iPad Pro is not ready to replace MacBooks, or notebooks en mass. In fact, it's not even close. But first, I do need to throw out a few qualifiers, because clearly, there are valid reasons the iPad Pro exists.
iPad Pro is a great tablet. If these technologies were around when I was in high school and college, I could have taken my airbrush and creative skills to a whole new level, anywhere, anytime. iPad is also a great media consumption device. From the couch to commuter train, the new iPad Pro's edge-to-edge displays make for a great anywhere devices to consume media, FaceTime friends or catch up on a good book. Moving iPad Pro beyond its creative and entertainment environments and into more traditional MacBook use cases is where iPad Pro begins to fall short.
iPad Pro, while housing an amazingly powerful Apple designed A12X Bionic processor, has its full potential capped due to running a limited iOS, along with the apps built for the limited platform. True enough, a full native Photoshop is arriving from Adobe, but as I've already noted, iPad Pro is a great creative device that's only getting stronger for that market over time. With such a powerful processor, many are wanting iPad Pro to be more than a tablet with pencil, but it's just not there yet.
What is the iPad Pro missing to be a huge option for those not needing tablet-only features?
iOS for iPad has a file directory system, but as Steve Jobs might have decried, it's only a "baby directory." It is not nearly as as macOS Finder. From business users to educators and beyond, these users have hundreds of directories with sub folders for customer projects, products, spreadsheets, engineering drawings and more. Sometimes this is stored in the cloud, but more often than not it's on your mobile device, and macOS and Apple's MacBooks excel at easy, powerful file management. iPad Pro's directory solution is just way behind the curve.
Watching Surface users touch their screen constantly, as they smudge and wobble about, instead of using a trackpad with cursor is amazingly counter productive. Ironically, most Surface users I've talked with think it is great because Windows laptop trackpads are pathetically cheap and horrific to use (if only they had experienced a real trackpad from Apple). The clunky "touch the display" process is just as bad with an iPad Pro, as iOS has no trackpad for a cursor, forcing the user to constantly be touching the display. The user must then relocate their hands back onto the keyboard and resume work. Touching a display hundreds of times a day adds up to being a large waste of time, smudges the display and makes little sense when compared to a great MacBook trackpad with a cursor included macOS. I believe this is why so many Surface users are resorting back to using mice, as touching the screen makes little sense, and also makes little sense with an iPad Pro.
Apple would have a huge advantage over Surface, and be much loser to replacing MacBooks, it iOS for iPad Pro came with a cursor and a great keyboard with trackpad option.
iPad Pro's have many keyboard options to choose from, but none of them that I have tested work as fast or as accurately as a MacBook low-travel keyboard. Older journalists love more travel, as it takes them back to old fashioned typewriter travel, but that's not my - nor most people's - era any longer. I can type faster and more accurately with my MacBook keyboard versus any keyboard I have ever used. iPad keyboards always fall short in some area. They are either not backlit, or the keys are a wee bit too small or they are some mix of keyboard-stand-case solution adding a lot of bulk to the iPad itself. With a MacBook Pro, the keyboard has resting right below it an amazing trackpad. A more MacBook-esque keyboard would serve an iPad Pro well to more effectively reach additional markets.
Screen Angle: Using an iPad as a notebook often results in glare becoming an issue. iPad Pro now has two viewing angles with their stand to address this issue, but two positions is all you get. MacBooks have a nearly infinite number of angles to adjust when using outdoors, on the couch or under bright airport lighting.
Multiple Surfaces: iPad Pro's when used with keyboards are not good at being used on soft surfaces. On the couch, typing an article in bed while the Mrs. sleeps away, or using it on one's lap it just doesn't work, whereas a MacBook's solid structure works on any surface.
iOS: My last issue with using an iPad Pro as a MacBook replacement is Apple's mobile operating system. iOS is designed purely for touch, which lends itself ot large icons, buttons and sliders. That's great for touch, but it's also a big use of display space when wanting to be in high-end productivity apps. macOS and its small icons and tucked way pallets and menus all work seamlessly with a cursor solution and provide maximum, efficient, display space. iPad Pro falls short in this largely due to the iOS touch-only design.
HOW COULD iPAD truly REPLACE A MACBOOK?
Apple's A12X Bionic processor is a marvel, and bests mosts notebooks in terms of raw speed, but just because iPad Pro has a powerful processor doesn't mean it can effectively replace MacBooks. iPad Pro has a lot of shortcomings to take on the notebook space, but a few major changes and/or additions could produce a monumental shift in iPad Pro proliferation.
If Apple would release a keyboard that included a trackpad, meaning iOS for iPad Pro would include cursor, that would be huge deal. Another area is for Apple to beef up is iOS's file system. It's weak and Apple could easily make it as powerful as macOS Finder.
Lastly, if Apple allowed for better multi-tasking, iPad Pro could suddenly start to temp many using MacBooks.
With all these desired additions to an iPad Pro and iOS, why would users not just get a MacBook instead? Considering an 12.9-inch iPad Pro, keyboard and pencil with 256GB of storage runs $1,477, unless you are a creative or niche market user, iPad is simply a long ways away from being a legitimate MacBook replacement.
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