The iPad Air is finally ready to be the affordable alternative to the MacBook
NOTE: Apple has long failed to offer a proper MacBook priced under $1,000, but with huge updates coming to the iPad Air M1 in iPadOS, that may no longer be an issue.
Apple has long marketed its iPad lineup as suitable replacements for laptops, we’ve had glowing ads from the brand claiming it.
But in reality, he never convinced me. The iPad’s software limitations have always prevented it from being a true laptop replacement due to a number of restrictions, primarily focused on multitasking and the way users interact with apps.
Features we take for granted in a desktop operating system, like having more than three open windows and resizable apps, aren’t available on an iPad and this limits productivity, especially for people who have to do multiple tasks. things at the same time. once.
With iPadOS 16 and a new feature called Stage Manager, which you’ll also find in macOS Ventura, these limitations have the potential to be removed entirely. Allowing any iPad with an M1 chip, like the recent 2022 iPad Air, to function much more like a traditional laptop.
Stage Manager allows you to open multiple apps at once with overlapping interfaces and each can be manually resized, just like on a MacBook. You can open Google Docs, Spotify, YouTube, and Safari and see parts of everything. You can create custom spaces filled with certain apps you want to use together, and your dock of other apps is always visible. It has a few other nifty tricks that also play into the tablet nature of the iPad, like always centering your apps in the middle so you can keep them in focus.
Another benefit for those looking to use an iPad Air M1 (or M1 iPad Pro) as a true laptop replacement is extensive external monitor support. iPad now properly supports monitors in resolutions up to 6K, and you can have four apps running on the iPad screen and four more visible on the extended screen. Previously, monitor support went as far as mirroring your iPad screen and was generally unnecessary.
Apple also made the smart move to allow those who prefer more basic multitasking to simply disable Stage Manager. If your iPad is purely a multimedia and navigation device, you’ll be glad to know that the way you use your tablet doesn’t have to change.
With these improvements, the iPad Air, when paired with some kind of folio keyboard, whether it’s Apple’s Magic Keyboard or an alternative, could finally become the mid-priced Apple MacBook I’ve wanted for years. The best of a tablet, plus the much less stultifying multitasking of a Windows or macOS laptop.
Now of course there are bound to be problems and this is the beginning of a transition rather than the end goal. You’ll still be limited by the apps available on the App Store, and it doesn’t look like Apple is going to port any of its professional tools like Final Cut to iPadOS just yet. The software also remains in beta and no doubt there will be quirks and issues once the developers start using it. Still, it looks like a solid first step and a positive sign of things to come.
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