On adding a trackpad to the iPad

Jean-Louis Gassée, writing for Monday Note:

The iPad Pro’s last frontier is adding a trackpad to the Smart Keyboard.

The article itself is an interesting read, but this core idea struck me as one of the defining differences between an iPad and a MacBook.

Remember this post about adding a mechanical keyboard to your iPad? Somewhat in jest, I wondered about adding a mouse to the setup. And that’s the difference. The difference of a persistent cursor.

The iPad is built around touch and, more specifically multi-touch. With a mouse and trackpad, you need a cursor that stays on the screen to mark your current location. That persistent marker gives you an instant focus to get back to where you were working.

With iOS, there is no persistent cursor, no marker that holds your place on the screen. As soon as you raise your finger from the glass, the memory of your interaction is wiped. Your next touch starts from scratch.

These are two very different models. An iPad with a mouse would require very different operating system mechanics. iOS 9 built a tiny bridge back to OS X with trackpad mode, where you force touch on a keyboard to get a floating cursor that you can drag around the screen, a floating cursor that disappears as soon as you raise your finger.

Will Apple ever complete that bridge, build a full-time cursor into iOS? In my mind, that, and the addition of trackpad support, would be a major step towards making my iPad more of a replacement for my MacBook.

That said, I really like my iPad as is. This particular thing ain’t broke.