Apple is planning to release an iPad Pro Smart Keyboard that includes a trackpad for the first time, according to The Information. The company is so far along with the product that it has begun preparing for mass production with Foxconn. Apple declined to comment on the report.
A real live cursor — iPadOS already supports trackpads as an accessibility feature, and there are third-party keyboards with trackpads, but it's not functionally comparable to a traditional trackpad. For instance, basic things you'd expect a trackpad to do — such as pinch-and-zoom — don't work as they do on the iPad's laptop or desktop counterparts. Presumably this will change with the release of the new Smart Keyboard, which The Information reports will be introduced later this year alongside an updated iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro was released as Apple's attempt to position its tablet as a true alternative to traditional desktop computers, but there have always been holes in the product that make it a hard sell for the average consumer.
Apple's merging of iPad and Mac — Other improvements Apple has brought to the tablet, like the replacement of Lightning with a USB-C port, and better multitasking, have helped inch the iPad Pro closer to being a true laptop replacement. The company is reportedly planning to release a new Mac in 2021 that will feature an ARM-based processor, the same fundamental architecture technology found in its iOS devices. That would make it possible for apps to more seamlessly run across both iOS and macOS. You could imagine how trackpad support in iPadOS would make it easier for macOS developers to port their desktop-native apps to the iPad and vice-versa.
Apple struggled in its early days to convert people from Windows to Mac, instead finding success by creating altogether new platforms in the iPod and iPhone. If the company can just iron out a few more kinks it might be able to finally convince people that the iPad is a "real" computer replacement that offers the best of both tablet and desktop worlds. We can at least envision how that might happen now.