Contrary to what you might think after reading that headline, I am not a hater. Not at all. I have actually been a fan of John Gruber’s writing and podcasting for several years and I typically agree with his point of view regarding Apple and the tech world, in general. However, I can’t say that’s the case when it comes to the iPad.
It started with his rant about the state of the iPad when it turned 10, followed by his episode of The talk Show with Ben Thompson of Stratechery (who’s opinion on the iPad is even more out to lunch, in my opinion). The addition of multitasking to the iPad, or at least how it was added and how it works, has really gotten progressively under Gruber’s skin. If you listen to that episode he rants a lot more than in the article and Thompson gets all kinds of worked up about what a “tragedy” the iPad and iPadOS are. I finished that one just shaking my head.
I wrote about this article and podcast at the time because, as an iPad fan and power user, I am about as diametrically opposed to these opinions as you can get. While I understand the complaints over the complexity of multitasking in iPadOS as it stands today, I can’t get on board with throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Gruber makes it clear on several occasions that he thinks iPadOS is a dead-end mistake and that Apple has to roll it back completely to move forward. Here is one such quote from his 2019 Apple Grades. He gave the iPad a D, by the way.
But to say that I’m not a fan of iPadOS is an understatement. I wish there were a switch to force iPadOS back to the pre “multitasking” days when the iPad interaction model was “just a big iPhone” — where every app was full screen and there was no drag-and-drop. I only ever accidentally drag things like links, and I find iPadOS’s concept of “windows” to be baffling.
If Apple ever rolled back the iPad to being “just a big iPhone,” I would cease using the platform (and writing about it) hold my nose, and buy a Surface. As much as I find Windows lacking for touch-based tasks and in touch-centric apps, it would serve me better than the original iPad at the point. That device doesn’t interest me today and it really doesn’t have a reason to exist in the current tech landscape.
I use my iPad Pro at work and I don’t need a glorified e-Reader with no multitasking there. I waited years for the device to grow into something that could produce content as well as it allowed you to consume it. I could see the potential as far back as the iPad 2, but it was slow going. I even left the iPad behind for a couple of years because it wasn’t moving fast enough in that direction. It was the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil and the addition of real multitasking that brought me back.
Mr Gruber hasn’t stopped his complaining about the iPad and iPadOS with one article and a podcast episode. In his Polish Stink Eye podcast episode last week, he mentioned his distaste for iPadOS multitasking again when talking about the death of Apple legend Larry Tessler. Gruber also alluded to the fact that he’s been working on some longer pieces detailing his thoughts on the iPad. Oh boy. I can’t wait.
If you take a look at my previous article linked above, I’ve already written about my opinions on how detrimental it would be to the iPad platform and iPadOS if Apple followed any of this advice. Again, I am all for them finding ways to make multitasking features easier to use and more intuitive. However, I am convinced that the belief that Apple should start over on a system that is obviously still evolving, or worse that Apple should just go back to the iPad’s original positioning as a third device, are on the fringe. I absolutely believe that most iPad users and fans want Apple to continue to improve and refine what they have in iPadOS and keep the power, rather than dial the platform back to make a small number Apple superfans happy.
That last part is why I am writing about John Gruber’s ongoing complaints about the iPad. While Apple tends to keep to itself, they do listen to some key influencers and John Gruber has been among them for years. Their words carry weight. You could tell that Apple took the tech press and Apple superfan criticism over the iPad’s lack of power features very seriously last year, as the feature rundown of the new iPadOS read like a wish list from the previous two years.
There are certain writers and podcasters, and if you are an Apple fan, you likely know who a few of them are, who can push an agenda and legitimately get Apple’s attention. A guy who can get Apple execs to come on his show obviously ranks very high on that list. However, in this case, I hope whoever is in ultimately in charge of the fate of the iPad and iPadOS development roadmap takes Gruber’s words on this topic and says thanks, but no thanks.
It’s one thing to offer constructive criticism. It’s quite another to advocate for Apple to tear down and fundamentally re-architect a platform that is still in the process of growing into a more powerful form, just because you don’t like where it is at the moment. As a fan of a more powerful iPad and iPadOS, I see John Gruber’s current mini-crusade against iPadOS as a problem. A threat, even. I can only hope it falls on deaf ears at Apple and they continue down the path they already have a solid start on.
I also very much look forward to Gruber letting this go so I can go back to reading Daring Fireball and listening to The Talk Show again without constantly rolling my eyes. Like I said, I’m far from a hater. I just can’t get on board with anything he’s saying about the iPad right now.
(Note: After I finished writing, I saw that John Gruber’s guest on The Talk Show episode released today is Federico Viticci, who is a huge fan of the iPad and a well-known user and advocate for the platform. I won’t have time to listen tonight, but I am very interested to hear what he has to say about Gruber’s stance on iPad multitasking. Viticci comes off as a big fan of the feature in his own writing and podcasting, despite its complexity.)