Time and time again, pundits have speculated about whether Apple should release a Mac with a touchscreen display, or somehow merge the Mac and iPad into a single product category. And time and time again, Apple has denied it has any plans in this area.
Then again, Apple has denied a lot of things that later came true.
And right now, it's hard not to notice the planets lining up for a touchscreen Mac. As if by chance - or not - we now seem to be closer to a Mac/iPad hybrid than ever before, for two reasons.
The transition to ARM processors
Intel-based Macs will remain for a few more years, but Apple has begun the transition to its own ARM processors: Apple Silicon. It will have many different consequences for both consumers and developers, and one of them is that the architecture that runs a Mac and an iPad will be almost identical.
Microsoft and Adobe have already announced that Office and Creative Cloud will be available for the new ARM-based Macs from the start. Rosetta 2 should make it easy and hopefully pretty quick to run older programs on an ARM Mac.
And since ARM processors will soon be used on the iPhone, iPad and Mac, Macs will soon be able to access the entire App Store. All apps running on an iPhone or iPad also work on an ARM Mac.
Suddenly, the two platforms are within arm's length (or ARM's length) of each other.
macOS 11 Big Sur is ready for ARM processors
Big Sur has been renamed from Mac OS X to macOS 11, as a symbolic mark of a major change.
Most interesting here is the new look, with a new Control Centre inspired by the iPad (and iPhone). And of course, the controls look like something that would fit a touchscreen. They are large, almost playful, and definitely finger-friendly with their clarity and iPadOS-esque style.
It's another way that the iPad and Mac are coming closer together.
All of these clues pointing in the same direction doesn't mean this is definitely happening; the iPad and Mac can of course continue to exist side by side. Maybe it would even be in Apple's interests to keep them apart, not least so that customers who can't choose between the Mac and iPad instead buy both, with slightly different uses.
For comparison, Google has both Android and Chrome OS side by side, so why can't Apple have both iPad and macOS?
However, for consumers it will become increasingly difficult to choose between an iPad and Mac in the future. The iPad has flexible hardware that can be used only with a screen, with a case, or with a keyboard. It has a touchscreen, a nice and relatively easy to use operating system and a great choice between different input methods; pen, mouse or fingers. Or all three if it suits you best.
At the same time, a Mac often provides better ergonomics, with a fixed keyboard and a screen that can be angled. This gives more freedom to choose storage, working memory and processors, while macOS is far less constrictive. Often, Mac is a more suitable choice for those who want the greatest freedom in their computer choice.
Apple stubbornly denies that the Mac and iPad should or will be merged. It did so back in 2018, when Catalyst was unveiled, and does so even now with the announcements of Big Sur and ARM. But surely Apple has said one thing and done another before now. Deny it until it's true.
ARM and macOS Big Sur do not unequivocally point to the fact that a Mac with a touchscreen is imminent, but this certainly takes us closer to a Mac/iPad hybrid than ever before - and that idea is appealing.
Time has never been more ripe for an iPad with a fixed keyboard and macOS. Or a Mac with touchscreen. Or whatever we want to call this imaginary product.
Read more about the upcoming changes, and their potential to transform Apple's place in the market, in Apple Silicon benefits everyone - but Apple most of all.
This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation by David Price.