From the DF Archive: ‘What if the iPad Smart Keyboard Had a Trackpad?’

Yours truly, a year ago, making the case for trackpad support on iPad keyboards:

In short, when you’re using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, you have a crummy (or at the very least sub-par) keyboard for typing but a nice interface for moving the insertion point around. When you’re using the Smart Keyboard (or any other hardware keyboard) you have a decent keyboard for typing but no good way to move the insertion point or select text. Using your finger to touch the screen is imprecise, and, when an iPad is propped up laptop-style, ergonomically undesirable.

Whenever Apple executives are asked about the notion of touchscreen Macs, they argue, correctly in my opinion, that it’s a bad idea because the ergonomics are bad. It just isn’t comfortable (or precise) to reach out with your arm. There are several other good arguments against adding touchscreen support to Macs, but ergonomics are a good one to place at the top of the list.

The thing is, every ergonomic argument against touchscreen MacBooks applies exactly to using an iPad in “laptop mode” with a hardware keyboard. When using a hardware keyboard, it makes sense to keep your hands flat on the desk/table. If Apple thinks iPads are useful with hardware keyboards — and I think they could be — they need to add trackpad support of some kind.

I was in a busy coffee shop yesterday and looked around. At least 20 patrons were using notebook computers, most of them MacBooks of some sort. Old MacBook Airs (or maybe new MacBook Airs — how can you tell?), MacBook Pros, just-plain MacBooks. Some PC notebooks as well, of course. I didn’t see one person using an iPad — despite the fact that iPads outsell all Macs combined by more than 2-to-1 every single quarter. Would trackpad support alone change that? I don’t know. But it would certainly help, and it’d move us one step closer to an iOS notebook.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018