The  2018 iPad Pro is, in my opinion, the best device Apple has introduced since maybe the MacBook Air. A good part of that has to do with iPadOS, which finally makes the iPad a worthy laptop replacement. In fact, I've written before about how I prefer using the iPad Pro, and find it just as capable as my MacBook Pro for almost everything I do on a day-to-day basis.

Still, there are a few things that would make it a true laptop replacement or primary device for most people. Many observers (myself included) expected an updated version this fall, but it appears now that we'll have to wait until sometime next year before we see Apple make any changes. And, while the iPad Pro is one of the best devices made, there are definitely a few areas where it could use some improvement.

That became especially clear as I tested out the new Microsoft Surface 7 this past week. As much as I prefer macOS or iPadOS (or having a root canal) over Windows, I couldn't help but acknowledge that there are definitely a few things about the Surface that I wish Apple would add to the iPad, though I suspect it probably won't. 

For example, I actually prefer the kickstand approach on the Surface. Not only does it allow you a far greater range of viewing angles, it also keeps the device balanced, even on your lap. Sure, It means a little compromise on thickness, but with Jony Ive leaving, it's entirely possible that Apple will return to a design philosophy where form once again follows function, instead of form for the sake of, well, really cool-looking stuff.

I mean, I like really cool-looking stuff, and thin and light are wonderful features. But, useful is even better. And, if it weren't for the chunky bezels and the fact that it runs Windows, the Surface mostly has a more useful form. In fact, I found myself wanting to like that device.

Of course, iPadOS is a far more desirable experience, in my opinion, than Windows 10, but the keyboard and ability to use a trackpad or mouse are clear wins. Yes, there are plenty of keyboard options for the iPad Pro, but honestly, none of them are better than the Type Cover designed for the Surface Pro. That includes the Smart Keyboard, which is a pretty economical design for both a keyboard and a cover, even if it is ridiculously over-priced.

The iPad Pro hardware is capable, and the software is capable, but what Apple really needs is a device more like the Surface, with a similar style keyboard and trackpad support. Even better, let it run macOS. There's no question the hardware is powerful enough to run a desktop-class operating system. It's actually more powerful than most laptops you can buy.

Let me be clear, I have no reason to think there's any chance Apple will do this. There's really no chance it would have gone through the trouble of separating out iPadOS from iOS 13 this summer if it was going to ditch that whole thing a year later. 

The biggest reason Apple isn't likely to make these changes is that iPad Pro isn't the only iPad. There are three other models, including the iPad Mini, the iPad, and the iPad Air. You'd be forgiven for not knowing the difference between the iPad and the Air aside from a slightly larger screen on the latter.

But that's not the point. The point is that the iPad Pro is much more powerful and much sleeker than the others, but it's still an iPad. This means that Apple has resisted breaking it away from that line to make it an actual laptop replacement. As a result, it lives in a sort of in-between space where it's more than just a tablet, but not quite a fully-fledged laptop.

The 2018 iPad Pro was limited by iOS, which was in no way a real alternative to a desktop-class operating system. As nice as it would include one on the next iPad Pro, iPadOS is actually perfectly capable of being an alternative to macOS, especially now that it includes a desktop-class version of Safari. We'll just have to wait to see if the next version iPad Pro is finally ready to make you want to ditch your laptop for good.

Published on: Nov 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.