Early reviews are in and almost unanimous. Apple’s new iPad Pro line is great. Great speed. Great screen. And, uh, well, what else you got? To be a real workhorse iPad Pro needs a keyboard. And maybe a Pencil.
What else? How about raison d’être? A real reason to exist. Well, iPad does that already, outsells the Mac by a long shot, and has an installed base almost triple Apple’s once flagship product. What’s missing?
iPad vs. Mac
Personal computing as we’ve known it for the past nearly 40 years has changed dramatically. Command line interfaces became graphic user interfaces. Keyboard and mouse-drive PCs have given way to touch devices in the post-PC era. Touchscreens rule. There are more touchscreen smartphones on planet earth than there are Windows PCs or Macs combined. Trucks have given way to cars.
Apple’s new iPad Pro might be the first tablet that can truly replace a Mac or a Windows-based PC. It’s almost that good. Almost.
Hardware isn’t much of an issue there. A new iPad Pro is faster than most PCs that are sold these days thanks to Apple’s own in-house chip design crew. Even the iPad Pro’s screen is better, touch is better (especially for graphic designers who love Pencil). The price is competitive with all but the premium end of the notebook spectrum yet an iPad Pro with a 12MP camera is more mobile and in many ways– not all, Photoshop and Final Cut Pro users– more useful than a PC or Mac.
I see a handful of issues right away.
First, iOS 11. Apple is bringing drag and drop to iOS 11, and that starts to make the iPad Pro more competitive with the MacBook, MacBook Air, and others who don’t rely on professional level applications to make a living.
Second, Files app. It’s coming in iOS 11, too. Think of an almost-Finder from the Mac but on iPad and iPhone. It’s just an easier way to get to files and more closely mimic the Mac’s file management system.
Third, keyboard-centric touchless options. Think of it as mouse-like functions from the keyboard. By this I mean ways to use the keyboard for almost everything so we are not forced to raise a hand and arm from the keyboard simply to perform specific touch-centric motions. Mouse support would be a plus because Windows and Mac users know how to use a mouse, but putting trackpad functionality on an iPad’s screen works great on the lap, but not in desktop mode where a keyboard is required.
Fourth, the keyboard itself. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is only $749 for 256GB of SSD storage, but no keyboard, other than the onscreen keyboard. I tried it. It’s not good enough for me. Many third-party Bluetooth keyboards are available and more will come. Apple’s own iPad Pro Smart Keyboard isn’t a real keyboard, though it doubles as a kickstand, too, but it’s also an extra $159 which pushes the total price tag for a MacBook Replacement to $908. That’s less expensive than a new MacBook (and the iPad Pro is more powerful and has more applications to use than the entry-level Mac) by nearly $400. It also adds another pound to the one pound iPad Pro; total, two pounds, or about the same as a MacBook.
A better Smart Keyboard that is lighter and more capable would be a plus. Apple missed the boat here.
Can this iPad Pro line replace your Mac? Yes. If your Mac is a MacBook Air, MacBook, or a MacBook Pro that doesn’t use professional level applications like Adobe Creative Cloud’s Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, et al, or Apple’s own Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro, or other apps that do more than their iOS counterparts.
With iOS 11’s drag and drop and Files app, iPad Pro becomes more like using a Mac, but with a Smart Keyboard, it weighs about the same, but unlike Windows 10 touchscreen notebook and tablet hybrids, iPad Pro is a truly mobile tablet that aspires to be a very powerful notebook.
Almost a Mac. But not quite.