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Apple's iPad Pro deserves more than iOS provides

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 11, 2015
As analysts look at the larger iPad, some make a case for 'padOS,' a derivative of iOS optimized for both touch and keyboard

For Gottheil, the iPad Pro -- and other devices like it, often labeled "convertibles" or "2-in-1s" -- is, because of its size, a different beast and not the typical tablet. And it deservs an optimized UI, and thus likely a tweaked if not different operating system.

ipad pro home screen 
On the larger iPad Pro display, Home screen apps appear to be spaced too far apart. Credit: Ken Mingis

"By marrying the simplicity of iOS and the hardware of a larger tablet, it could break out of the 'it's just a larger iPhone' paradigm," Gottheil added.

Crucial, he said, were an OS that offers a keyboard-oriented interface, with all that entails, including precision pointing and windowing, or at least the ability to look at more than one thing at a time. The latter doesn't need to be as complex as, say Windows or OS X, with multiple windows that can be layered and shuffled around at will, but could mean halving the screen, or quartering.

iOS 9 offers Split View to the iPad Pro already, as well as other multitask-driven features, such as Slide Over and picture-in-a-picture for viewing video.

All the Big Three operating system makers -- Apple, Google and Microsoft -- wrestle with the problem of finding the best fit of OS and tablet, with the touch-based operation that the latter implies, but which may be largely moot when a keyboard is introduced to make the device more laptop-like.

Google, for instance, recently unveiled its first home-grown tablet, the Pixel C, that can be equipped -- is meant to be partnered -- with an optional keyboard. Google chose Android, not the Chrome OS that powered its clamshell-style notebook, the Chromebook Pixel, and those of other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), who have done well in education with their more generic models.

Microsoft took a different tack. After a false start with Windows RT, the touch-only offshoot of Windows 8 -- earlier this year, it orphaned those users who had taken up RT -- the Redmond, Wash. company settled on squeezing its full-fledged personal computer OS, first Windows 8, then 10, into its own 2-in-1, the Surface Pro.

Like Apple and Google, Microsoft sells an optional-but-it's-not-optional keyboard with the Surface Pro 4 tablet. But as a marker for the OS running the device, Microsoft's keyboard is the only one of the three companies' to have a built-in trackpad, a necessity, Gottheil said, for keyboard-centric productivity chores.

"It's really about the use case, not the inches," said Brian Blau of Gartner, countering the argument that the iPad Pro -- or any larger tablet -- requires a new or modified operating system. "As the device gets bigger, from the use case profile we've seen, iPad is used in business in a lot of scenarios. And there's a lot of evidence that says it's okay as is."


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