuing to ignore the clear fact that many people do real work on their iPads. Both are likely. I don’t know which is worse.
What would make the iPad “more than a computer” isn’t just the Apple Pencil, touching the screen, or ARKit. It would be the ability to do all that a computer can currently do and then more.
But hey, maybe it’ll happen in iPadOS 16… 🍎