The iPad has had a long and winding road since it was first released almost 10 years ago on April 3, 2010. Although much less capable than today’s , even that very first iPad was a workable media consumption machine.
But the iPad and iOS have grown considerably over the years. By 2014, we started to talk about iPads replacing traditional Mac and Windows laptops. Both the iPad and the Chromebook (introduced in 2011) solved some of the bigger deployment challenges of traditional laptops, particularly the need to protect machines against malware and the difficulty in user-level provisioning.
In 2014, though, the iPad wasn’t quite up to laptop standards. It would take another five years before the iPad became a true substitute solution for many traditional laptop uses:
2015: The first 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, which provided enough screen real estate for active work solely on the tablet, were released. This was also when the iPad first got rudimentary multi-tasking and side-by-side windows.
2016: Apple started promoting the iPad Pro models as replacements for the 600 million five-year and older PCs that were retiring that year.
2017: Apple introduced its seventh-generation iPad models and second-generation iPad Pro, providing a more professional screen for theatre-grade color matching.
2018: All new iPad models gain support for the Apple Pencil. Apple also removes the lightning port from iPad Pro and replaces it with a far more standard USB-C.
2019: iPadOS is announced and delivered, with more advanced file management, dock management, mouse support, external screen capability, and split-screen control. Despite performance issues, iPadOS finally delivers many of the features desired by laptop users.
Turning the iPad into a desktop computer
Even with all these innovations, the iPad isn’t a substitute solution for all laptop and desktop users. I run a number of development systems and local Linux stacks on my Macs, and that’s just not possible on an iPad. I also value the screen real estate my dual 38-inch and 27-inch display array provides, especially for editing in Final Cut Pro X — also not available on the iPad.
But for writers and many creatives, the iPad has come a long way. As far back as 2011, I postulated the idea of an iPad desktop. But the iPad of that time lacked expansion capability. Today’s iPads do not. That single USB-C port can open a lot of capabilities.
That’s what Isaac Mosna, an advertising student at Ontario College of Art and Design University and YouTube content producer, set out to show off. He put together an iPad desktop build that accomplishes many of the goals we outlined back in 2011:
Mosna starts by connecting his iPad via USB C to an LG UltraFine 5K 27-inch display. The display also charges the iPad, so the one connector on the base of his iPad Pro does double duty — connectivity and power.
It’s this connection that helps expand the iPad’s capabilities. Because the monitor has three additional USB C ports, it’s possible to plug in additional gear. Mosna has a mini USB hub that adds USB 3.0 connectors as well as a camera card reader.
He also plugs speakers into the monitor, providing external speakers to an iPad that no longer offers a headphone jack.
Next, he adds the rather silly Microsoft Arc Mouse, which he connects to the iPad via Bluetooth.
Finally, he even puts the whole thing on a motorized sit-and-stand desk, so if you want to stand with your iPad (but not go anywhere), you have that option.
I have to say that this is an impressive setup for a mere iPad. The ability to support a high-quality large display, mouse, and card reader seemed to be out of the iPad’s reach just a few years ago.
I’m going to stick with my tricked-out Mac Mini, but it’s nice to see how far the iPad has come and just how much you can do with it. If I had a more limited set of daily workflow tasks, it might be a solution that would appeal to me as well.
What about you? Do you think you can work completely on an iPad, especially if you trick it out with mouse, display, and USB hub? Let us know in the comments below.
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