Yesterday the news was released: The Information announced that, according to sources close to the company, Apple was preparing a Smart Folio with Trackpad. The addition of a Trackpad to an iPad can, as we see it, be a big improvement or a step backwards . Let’s see it.
A couple of previous concepts
What is a computer? How is it different from an iPad? Is the iPad a computer? If we go back to the simplest definition a computer is a device that helps us perform calculations, tasks and makes us more productive. Either it allows us to perform tasks that we otherwise couldn’t or it allows us to do those we already do more efficiently. Conventional computers, iPads and even, depending on how, the iPhone fit into this definition.
Hardware presents the opportunities that software defines: this is how devices specialize.
We also know that a “device” consists of hardware and software. Both combine to determine how we use a device, its argonomics, its strengths and weaknesses, and so on. As software, the design of the interface, the buttons, the gestures are very important. As hardware, it is important the input devices, how we enter information into the device, how we interact with it.
The iPad Pro, the computer of the future
How many times have we seen headlines like this? A lot. We compare the iPad, and other tablets, to computers because they are our benchmark . The iPad has only been with us for 10 years, nothing to do with computers.
When we say that the iPad Pro looks like a computer and that’s good, what are we saying, that it has a very powerful processor, that I can use photoshop on both computers, that it has a mechanical keyboard?
Does it make sense that the iPad looks like the Mac? Let’s think for a second about why Apple introduced the iPad. It created a product category, tablets. They’re neither an iPhone nor a Mac. No doubt that the iPad inherits functions from the Mac is useful, but when do we stop? If we end up with an iPad with macOS, mouse and trackpad we may well have forgotten about the iPad concept.
Being the iPad a device with its own category has brought several changes to the world of “computing”. Especially because of the way of interacting with the device. We move from a computer we use with a mouse or trackpad to one where we use our finger. This change has meant that the workflow, operating system design and applications have had to be adapted.
Do we want the iPad to look like the Mac?
If the answer is a definite yes, then we can buy a Mac directly, right? A MacBook Air, in the price line, moves in the same figures as an iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard Folio and an Apple Pencil.
And the Surface? The Surface is a computer. Could Apple get something similar? Sure, a Mac with an iPad , thin, light, with macOS, mouse, keyboard. But it wouldn’t be an iPad, it would be a Mac.
The importance of software
When can I replace my MacBook Pro with an iPad? In my personal case, as an Architect, when apps like AutoCad can be used on the iPad completely. I rephrase the question: When will the iPad become a computer for me?
The importance of software is paramount in the equation. We have seen the arrival of Photoshop to the iPad, an app that, although it still has to polish some aspects, has little to envy to its desktop sister.
Let’s take a look at Microsoft Surface, a great product, it all has to be said. It’s a device with a desktop operating system. An operating system designed to be used with a mouse or a trackpad. Comparing it to the iPad is very delicate, its benchmark for a comparison is on a Mac .
After the trackpad what would be the next step?
Apple surprised us when we learned that iPads would support plugging in and using a mouse with them. When we use a mouse with the iPad we use it as an alternative method to touching the screen. The gestures are still the same , closing an app means dragging it up from the bottom. It can be an intuitive gesture to do it with the hand, but not with a mouse. The explanation is simple, using a mouse to interact with an iPad is for people with mobility difficulties, so we found the option to activate it within the settings of Accessibility .
If Apple added a trackpad to the iPad, what would be next? Adapt the interface so that it can be used correctly with a trackpad. Adding buttons, menus, etc. Make it a desktop operating system. Sell the iPad with macOS installed.
It really seems very unlikely that Apple will give any of these steps . Are we talking about a keyboard that at some point will allow us to move around the interface in a similar way to how the iPad software keyboard already does when we use two fingers? In this case I see much more sense.
Merging or differentiation
On a development level, Apple has given us some clues. During the last WWDC Craig Federighi answered a question: Will you merge macOS and iOS? The “No.” on screen was four meters high.
In another situation, Phil Schiller was asked if we would see the touch screens come to the Macs. The answer was clear: “We’ve tried it, it’s not comfortable “.
In addition, we have the Catalyst project, with which developers can adapt, with relative ease, the applications to work in all operating systems. Not to mention that we have seen the arrival of universal purchases: you buy an app and you have it on all systems .
If we have to listen to Craig Federighi, iPadOS and macOS will be, at least for a long time, different. Listening to Phil Schiller, a Mac touch is not in the plans, will an iPad (touch) with keyboard and mouse be? It would seem not. Finally with the Catalyst project I think Apple wants us to forget what operating system we are using and just use the app.
The meaning of the trackpad on an iPad
Does a trackpad case make sense then? Not for me . True, it would be useful for using some applications. As we have seen Photoshop and even the Lite version of AutoCad for iPad do, apps can be adapted. Desktop apps are slowly being adapted to touch workflows. It’s an interesting transformation if we don’t lose features along the way.
Do I want to work on a desktop? I have a version of the app, do I want to work on an iPad? I have a version of the app. In the end, if all desktop apps had adapted their interfaces to touch, the mousetrackpad debate on an iPad would be non-existent.
When all the applications are adapted to touch it won’t matter which device we’re using, a Mac, an iPad, an iPhone. We’ll be using an application.
In AppleTips and arguments to believe in a portless iPhone
Adding a trackpad to the iPad liquidates Apple’s efforts to create an ecosystem of universal applications that can be used on all devices. Developers wouldn’t need to adapt to the iPad. We would still have desktop apps and apps for iPadiPhone . And then the iPad would never be a computer no matter how much you add a trackpad case.