Making The Grade is a weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

The discussion around macOS and iOS has been going on since the iPad was first released. People have asked: what’s the long-term future of these product lines? Do we expect Apple to maintain iPhone, Mac, and iPad forever? I’ve long considered my ideal computing future to be something a little radical.

Since the iPhone came out, I’ve long since thought this should be the future of computing. This style of device would eliminate the discussion around tablets vs. laptops. Why can’t a device be both?

I started thing about this when I had a job that required me to use a crappy Dell laptop, but I had an iPhone in my pocket and a MacBook at home. I honestly just preferred to use my gear (bring your own device) over the crappy Dell gear. I didn’t want to be bringing my laptop back and forth.

In the classroom, I don’t think we will ever deploy iPhones with LTE connections school-wide, but what about something like this (think through it before you comment): a Wi-Fi device that is the size of an iPhone that can be docked with a large screen (keyboard and mouse) or slide into a “tablet” style device for photo editing, browsing, etc). Why wouldn’t that be a great model? Instead of a school having to pick between the two style devices, they’d let the situation pick the best device.

A “one device” would easily extend to the enterprise as well. Employees could be assigned their “one device” that can be docked at their desk when in the office, plugged into a “laptop shell” when traveling, or “tablet shell” when the situation arises. We’ve seen it before (in a different industry).

Have you seen the success of the Nintendo Switch? Video games have always had the divide between portable and console (and PC) gaming. With the Nintendo Switch, it can be both. A device like the iPhone (with or without LTE) could accomplish that. We’ve seen how the average selling price for iPhones has risen over the years. Apple has long been a believer in beating their own product lines before someone else does.

Here is my ideal future: an iPhone that can be turned into a tablet or a laptop. With Apple’s commitment to building power-efficient A series chips, they’re at a place where they could forge this path forward. This “one” device could run iOS and macOS (running on an ARM chip). Like with the Nintendo Switch, you’d no longer have to choose to have three devices. You’d have your iPhone (with or without LTE), and it could turn into anything. In the classroom, this devices could turn into the right one for the right situation. Do you need to type a report? Use the laptop shell. Do you want to go into the woods to build a database of leaves? Use tablet mode (with a camera).

You may think I’m crazy, but it’s crazy enough to work.

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About the Author

Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN.

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