Future iPad updates could add powerful new Mac-like features 'over the next two years' — Apple's tablet again sets its sights on replacing your laptop

iPadOS 17 and Stage Manager being used outside, with dog in background
(Image credit: iMore)

With all of the focus being on Apple Vision Pro in recent months, not to mention the arrival of the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro handsets, it's been easy to almost forget that Apple has an entire tablet lineup on sale. The lack of any new iPads throughout the entire 2023 calendar year — a first for Apple — hasn't helped matters, either. The company is now reportedly ready to refocus its energy on its various tablets with new hardware on the horizon. But part of the work Apple is doing will reportedly involve software retooling that will bring new desktop-class features into the mix.

It isn't unheard of for Apple to try and sell the iPad as a laptop-replacement device and it once centered its entire marketing campaign around the fact that tablets are real computers. They're great for doing more than watching YouTube and reading a book to be sure, but Apple knows that there is still work to be done. Part of that work reportedly includes bringing new desktop features to the iPad to try and give it a more grown-up feel, ditching the baby Mac app approach that has been an issue for iPad power users over the last decade and change.

Quite what these new features will be isn't immediately clear, but a timeframe has been suggested — Apple will reportedly seek to give the iPad a new lease of life via a slew of desktop features that could further close the gap between iPadOS and macOS.

A laptop in everything but name

Apple might be in the middle of a promotional push that claims that spatial computing is the way we will all be getting things done in the future, but with the Apple Vision Pro prohibitively expensive and still very much in its infancy, laptops are where most people do their work today. Apple wants to make the iPad part of the computing conversation and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it already has a two-year plan to make that happen.

Writing in the weekly Power On newsletter, Gurman notes that Apple has tried to position the iPad as a potential Mac replacement by launching keyboards with trackpads and adding Mac-like cursor support. But it's still seen by many as a consumption device rather than a device they can get real work done on. The plan to change that reportedly includes "the company looking to bring more desktop-computer features to its tablet," a move Gurman says is "only going to accelerate over the next two years." 

As Gurman correctly notes, Apple has had mixed results to date. The September release of iPadOS 17 is the best tablet software Apple has ever released, but it's still lacking when compared with macOS Sonoma. The way both operating systems — and the hardware they power — work is completely different, and Apple knows it. The walls between the two have been crumbling for years and Stage Manager is a prime example of that. The feature brings window-based working to the iPad, but in a way that doesn't work quite how people might expect it to. Apple's decision to bring the same feature to the Mac is even more baffling, too.

Software updates will no doubt bring new features, possibly as early as iPadOS18, but the upcoming OLED iPad Pro refresh will likely have a part to play as well. Sure to be the best iPad ever produced, the new tablets are expected to also ship with a revamped Magic Keyboard that will be more sturdy and make using the iPad Pro feel more like using a MacBook Pro — something that Apple hasn't quite managed to date.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • naddy69
    Why would Apple want to do this? If you want a laptop then get MacBook Pro. If you want a tablet then get an iPad Pro.

    I have both. The allure of an iPad is its ease of use and light weight. When I am traveling I am way more likely to take an iPad than my MacBook Pro. If you need to "get real work done", that is what a Mac (or even a WindowsPC ) is for. For personal use, nothing beats an iPad.

    Making iPads more like Macs is going to lessen the demand for one or the other. Not a good strategy for Apple.

    Why not make the Apple Watch more like an iPhone? Why not make an iPhone more like a Mac? Why not make iTunes more like Spotify? Why not make Macs more like Windows PCs?

    The answers are obvious.
    Reply
  • Annie_M
    naddy69 said:
    Why would Apple want to do this? If you want a laptop then get MacBook Pro. If you want a tablet then get an iPad Pro.

    I have both. The allure of an iPad is its ease of use and light weight. When I am traveling I am way more likely to take an iPad than my MacBook Pro. If you need to "get real work done", that is what a Mac (or even a WindowsPC ) is for. For personal use, nothing beats an iPad.

    Making iPads more like Macs is going to lessen the demand for one or the other. Not a good strategy for Apple.

    Why not make the Apple Watch more like an iPhone? Why not make an iPhone more like a Mac? Why not make iTunes more like Spotify? Why not make Macs more like Windows PCs?

    The answers are obvious.
    You make excellent points!
    Reply