Giving iPad Pro a trackpad

Prior to my musing about multitouch screen on the Mac, an equal and opposite set of ideas were being floated on how to bring multitouch trackpads to iPad.

John Gruber, writing on Daring Fireball:

A hardware keyboard with a trackpad could have just as good an interface for moving the insertion point and selecting text as the software keyboard. Even better, really, since you wouldn't have to use two fingers or start it with a 3D Touch force press. And, a trackpad would make this feature discoverable. An awful lot of iPad owners — most of them, probably — don't know about the two-finger drag feature on the on-screen keyboard.

When you're not editing text, the trackpad might not do much on an iPad. But the entire point of the smart keyboard is that you're writing and editing text while it's connected, or you're just using it to prop up the iPad for watching video or something. But I think the trackpad could be used for selecting things or changing input focus. On the home screen you could use the trackpad to select an app to launch, just like on Apple TV. In split-screen multitasking mode, you could use a multitouch gesture on the trackpad to switch which pane has focus. Two-finger drags on the trackpad could scroll the current view, much like on the Mac.

Here's what I wrote in the Mac multitouch piece:

I've never, not once, tried to touch my MacBook screen to interact with the interface. Classic trackpad-and-keyboard computing is hard-wired into my brain.

By contrast, I have reached for a trackpad on the iPad Pro smart keyboard out of habit, not found one, and been annoyed that I then have to disengage from the keyboard, reach up, and interact with the screen.

As much as touch-natives want to swipe on a MacBook screen, type-natives want to swipe on a trackpad. Once you attach a keyboard to an iPad, you change the context and the expectations.

A trackpad on the smart keyboard, awkward and backwards as it might seem, would solve for that, and do it in a way that fits the awkward and backwards nature of the keyboard itself.

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