A Mac or PC is a superior experience for traditional computing activities, at least according to traditional measurements like speed or efficiency, but an iPad is simpler and more approachable, and it does other things as well.
(This, of course, is why Macs aren’t going away. In fact, as Phil Schiller noted at the end of this great Macworld piece marking the Mac’s 30-year anniversary, the iPad has freed the Mac to focus even more on power users going forward.)
Ultimately, it is the iPad that is in fact general purpose. It does lots of things in an approachable way, albeit not as well as something that is built specifically for the task at hand. The Mac or PC, on the other hand, is a specialized device, best compared to the grand piano in the living room:2 unrivaled in the hands of a master, and increasingly ignored by everyone else.
So writes Ben Thompson in The General-Purpose iPad and the Specialist Mac. I agree. For a long time, one of the debates was whether an iPad was just a consumption device. While I think it's silly to argue that you can't create on your iPad, I do largely use it for consumption purposes. I'd much rather do many things on my desktop or laptop than my iPad: write, build spreadsheets, wireframe, create presentations, edit video.
But there are plenty of activities which the iPad and iPhone are far better devices for the job because they are portable, light, sensitive to touch, and, not to be underestimated, always on (while I leave my laptop on most of the time, it still takes longer to wake it up and get it going than my iPad or iPhone). Browsing web pages. Reading books. Reading my email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Messaging.
For some activities, the interaction method of finger on screen is both more intimate and simpler. For example, dragging my finger across the screen to adjust brightness of photos in Snapseed is more pleasurable than taking my mouse and finding a tiny slider handle with my cursor and then moving it in tiny increments. Double tapping and having mobile Safari zoom a column of content on the web is wonderful, I wish I could do that on my laptop.
It's clear that for many years, my desktop and laptop have been too much computer for many jobs. For many people, all they needed a desktop or laptop for was reading email, surfing the web, listening to music, or watching streaming video. For those tasks, a desktop or laptop computer overserved their needs, but those were the only types of computers we had so we used it as such.
Now that the world has more choices in computing devices for the job, many are choosing a tool that doesn't overserve, and that is more often than not an iPad or smartphone. For the average household, those are much cheaper to purchase than a laptop or desktop.
I still love sitting down in front of a giant monitor hooked up to my old Mac Pro in my office at home, but the sales figures don't lie. That's now the minority.