Every year the iPad resembles a Mac. With the introduction of the Magic Keyboard, a suitable keyboard and trackpad are used, and now it even runs on a Mac processor, the M1.
Despite repeated rejection by Apple over the years, the question of merging the two operating systems has once again raised its head. If both devices run on the same chip, couldn't they run on the same operating system?
The answer, of course, is yes, they could use the same operating system. You might even think that the M1 on the iPad Pro makes this more likely to happen at some point. I hate raining on your parade, but the opposite is true.
A more perfect union
A uniform operating system offers numerous advantages for all Apple devices. For one, all of your apps will work out of the box regardless of which Apple device you're using. This eliminates the need to buy multiple copies for different platforms. We're just getting started with Apple's Mac Catalyst framework, but it's still a few years away from perfection.
A single operating system would likely be less confusing to the average person as well. Instead of getting familiar with two different operating systems, there is only one. Trackpad gestures on MacOS are the same as on iPadOS, rather than taking different forms as they do now. It would be tempting to potential Switchers – if you ever picked up an iPhone, you would know how to use a Mac.
It would also allow Apple to focus its development efforts on one operating system instead of spreading focus across several. New functions and design changes could be introduced quickly and consistently.
But Apple has denied the likelihood that this will happen over and over again. If the two were merged, the M1 iPad Pro would be the perfect time to open that union. It is a device that not only runs on a desktop chip, but can also be equipped with a keyboard, trackpad or mouse. It's a laptop in many ways, but it's still running its own operating system. The iPad hardware is certainly ready for this mythical merger, but here we are still waiting.
Ah, I hear you say – what about the global developer conference in June? Apple's developer event would be a great opportunity to announce that iPadOS and macOS are merging, right? Sure, why not – except that the rumor mill has been absolutely silent on this subject. In a world where even one of the world's most secret tech companies is struggling to keep everything under wraps, that's a big red flag.
This all-in-one operating system hasn't even been rumored – it just doesn't happen. We have had people for many years moving the goalposts on this subject – the iPad works with keyboards; now it works with trackpads; doesn't MacOS Big Sur look touch-friendly? – presented as evidence that the merger is imminent. If it still didn't happen when an iPad debuted on a desktop chip, then it's probably time to give it a call for a day.
There is no advantage for Apple
Ultimately, the real reason Apple will never merge MacOS and iOS is because Apple has little incentive to do so. The company is happy to further develop the separate platforms and to serve two different target groups. The iPad Pro has entered its own market and because of the continued success of the Mac, it has not impacted sales of MacBooks. This is especially true for the more performance-oriented, more creative professional community.
Apple has often said that it considers the idea of merging its operating systems to be flawed. Instead of creating an operating system that is built around how users use each Apple device, merging would have to go down to the "lowest common denominator," as Apple's Phil Schiller puts it, in an attempt to keep everyone happy.
Apple believes that offering both iPad and Mac, each with their own operating systems, use cases, and everything else, gives people choice. Some users only use one device while others use both.
This is informative and explains why Apple has integrated the M1 chip into the iPad Pro. Rather than predicting an upcoming overhaul of the operating system, Apple simply decided to bring the best possible technology to the iPad. At the moment that's the M1 chip.
If the M1 iPad Pro really ushered in the dawn of a new era, it would be much more obvious, from industry leaks to Apple's own remarks. Instead, the new iPad Pro tells us that neither iPadOS nor MacOS are going anywhere. At least not soon.