In an interview with British newspaper The Independent this week Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the upcoming iPad Pro could replace your laptop.
“The thing that’s interesting about this is that the hardware, combined with the software, especially with features such as split view multitasking, means that this iPad now appeals to virtually everybody. You can marry it with a keyboard cover that turns it into a laptop replacement, say,” Cook said in the interview.
The iPad Pro is the new iPad coming out this week with an extra-large 12.9-inch screen. (The iPad Air has a 9.7-inch screen.)
It also has a an optional keyboard case and a stylus called the Apple Pencil. It’s clear Apple is pitching this device as a productivity machine, so it makes sense Cook would say it can replace your laptop.
But there’s reason to remain skeptical. Others have tried making tablets that can replace laptops with mixed results. And I see two major hurtles keeping the iPad from truly becoming a laptop replacement.
1.) The iPad Pro needs a stand to stay up
To make the claim that a tablet can replace your laptop, it needs to prop itself up on its own, like the Microsoft Surface Book does. The tablet portion of the Surface Book attaches to the keyboard and it has a hinge that lets you adjust the viewing angle just like you would a regular laptop.
The only way you can prop up the iPad Pro is with Apple’s new Smart Keyboard. You have to fold part of the Smart Keyboard into a triangle behind the iPad Pro so it can support its weight. The problem here is that it takes up way more space than a laptop does, and you’re also limited to one viewing angle. It’s also a pain to use in your lap.
It might not seem like a big deal, but it is.
Just take the Surface Pro tablet, which Microsoft also claimed could replace your laptop. It had all the ingredients to do just that, like running full Windows 10 and desktop apps like a laptop. Yet, one of the main qualms with the Surface Pro tablets was that it needed a kickstand to prop up the screen.
There is some hope, however, as third party keyboard case makers like Zagg and ClamCase make cases for previous iPad generations of iPad with hinges that prop up your iPad.
2.) Tablet performance at laptop prices
And then there’s the fact that the iPad Pro runs the mobile iOS 9 operating system. It’s very capable, especially with the new Split View feature that lets you split your iPad’s screen with two different apps. But it’s still a mobile operating system that runs the mobile version of apps, and they’re nowhere near as powerful as the full desktop versions. There’s also little indication that developers are working hard to make innovative apps designed for this new form factor. They’re still basically the same as regular iPad apps. Until that changes, there isn’t much of an incentive to buy the iPad Pro.
Matt Weinberger Combine that with the iPad Pro’s base $799 price without the Smart Keyboard (sold separately for $169), and it becomes harder to justify buying an iPad Pro over a laptop. You can buy two decent windows laptops for that money, or the base model 13-inch MacBook Air.
If anything is going to replace a laptop, it’s a laptop that can become a tablet rather than a tablet that can sort of become a laptop. Microsoft’s new Surface Book, which is a laptop with a detachable screen that doubles as a tablet, is the best example of this.