A note: This post started as reply to Jason's excellent post about the iPad being his computer again. I decided to turn my reply into a blog post instead.

In his post Jason focuses on three key attributes of the iPad that he feels are important: Simplicity, familiarity, and flexibility. Though I agree with those points I wanted to focus on flexibility as that's what I find most draws me to the iPad. In online discussion the iPad is often compared to laptops, usually Mac laptops. This makes sense given that a tablet is thought of as a mobile device. But as Jason points out, attach an iPad to an external display, keyboard, trackpad or mouse and it starts to feel like a desktop. Add a hub and a couple of attached drives for a more complete desktop replacement as needed.

An iPad Pro floats above keyboard and trackpad on a lap desk. The iPad is held up by a configurable arm that is clamped to the back of the wood lap desk. Image taken is front of iPad so only the clamp is visible.

For the past few days I've been using the iPad in the Twelve South HoverBar Duo clamped to my little wooden lap desk. Still very portable in my house but not in the way a laptop is. This wouldn't be a solution for a coffee shop, but in-house, it's excellent! I can sit at my desk with it or I can recline back in a chair or couch. The HoverBar Duo lets me raise, lower, swivel or move it closer or further away. Far more options than I'd get in a laptop configuration or even with the stand that I often use. Not only do I have more variability in position but it frees up more space for the keyboard/trackpad/mouse. Lastly, this is more stable than the iPad in a stand on the same lap desk. Back around 2004 Apple sold the G4 iMac which had the arm mounted screen. This feels like that only it's portable!

An iPad Pro floats above keyboard and trackpad on a lap desk. The iPad is held up by a configurable arm that is clamped to the back of the wood lap desk. Image taken from the side showing the arm.

I think this modularity of the tablet as a display that contains the computer and its own power source really speaks to the strength of the iPad. Agreed with Brandon that it is something different. It absolutely is. But I consider it a better laptop than a MacBook and a better desktop than a MacMini! Better? Yes, absolutely. Because in addition to the free-form modularity of the iPad, I also have a touch screen and built in internet. In other words, in terms of hardware, there is no doubt the iPad Pro is an equally powerful computer (given the existence of the M2 Pro, Max and Ultra processors this is only true to a point) but is also the more flexible option.

Four years ago the argument that the Mac was the better, more complete computer was a stronger argument than it is today due to the limitations of iPadOS. But since then important features have been added to iPadOS. Full cursor support for trackpads and mice, a greatly improved Files app, additional windowing options with Stage Manager and, on M1 iPads, full external display support being the most notable.

No, the iPad is still not a Mac and that's for the better. macOS will always be the more complex, higher-maintenance operating system from the user perspective. But with each year iPadOS becomes more capable while retaining ease of use options for those that prefer or need simplicity. In other words, just as the hardware is more flexible, so to is iPadOS becoming more flexible. Unlike macOS, iPadOS starts with the easy to use, simple tablet experience. But for users that want a more advanced computing experience, the options are there waiting to be turned on.