PCMag’s Tim Bajarin has an intriguing theory. Bajarin thinks Apple is counting on the iPad Pro tapping into a nascent trend among millennials — the generation those born between 1980 and 2000 — toward making iOS rather than OS X, Windows, or Linux their OS of choice, as opposed to thinking of Apple’s mobile OS as primarily a capability-compromised supplemental OS for smartphones and tablets.
The latter is certainly the way I’ve thought of the iOS, which is one of the big reasons (another is price) why I haven’t gotten very excited by the iPad Pro. In my perception the bigger iPad is just a bulkier, heavier, somewhat more powerful version of my iPad Air, with most of the limitations and compromises the iOS imposes as compared to my Macs running OS X. While I love the iPad hardware, the iOS software side not so much.
To my way of thinking, a professional grade tool — hardware or software — is one that facilitates getting the work you need to do done faster, easier, and more efficiently. That may be true for the iPad Pro for a limited range of tasks suited to use of it’s optional $99 ‘pencil’ stylus, but it doesn’t apply in a general sense.
For example, Macworld’s Susie Ochs notes that being able to run two apps side by side isn’t exactly multitasking, and aside from Pencil support and overall speed, she finds herself hard-pressed to name a task she can do better on the iPad Pro than on smaller (and less expensive) iPads. Moreover, with the iPad Pro she says she kept running into limitations that she could work around, but didn’t want to have to. That observation mirrors my general experience with using iPads as production tools.
My friend John Martellaro over at The Mac Observer contends that Apple’s business success in recent years has been due to its great mobility products having relieved the company of doing the hard work necessary to cultivate and maintain reliable and enduring conventional business relationships, and enabling them to get away with a ‘take it or leave it’ marketing philosophy inherited from Steve Jobs. He notes that with the iPad Pro, Apple may be depending too much on the cool hardware aspects of the device without putting many of the business related structures in place in the App Store needed to support and promote a professional grade tool — detail-sweating that Martellaro says Microsoft does well, despite relatively poor sales of the Surface Pro for other reasons.
Venturebeat’s Jordan Novat points to Split View, the iOS 9 “multitasking” feature that lets you divide your screen in two equal vertical sections, only working with some apps, although I expect Split View support to broaden in the fullness of time as developers update their apps. Novat also critiques Apple’s not including a trackpad on the iPad Pro’s optional Smart Keyboard, an omission he likens to being served a nice steak dinner with no utensils. The workaround is to pick up the steak with your fingers and bit off mouthfulls of meat, but a fork and knife would make the experience so much easier and more enjoyable (not to mention a lot more elegant).
I couldn’t agree more. One of my biggest beefs (so to speak) about the iPad has been its non-support for mice. A trackpad is a whole lot better than no external pointing device, but my strong preference is for the precision and comfort of a mouse, and I use mice with my laptops whenever practical. I would also like to do so with my iPad, and having only touchscreen input is an abiding frustration. Like Susie Ochs, I can work around it, but I wish I didn’t have to.
And no, the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil stylus is nowhere near being a satisfactory surrogate for a mouse or trackpad.
Apple’s refusal to include a driver for Bluetooth mice in the iOS appears to be pure pig-headed stubbornness and that old Jobsian “our-way-or-the-doorway” philosophy. The iOS already supports Bluetooth for external keyboards, so how hard would it be?
Speaking of keyboards, aside from the missing trackpad, why does Apple’s $169.00 Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro not feature adjustable angles of screen inclination like the Microsoft Surface does?
And while I’m at it, why won’t Apple add multiple user accounts to the iOS? — another strike against the iPad Pro as an enterprise device.
As 9To5Mac’s Dom Esposito summarizes, “Overall, the iPad Pro is great at a few things, but everything ‘Pro-level’ is much better on a MacBook,” also noting that the typing experience on that expensive Smart Keyboard isn’t up to much. “It’s still an iPad at the end of the day and definitely not one for pros, unless you’re a pro artist who will pay extra for an Apple Pencil. Otherwise, it’s just a giant expensive iPad.”
Maybe the millennials, who cut their computing teeth on smartphones and tablets, are willing to work around this stuff, but for those of us whose computer work habits were developed and honed on desktop and laptop Macs and PCs, the compromises imposed by the iPad’s limitations are a constant irritation, however much the mobility factor keeps roping us in.
It doesn’t need to be this way, but as a productivity tool and laptop substitute, the iPad Pro is still only half-baked.