2019 Tech Predictions: iOS 13 Makes iPad Pros a Viable Laptop Replacement

Apple's tablet comes of age.

The iPad Pro is an impressive piece of hardware — bending issues aside — and it will likely work even better with the right software. Apple’s latest tablet offers a USB port for the first time on an iOS device, but it’s hampered by an operating system with numerous restrictions that make using peripherals a frustrating experience of trial-and-error. Inverse predicts that Apple’s next major software update, expected for a summer 2019 reveal, will sort most of these problems out.

“I agree that Apple has been re-positioning the tablet,” Mika Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner, tells Inverse. “The Pro has been released as a new way to use a tablet.”

Since 2010, the iPad has inhabited a midway spot between phone and computer. Its 10-inch screen, displaying an iPhone-like interface, was a breath of fresh air compared to bulky laptops and tiny phones. But in the years since, phones have grown bigger and laptops more convenient. Apple seemingly recognizes its original advantage has faded, so it’s added features like a clip-on keyboard and stylus to bring it new advantages for more professional use cases.

We’re reporting on 19 predictions for 2019. This is #19.

“I don’t believe that it is a true computer replacement, but some type of jobs can be enhanced by using the iPad Pro,” Kitagawa says. “An iPad cannot be truly used as a notebook replacement in most business environments, where Windows is a prevailing OS in the business world. Most business applications in the corporate world cannot run on iPad. But there are certain jobs where it can be beneficial to use an iPad as a main device. This can include creative professionals, among others, that use applications that can run well on an iPad.”

iPad Even-More-Pro

Apple releases a new version of iOS every year, normally detailing its handiwork at the summer Worldwide Developers’ Conference before releasing the new software around October. The company is rumored to have switched to a longer release cycle, where features are held back for more refinement. While iOS 12 was a minor release on the features front, next year’s upgrade is set to offer a number of advancements:

An iPad-focused release would go some way to fixing the biggest gripes. The Verge stated in its review that Apple “wants you to think that the iPad Pro is the future of computing, but if you’ve already used iOS 12 on an iPad Pro, you know exactly how you feel about that idea.” The Pro supports output to a 4K external display, but basic features like accessing an external hard drive are still missing, and many peripherals that work on the Mac may work strangely or not at all on the iPad Pro.

It’s not just hardware support that could see a boost. A concept produced in October shows how Apple could move past its current restricted multitasking system, which allows two different apps to run side-by-side, and enable better use of drag-and-drop, faster switching between apps, and the ability to view previous apps at a glance.

iPad Stays In Its Lane

Apple may continue to place clear blue water between the iPad and the computer, as an increasingly-mobile user base sees diminishing returns in desktops. Former CEO Steve Jobs said as much back in 2010:

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular…PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

Jobs died in 2011, and in the ensuing years his statement came to be seen as bordering on prophetic. The market rapidly shifted from 19 million tablets and 358 million computers sold worldwide in 2010, to a staggering 230 million tablets and 307 million computers sold worldwide in 2014. Who needs a fiddly, complicated computer when there’s a simpler product that meets all the same needs?

An iPad using augmented reality.
An iPad using augmented reality.

The problem is, that trend didn’t quite hold up. In 2017, worldwide tablet and computer sales hit 164 million and 256 million respectively, with both sectors losing sales but tablets failing to continue their runaway trajectory as seen three years prior. Sales are projected to reach 134 million tablets and 250 million computers in 2022. Tablet sales are collapsing, while computer sales have proved surprisingly resilient. Experts predict the next big shift will come when Windows 7 support stops in January 2020, forcing a whole swathe of users to look at the market.

“It is becoming paramount for businesses to migrate to Windows 10 as soon as possible, and certainly by the end of 2019,” Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a July statement.

19 Predictions for 2019: What Inverse Thinks

When faced with devices that successfully bridge the laptop-tablet gap, like Microsoft’s Surface Book 2, the iPad Pro seems rather outdated. While Apple is unlikely to put macOS on an iPad any time soon, it’s likely to continue developing its touch-friendly operating system to make it less of a frustrating experience and more like the company’s “just works” motto of yesteryear. Inverse predicts big changes when iOS 13 launches in the summer.

Related video: Apple Reveals the iPad Pro’s Most Notable Specs