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Can the new iPad Pro replace a laptop?

Apple's Greg Joswiak speaks about the iPad Pro

Apple's Greg Joswiak speaks about the iPad Pro during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017. Credit: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez

Apple is slowly coming around to the realization that touch screens work on laptops. With iOS 11, its touch-screen laptop wannabe—the iPad Pro —will not only get file folders, complete with drag and drop, but a macOS-style Dock, Apple's less-functional response to the Windows Taskbar.

But these positive moves don't go far enough. The most common way to use an iPad Pro—in fact, the only way I've seen them used—is with the Smart Keyboard, which adds another $159-$169 to the tablet's already-laptop-level price of $649 to $1,229. If you're using a keyboard, a mouse might seem like second nature, but the iPad Pro doesn't support them.

The other big lacuna for those using iPad Pros as laptops concerns windowing. Apple has nudged the iPad Pro's windowing forward, but it's still limited to a grand total of two. And let's not even get started with the abundant multiple virtual desktops Mac users (and more recently, Windows 10 user) adore. Touch-screen laptops like the Surface Book even offer touch gestures that let you switch among running apps and between virtual desktops.

Dragging files onto an email to create an attachment is cool, but you've been able to do that on the Surface or any PC with a touch screen for a while. In fact, none of the iOS 11 improvements for iPad Pro users represent things you can't already do on a Windows tablet. And with those, you can use a mouse and have lots of windows and virtual desktops.

Then there's the issue of an OS that uses mobile device app icons on a nearly 13-inch screen, which would be fine if you could use a mouse to poke them open.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a believer that all screens should be touch screens. I love being able to poke the occasional OK button, and swipe through photos and adjustment sliders, even on my 23-inch all-in-one PC screen. I disagree strongly with Apple spokespeople who contend that touch on a laptop is absurd and will cause your arm to fall off after a day's use. That said, I like having the option to switch to a mouse.

Note that I'm not talking about pen or pencil input, which I applaud on both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro. It's just not something in my wheelhouse when it comes to productivity computing.

Don't take any of this to mean that I don't think the iPad is an awesome device. It's light, fast, reliable, and offers every kind of useful and fun app you can think of. I use one nearly every day—as a tablet. For any kind of productive activity, I need a real computer. And with no mouse, no more than two Windows open, and an interface that's first and foremost tailored to smartphone and tablet usage, iOS 11 doesn't fill that bill.

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