Is the iPad Pro the future of the MacBook?
While the expected hardware upgrades will make them more powerful, the iPad Pro line-up will be able to leverage a completely rethought iOS experience, as a productivity device
When Apple unveiled the very first iPad Pro, with the 12.9-inch display, in late 2015, it was the clearest indication about the direction in which the tablet was headed. Until then, the iPad was seen more as a casual computing device and not something that could be used as a traditional laptop replacement—but that was about to change. A few months later, the smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro also arrived, to reinforce that positioning. The iPad has been getting more powerful every year.
At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017, Apple made its focus very clear again—it is making the iPad even more viable as a productivity device. But could this be Apple working towards the unthinkable—will the iPad Pro eventually prove to be an alternative to the MacBooks? Or would we see a convergence of the two platforms, at a certain time of Apple’s choosing?
In terms of power, the new iPad Pro with the 10.5-inch display, as well as the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro get the latest generation Apple A10X processors, even more capable Retina Displays with refresh rate management that will surely appeal to video editors, for instance, and battery life that’ll last an entire day of heavy usage.
But it is the upcoming iOS 11 software that will bring these iPad Pro variants to life. For instance, the app dock at the bottom of the home screen will now behave a lot like the app dock in macOS. And like its sibling platform, iOS will remember the window preferences for each app—anything previously kept open as one of multiple windows, for instance, will reopen the same way. While the dock will be hidden when the apps are running, a swipe up will make it visible again. This is much like macOS, again. Another up-swipe on the dock itself, opens apps and lays out the essential settings in a quick access mode, for a quick overview. This, is very much like Mission Control on the macOS.
A small observation while we are mentioning these swipe gestures for the dock and the task manager screens on the iOS 11 for iPads: could this be an indication of a future iPad range without the physical home button below the display? This is perhaps the strongest hint to this effect yet.
Then there are the drag-and-drop capabilities, which were long overdue on iOS. For example, if you need to copy an image to a mail, from a Safari browser tab, you don’t need to take a dip into the share menu and scroll for eternity to find your preferred choice amid a clutter. Instead, you can simply drag whatever it is that you want to copy from one app, around the entire system, till you drop it into the other app. You’ll be able to select multiple files too.
Then there is the document handling bit. While we have the Finder app in macOS, something that neat—a one-stop for all documents—was missing in iOS. On the iPad , iOS 11 will bring in the Files app. This will have all local storage, as well as access to cloud services, including iCloud (well, obviously), Dropbox and Box. You can drag and drop files into different folders here too, tag them if you want and set importance levels too.
Yes, all these changes do mean that there will be a potential learning curve for users, because this iOS experience will be significantly different from before. However, it will give the “iPad as my computer” argument a lot more weight. If you already use a Mac, these changes will be something you’ll probably already be used to. But this had to happen. While Microsoft made the Windows 10 its one platform for all device form factors and sizes, iOS and macOS weren’t leveraging each other’s strengths thus far.
The advantage that iOS has, in terms of the future, is that it is fully capable for the touchscreen environment, unlike macOS. The net result is productivity capabilities of the iPad will be significantly enhanced too. And while it does pit itself against Windows machines such as the Surface convertible line-up, it will also be a viable alternative to Apple’s own MacBooks.