Friday, 21 April 2017

Steps Towards Making An iPad A Better Computer


Apple has spent the last eighteen months trying to convince us that the iPad is a computer, one fit to replace your PC  (but not your Mac, oh no). It's wrong. Adding a keyboard case to a tablet that already had plenty of third-party options doesn't change the underlying weakness of iOS for full computer use. Nor does a pencil.

There are a few narrow use cases where the iPad can make a good go of replacing a computer. It's even true that, with the addition of some key peripherals, the iPad can be useful in an enterprise environment as a BYOD PC replacement.

What it can't do is standalone as a true working tool all of the time, for any use case.

Some of the reasons for this relate to the way iOS works, fixes will have to come down the line as part of the iOS upgrade waterfall.  Others though can be fixed relatively easily and without huge effort on Apple's part.

The absolute easiest? Add native mouse support. The Bluetooth profile is already there, all it requires to make it useful is to make iOS treat a mouse pointer in a similar way to the pencil tip - a much more precise finger tap in effect.

Opening up iOS to mice opens up whole new applications to the iPad. Third-party virtualisation tools make the world of enterprise all the more accessible. Currently only Citrix has usable iPad support and that's because it has jerry rigged its own mouse support into the Receiver app.

The other things Apple needs to fix is external display support. Right now, with a Lightning adapter, an iPad's screen can be mirrored to an external display. That's better than nothing, but still very limiting.

Right now, in my office I'm sat in front of my Surface 3 which is powering two external screens via a DisplayLink dock. One plug and I have a full desktop setup. My colleague, sat three desks away has his iPad Pro hooked up to one screen and is using the Apple keyboard case to input to it. It is a very uncomfortable and constraining setup.

There are two routes to fixing this. One, to partner with DisplayLink to build its drivers into the next release of iOS and give iPad users a workable dock solution. Or - and this is the more Apple solution - build a proprietary clone of DisplayLink which works natively with iOS and Lightning to achieve the same thing.

By making those two relatively innocuous changes Apple makes its iPad and awful lot more attractive to a new group of potential customers.

And actually earns it that Pro name for the first time too.

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