The new iPad Pro is another major step forward in Apple's plan to challenge Microsoft's Surface Pro

The new iPad Pro is another major step forward in Apple's plan to challenge Microsoft's Surface Pro
Apple iPad Pro (2020)



The new iPad Pro.

  • Apple's new iPad Pro will support a key feature the iPad has been missing: mouse and trackpad compatibility.
  • This addition is another sign that Apple is turning the iPad Pro into a real laptop alternative, much like Microsoft's Surface tablet.
  • Apple has added many features to the iPad over the years that have made it better at multitasking, but mouse support was the one missing piece it needed to serve as a viable productivity device.
  • It's an acknowledgement that Microsoft was on the right track when it introduced the original Microsoft Surface in 2012, a tablet that commercialized the concept of using a tablet as a laptop alternative.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Apple may insist that the iPad Pro isn't a laptop replacement, but this high-end tablet is closer than ever to becoming one, as evidenced by the new model announced this week.

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If anything, the launch serves as another indication that Microsoft was on to something when it launched its Surface tablet-laptop hybrid in 2012, which is now nearly 8 years old and popularized the concept of regularly using a keyboard and mouse with a tablet.

The 2020 iPad Pro, which Apple just announced on Wednesday, features a Lidar sensor to give more realistic augmented reality experiences, a more powerful processor, and, most importantly, support for mice and trackpads. The new keyboard Apple is launching for the iPad Pro also allows you to adjust the tablet's angle, making it easier to use in your lap or on a tabletop, another feature that makes the Pro more capable for productivity.


Although mouse and touchpad support isn't exclusive to the Pro - it will be coming to other models as well through a software update - it represents the missing piece of the puzzle the iPad Pro needed to serve as a viable work device. Apple has made a slew of updates to the iPad in recent years by introducing features that let you open apps in split-screen view, or in a smaller column on screen, and a new home screen that makes it easier to see more information at once.

But when it comes to fully replacing your laptop, the lack of mouse and touchpad support has been a major disadvantage compared to Microsoft's Surface Pro lineup. There are certain tasks that are just much easier to accomplish using a mouse cursor rather than your finger - like managing spreadsheets, for example - and desktop operating systems have always been better suited for such workloads.

surface pro 7 2019

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7.

What remains to be seen is how well Apple's trackpad support actually works. Apple has taken a decidedly different approach to bringing cursor support to its tablet compared to Microsoft. While Windows-based tablets like the Surface run the same version of Windows 10 found on laptops and desktops, Apple's iPads run the company's mobile iPadOS software.


That means the way the mouse and cursor work will be a bit different as well. Based on Apple's ads, it looks like the cursor will change its shape to fit the icon it's hovering over. We'll have to wait and see whether Apple has improved on the mouse and cursor experience in a way that will actually best - or at least match - operating systems like Windows and macOS that have been designed for such interactions from the start.

Apple may not ever outright call the iPad Pro a laptop replacement - after all, it loves to position the iPad Pro as a non-computer in its marketing materials. But by adding mouse support to the iPad, Apple seems to finally be acknowledging that people at the very least want to use their tablet like a laptop, a point that Microsoft has understood for nearly a decade.

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