Apple is missing a golden opportunity; more is needed for the iPad Pro to win over PC users

“Apple Inc. fired a broadside at what remains of the personal-computer industry last week, when marketing chief Phil Schiller claimed the company’s new iPad Pro is aimed at anyone still using an old PC,” Christopher Mims writes for The Wall Street Journal. “It is a wonderful notion—imagine iPads raining down on the users of 600 million PCs more than five years old.”

“Still, it isn’t clear Apple’s iPad Pro can deliver on that promise—at least not yet,” Mims writes. “For one, it is missing some tools essential to PC-like work, most notably a mouse or a trackpad.”

MacDailyNews Take: Old school thinking from someone steeped in operating computers via mouse and trackpad. As we wrote back in December:

Certain complaints (“I want a cursor,” for example) are the result of users who’ve been steeped in a different way of operating and interacting with computers. iPad in the hands of the young are a completely different thing. They’d never think to ask for their cursor back, since they never had one to begin with; they truly know how to operate a multi-touch UI. They’re not stuck in old ways of thinking. When older users… hit a minor roadblock (that isn’t actually a roadblock – there’s a way to do it, they just don’t know it) they immediately start screaming for their old tools. “I need a trackpad!”

Well, you already have one (this works for all iPads with iOS 9 and later): Turn your keyboard into a trackpad. Touch and hold the keyboard with two fingers until it turns light gray. Drag around the keyboard to position the insertion point. Lift, then touch and hold with two fingers to reveal the drag points. Move your fingers to select text. Tap with two fingers to select a word. Double-tap with two fingers to select a sentence. Tap three times with two fingers to select a paragraph.

The iPad Pro is not meant for older generations. Unless they are willing to completely unlearn and let go of old tricks and learn new ones. That’s very tough to do for some. Those are the people who ask questions like “Is it a sketch pad? Is it a laptop replacement?” iPad Pro and iOS are really for the young and for future generations. They are the future. Until the next paradigm shift, perhaps decades away, Multi-touch will be how most people compute, not with physical keyboards, mice, cursors, exposed file systems, etc.

“As its competitors, including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., race to create hybrids of tablets and PCs that can function as either, Apple is missing a golden opportunity to dominate the touch-based world it pioneered with the iPhone,” Mims writes. “Touch interfaces can be intuitive and sophisticated, but mice and trackpads persist because having to touch your screen for even the most elementary actions, like selecting text, can be both clunky and tiresome.”

MacDailyNews Take: Because you don’t know how to use an iPad correctly. Because your thinking is polluted with anachronisms and you can’t let them go or get past them. Because you’re the guy who would’ve replied “a faster horse,” had Henry Ford bothered to waste his time asking you what you wanted.

“I still think tablets — and the iPad, if Apple is lucky — will ultimately replace nearly all PCs,” Mims writes. “But rhetoric about an iPad Pro as a drop-in replacement for a five-year old PC — now just one part of a much larger network of habits, software, infrastructure and dependencies — is folly.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Again, iPad Pro and iOS are really for the young and for future generations. They are the future. For those who can manage to let go and learn new ways of doing things, iPad Pro most certainly is a drop-in replacement – a big step up, in fact – for a five-year old PC.


  1. How about the Mac ???

    As an iPad Pro owner – great device but it is NOT a replacement for a good laptop nor a desktop.

    Has Apple learned anything from its IBM agreement?

    As it turns out the Mac has been the main beneficiary of the agreement. IBM is buying Macs in large numbers, not iPads.

    1. @Grumpy

      The iPad could have taken over the computing world. All lazy Tim Cook would’ve had to do was:

      Give it ports!

      Allow it to run a Desktop OS and/or write Desktop functionality (i.e networking, file system, printer driver support, mouse support) into a “Pro” version of iOS!

      Make storage affordable, instead of gouging loyal Apple users six years later with the same old tired 500% storage markup!

      Build an iPad docking station with monitor to set the iPad Pro in tomhave a full Desktop experience!

      Yet GREEDY and short-sighted Cook didn’t want to cannibalize his Mac business, failing to see the big picture that the iPad with it’s portability (and never implemented power) would’ve taken over the entire computing industry, handing Apple everything that MS took from them!

      1. I kind of agree with this. I think that a docking station with ports for some USB devices, mouse/trackpad support, a SD card reader, better printer support along the option within the iPad system for multiple profiles/logins with appropriate network logins. This would be a true hybrid desktop/tablet computer.

        Oh yeah, and cheaper storage. That is a horrendously overpriced margin inflating item we cannot do without. What do they charge now per GB, prices from 2010???

        1. That is certainly a better solution to help those who truly feel they can’t break the cord yet. I hate the idea of ‘hybrid’ but I can understand that some are still in the process of accepting immediate change from the familiar especially in an environment where there is still work to be done to make it a fully functioning alternative.

      2. Don’t you mean short sighted Jobs? For it was his decision or are you simply claiming Cook was short sighted for not recognising his error? However from my point of view making it work seemlessly without ports would be my ultimate aim as that is the future rather than a desire to preserve the past. And they have done a pretty good job in that direction.

      3. Don’t worry, we’ll see the hybrid Mac, that is both OS X and iOS (not a single OS, but runs both). Grab the display off of your laptop and it becomes an iOS device. Plug it back in and it becomes an OS X device. That’s my dream.

  2. I can’t speak for others but between my iPhone, iPad, Mac and Windows tablet my employers issued me I so rarely use a mouse it feels weird and cumbersome when I do.

    1. Just cant get my head around the idea of using a mouse with a tablet I would be far more interested in improving the on screen interactions that is the whole point of the tablet in the first place, otherwise it all be ones a compromised mess.

      I do love the contention that on screen interaction on a tablet gets tiresome or clunky. Why then do PCs persist with the idea of its screens being interactive in this clunky and tiresome way when the logic of it in such a device is far less reasonable in the first place. Contradictions and confused thinking that try and fail to be all things to all people instead of being confident and committed to your concepts.

  3. I agree with the article. Neither size represents a true “Pro” device, but the 9.7 version falls way short, with just 2GB of RAM. Aside from the speakers (I will never buy or utilize the pen), it’s virtually no different from my current Air 2.

    I am a daily iPad user, from day one, who is frustrated by Tim Cook who has refused to expand the functionality of the iPad in any significant way!

    Even so, I’m going to pick up a 12.9 incher because I always wanted a giant version, and it has a nice screen and more RAM. I’m negotiating for a used 32GB model as I write this. I wont pay more than $600, as I feel the IPP is outrageously priced. On the other hand, the 9.7 inch IPP is a total rip for what you get.

    1. Not true. The iPad Pro 9.7 is entirely different from the iPad Air 2. And your definition of “Pro” is inconsequential. Cite your source, not anecdotal, conjecture, or hearsay, that shows Tim Cook refuses to expand functionality. As last checked, the iPad Pro was the first to have Apple Pencil. Clearly, that is new functionality and is hugely significant.

      1. Apple Pencil is new functionality? Partly.
        It is just an enhancement of styli that already worked. There are more options and much more control with the Pencil, but it is just an enhancement and not a ground breaking new must have feature. (Hopefully not put into iOS as a result of Android pens and Windows tablet pens. You know, a “lets jump on the bandwagon and show that we can do it too!”)

  4. Mice, keyboards & Cursors are highly beneficial in very complicated programs where you must be efficient with both menu choices & precise movements. I would describe these programs generically as high end creative apps.

    People who use those programs know and so does Apple.

  5. Can it run all 3 of my displays and handle all the apps I need for work?

    It’s a replacement for a lot of old home use boxes I bet but there is a certain level of user that it may never reach and that’s OK.

  6. The only thing I ever need a mouse for is when I’m using my iPad as a thin client, connecting to my company’s Citrix XenDesktop implementation. And in that case, I whip out my trusty Citrix X1 mouse and it works seamlessly with my iPad. I don’t really need a laptop anymore.

    My 2011 15″ MacBook Pro lives on as a desktop, attached to a Thunderbolt dock and rarely gets used for anything other than connecting to work or burning the occasional DVD.

  7. MDN you are totally out of touch. Absolutely NO WAY can any iPad stand in for a 5 year old PC running a desktop OS. It can for some for light users who use PC’s for web and email. I still go to my PC for things many things I can’t do on my Air, age of the PC or OS is irrelevant for those things.

      1. Smartphones may have replaced pc’s for people who used their pc’s primarily for web browsing, email and such; but the notion that most computer users do nothing more than these mundane tasks is absolutely ridiculous.

      1. Maybe smartphones have replaced laptops and desktops in your world.

        They certainly have NOT replaced laptops and desktops among the student population. I don’t see many students taking notes on iPhones or iPads in class.

        I do see plenty of light, portable laptops with SSD drives.

        1. We had a student living with us for three of her four years in college here. At school, she was iPad only. She used it for all of her notes, mostly in Notability. She later used the Mac version when needed. She kept her notes, audio, Powerpoint docs etc. in there. I was so impressed with what she did with it, I bought a copy for myself.
          Perhaps you will take your pet to her, a student who did use an iPad for her notes, as she is on her way to becoming a veterinarian.

  8. I totally disagree with MDN’s take on this issue. As far as I’m concerned, editing long-form text on an iPad is a slow and clumsy process—even with a separate keyboard. The thought of editing an actual book on an iPad seems like a joke to me. To each his own.

    1. I have a friend who tried writing his latest book on an iPad. He gave up in frustration. Cursor keys and the tab key are essential elements in the production of a book.

      Multiple windows of the same document are also useful.

      Now if Mac’s were only less expensive. If they were he would be switching to a Mac not a $799 Toshiba laptop with an i7 processor, 16gb of ram and a $140 512gb ssd purchased from Amazon.

    2. Agree that fingers are suboptimal input devices for navigating and editing text. But so is the mouse. Keyboard navigation with smart arrow and option key usage is far superior.

    3. And the screen size! So if I’m “modern”, I’m supposed to love working on a 9″ or 12″ screen instead of my 27″ iMac. Yeh, right.

      I think MDN’s take has as much to do with, “Oh look at me, I’m so modern” as with anything else.

    1. Right now because of the success of the iPhone Apple has a chance to win a lot of people over to the Mac.

      Instead of promoting the Mac which can more than replace a PC, Apple is frittering away their opportunity by pushing the iPad.

      Now we know why Apple has ignored Mac advertisements since 2009.

  9. The two-finger trackpad feature in iOS9 is nice, but what would be nicer is if the portrait keyboard would show up all the time. The landscape keyboard taking a bunch of screen space is silly when trying to use something like Numbers.

  10. The author is correct. MDN is wrong. The iPad keyboard is not an effective trackpad and, for anyone who does a reasonable amount of typing, the lack of an effective pointer makes this a very painful experience.

    The iPad is great for consumption but useless for anything else. I’m keeping my Macs.

  11. And where is the usb port for importing files, photos, etc? I find it frustrating when someone hands over a 32GB thumb drive full of stuff for me and I have no way to import it on an iPad. To upload and download from dropbox, etc. is a real long process as a workaround. Grrrr!

      1. I use the SD Card to Lightning adaptor a lot. When I am away from home I take the card from my DSLR and import photos into my iPad/iPhone from there. I can edit them, if needed, and after resizing them (with an app) I can send it on for feedback – or just to show off 😉

  12. It’s not a “Pro” OS until you can type on two copies of the same document at the same time. Or two or more “different “documents in the same app at the same time.

  13. It needs a full fledged user managable file system… And ability to run full fledged application or forever it will be a content consumption with a very mediocre and fragmented content creation product..
    Cor gods sake .. They even put less ram in the new 9.7 pro than the older 12 pro.. By 2 gigs… Is that advancement in usability?

    I have said this for years now…. And will never agree with the otherwise.

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