At a conference today, Apple unveiled its fifth generation iPad, now lovingly called the iPad Air. It was more of the same from Apple: another iPad that has a faster processor (the recent iPhone 5S’s 64-bit A7 processor) and comes in a slimmer form. Everyone was expecting that. Even the iPad Air’s new iPad Mini-inspired design was no surprise from the rumors. However, much like the iPhone 5S, the iPad Air is taking the first step in converging iOS, Apple’s mobile OS, with OSX, Apple’s laptop and desktop OS, with its A7 processor and new name.
When the iPhone 5S launched with its A7 processor, the tech world talked extensively about how this processor will help bridge iOS and OSX. After all, what is a smartphone or tablet but a smaller computer that uses touch for its user interface instead of a mouse and keyboard? We are carrying phones that are more powerful than computers from just five to ten years ago in the palm of our hands. It makes sense for a single OS to operate on any screen, which makes it easier for developers to release content and updates for millions of devices all at the same time. The convergence of OSes only serves to expand the ecosystem for users of both platforms and allow content to cross screens easier. This will help consumers, developers, and Apple. Current desktops and laptops use a OS with 64-bit architecture, so in order for any convergence or blending of mobile and desktop OSes to happen, the two would need similar processors. The iPhone 5S and now the iPad Air have done just that with the A7 processor.
What is more interesting is the renaming of the iPad line because the change in names also hints at a convergence of iOS with OSX. Why rename the iPad? People are already comfortable with Apple’s iterative naming convention in its iPhone line, but the iPad has always been a little different. The third generation iPad wasn’t called an iPad 3, but we all called it that. Similarly, the fourth generation iPad was simply marketed as an iPad with a retina display. Again, we all called it an iPad 4 because it was easier to understand that way. The iPad Air though? That’s a name people will use and remember. The re-branding of the flagship iPad to iPad Air now aligns with Apple’s MacBook Air. This suggests that phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops actually are in the same category – they’re all just computers. Customers can start with a small “computer” with the iPhone 5S and then move into tablets with the 7″ iPad Mini and 10″ iPad Air. From the iPad Air, we then transition into laptops with the 13″ MacBook Air, which leads to the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro line. Finally, we end up at the desktop line, Mac Pro.
Or maybe I am looking too much into this and there is no convergence. Perhaps the “Air” branding just refers to how light the new iPad is. Would that mean we will eventually see a iPhone 5 Air or iPhone 5A?
Want more clues about a potential convergence? The iPad Air was announced with new OSX Mavericks. In addition, OSX Mavericks will be a free update, similar to how iOS updates are handled. Yeah, now I’m just grasping at straws. On the surface, the iPad Air (surface and air? Get it? Oh, this is also Microsoft Surface vs. Apple’s Air) is just another iteration of Apple’s proven 10″ tablet line, but the iPad Air, much like its smaller sibling the iPhone 5S, represents a promise of a future where there is simply Apple’s OS on all of its devices, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.