Will iOS 9 finally let the iPad replace your laptop?

As Chromebooks, cheap Windows laptops, and even Android tablets start to drop sharply in price, Apple’s beloved iPad is looking more expensive every day. At WWDC, Apple announced the addition of multi-tasking for the iPad Air 2, starting with iOS 9. This change holds the potential to make the iPad line more valuable by replacing some functions of a regular laptop. But can a tablet really be two devices in one?

One at a time

From the very beginning, users have repeatedly said that iOS isn’t the ideal platform for tablets. The limiting ecosystem is a great fit for iPhones, where a consistently smooth user experience is a top priority, and the screen is only big enough for one app at a time. On the iPad, though, there’s more room to move, and full screen apps feels like a limitation that keeps the device from being more than a glorified web browser or Angry Birds machine.

It didn’t take long for Microsoft to figure out users hated being locked into full-screen apps.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Just ask Microsoft; it had the same problem with Windows 8’s new “Metro” apps. It didn’t take long for the company to figure out users hated being locked into full-screen apps. The experience wasn’t great for the Microsoft Surface line either. Although it’s now finally gained some traction, early versions of Surface were an epic failure, and Windows itself probably deserves more blame than the hardware.

Users want to be able to line up windows, with their email next to a browser, or their word document next to a music player. They want to briefly open a new window to quickly performance task without jumping out of other apps. They want to switch back and forth between applications with ease.

Yet screen real estate isn’t the only obstacle between the iPad as a tablet and the iPad as a laptop. The real issue is more deeply rooted, and Apple’s own creation.

The monster Apple created

Apple used WWDC 2015 to boast of reaching the mile-stone of 100 billion app downloads, and even quicker to compare the App Store to some of the most influential inventions in history, like the microscope and electricity. That’s serious hyperbole, but it’s true that iOS has become a big deal. The development of iOS and the iPhone is directly responsible for the rapid expansion of the smartphone industry. When it comes to devices with larger screens, though, iOS may be doing more harm than good.

iPhone6_iPadAir2_iOS9-PRINT

One of the keys to a laptop or desktop is that it runs all of the applications you need access to, and you can find alternatives if it doesn’t. The App Store is great for apps that are meant for mobile or light use applications, but leaves everything else just out of reach. The difference comes in the usability and functionality of those mobile-optimized apps – they just feel watered-down compared to their full, or even web-based counterparts.

You can easily search for and bid on items on eBay, for example, and while you could list an item from the iPad, you’ll probably end up reaching for your laptop instead. When you do, it won’t be because you can’t bid on an item in one window while listing an item in another. It’s because listing an item is easier with a mouse and keyboard.

A tablet just isn’t a laptop

A suite of apps designed explicitly for mobile devices is no substitute for the full desktop enchilada. iPad access to the OS X App Store is unfeasible with the current hardware, but even limited compatibility would go a long way towards making the iPad more relevant. The iPad is also a victim of Apple’s own pricing scheme, which starts laptops at a low enough price point to attract buyers away from the tablet without much thought.

If Apple wants to make the iPad relevant again, it needs to be more like Microsoft.

If you want to step up to an Apple laptop with OS X, you’ll have to shell out at least $900. That’s $200 more than a 64GB iPad Air 2, but the functionality upgrade is a significant one. For that price you gain full OS X compatibility, plus Boot Camp so you can run Windows, access to the Steam marketplace for games, and Adobe Flash in your web browser.

Windows 10 as a universal platform may be the smartest move that Microsoft has made since returning the classic desktop to Windows 8. Now the Surface, Windows Phone, and computers all have access to the same software, and along with it, access to the same productivity tools and compatibility. Whether this will actually play out like Microsoft says it will remains to be seen, but it’s a serious challenge to the way Apple distributes its operating systems, especially when you consider the price difference.

Is it even worth trying?

You won’t often hear people say this, but if Apple wants to succeed in making the iPad relevant again, it needs to be more like Microsoft. As long as iPads are running iOS, they’ll never reach the point of a laptop replacement, because the apps just aren’t designed for the kind of productivity that a full computer can provide. The iPad Air 2 is an amazing tablet, but in a world where the tablet itself is struggling to justify its existence, that’s not enough. A tablet needs to do more when it’s called for — if it’s going to sell at$500 or more, at least.

It’s not about how many apps fit on the screen, or how good the detachable keyboard is, and for Apple to add to those areas misses the point entirely. The bottom line is that no manufacturer has made a device that always works as both a tablet and a computer. There are a number of issues with a one-size-fits-all device that usually end with them not fitting anyone at all, and they stretch from the current hardware all the way down to the operating system. Unless there’s an iPad Pro with OS X or some form of it on the horizon, the iPad’s main use will continue to be watching Netflix while sitting on the toilet.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

If the Surface Studio 2 can't win over Mac fans, nothing can

Most creative professionals are staunchly planted in the Apple camp, but with the Surface Studio 2, Microsoft is making a serious attempt to win them over. Despite its niche appeal, you’ll wish you had a few grand to drop on this beauty.
Deals

The best iPad deals for November 2018

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for November 2018.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, but it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Computing

M4A is great for quality, but not for storage. Here's how to convert to MP3

Despite its remarkable ability to retain audio fidelity at a smaller size, M4a files aren't the best when it comes to compatibility. Check out our basic guide on how to convert M4a files to MP3.
Computing

Microsoft drops Surface Go price to $350 for Black Friday week

The Microsoft Surface Go convertible tablet has seen a large price drop this Black Friday sales season, lowering the base model to $350 and even the upgraded ones have seen $50 knocked off of their asking price.
Computing

Razer takes up to $500 off of its Blade gaming laptops for Black Friday

If you're a fan of Razer's understated aesthetics that earned the Blade comparisons with Apple's laptops, you can score some big savings on Black Friday, as Razer is offering up to $500 discounts off of its gaming notebooks.
Deals

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Computing

Detangle your desk with a mighty wireless mouse. Here are our six favorites

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. These six models have something for everyone, whether you're a hardcore gamer or simply looking to ward off carpal tunnel.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Buying Guides

Solid-state drives are speedier than hard disk drives. Are they worth it?

As the price of solid-state drives comes down, it's reached a point where it's hard to recommend a system without at least a hybrid solution. In the battle of SSD vs. HDD, a clear winner has emerged.
Computing

Service restored after glitch locks out Microsoft Office 365 business users

Microsoft reported that a problem with its system caused some users to be locked out of their accounts. Because the multifactor authentication system went down globally, some Office 365 and Azure users were unable to log in.
Deals

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.