Microsoft VP describes the new iPad Pro as having a "3 legged OS" and it sums up my own past experience better than I ever could

 IPad Pro OLED.
IPad Pro OLED.

Any time Apple launches a new iPad people talk. Tech enthusiasts, such as ourselves, but also regular folks. Apple just has that brand appeal, people take notice. Not just out-and-out Apple fans, either.

The new iPad Pro is also of particular interest to those charting the upcoming Windows on ARM onslaught, being the first Apple hardware to pack the new M4. Regardless of differences, Apple is the ARM benchmark, so it's the one everyone will compare to.

But I'm not interested in the hardware so much today. A social media post from Microsoft's VP of Developer Community, Scott Hanselman, resonated with my own experiences of iPad life. And, ultimately, why I don't bother anymore.

The iPad is arguably the best tablet you can buy, still, and I've used them through various generations dating back to the very first. There's a lot to like, a lot of convenience that can be added into your life, but ultimately, it never scratched the right itch.

The penny dropped when I invested in a cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro back in 2019. An amazing piece of hardware, a stunning display, and for casual uses like a little gaming, media consumption, reading, absolutely sublime. But I also tried to use it instead of a laptop. After all, it was pretty huge, why would I want to carry an iPad and a laptop.

A lot of the time it wasn't too bad. I couldn't ever say the iPad Pro wasn't capable of replacing a laptop, because in many cases, it easily was. But it's that "3 legged OS" phrase that really sticks. It sums up iPadOS perfectly for the more demanding users among us. Even our pals at iMore in their review of the new iPad Pro said that it has "more power than iPadOS knows what to do with."

iPad Pro OLED hooked up to an external display
iPad Pro OLED hooked up to an external display

I can already feel the wrath of the Apple fans bearing down upon me. I'm not denying that some could certainly make do with an iPad instead of a laptop.

The problem with iPadOS, to me, is that it feels intentionally limited. Why doesn't Apple have a touchscreen Mac? Why can't the iPad Pro with all that horsepower run macOS, or at the very least, have a more macOS-like experience tailored to it? Apple wants you to buy both a laptop and an iPad, right? After all, it is, still, very much a hardware-first company. Unlike Microsoft.

My time trying to replace a laptop with an iPad was just frustrating. Constantly thinking "I want to do this but I can't," or hunting the web for workarounds or clever creations in Apple's Shortcuts app to brute force the thing into doing something it couldn't just do natively. By all accounts, folks like myself, wouldn't find the latest and greatest any less irritating to use.

Surface really has missed an opportunity up to now

Surface Pro X running Windows on ARM
Surface Pro X running Windows on ARM

It makes it all the more frustrating that Microsoft has never managed to make the Surface line more popular than it is. Naturally, we like them in these parts, but on the grand, global scale, it's a nothingburger next to Apple's Goliath. Windows 11 doesn't exactly help matters, being pretty awful to use on a tablet compared to iPadOS.

But that's the thing. The Surface Pro is a full PC inside a tablet. The iPad Pro is an iPad. Brand appeal still probably trumps all, but at least on a Surface you can do almost anything you could want to do on a laptop, while having the convenience of a tablet.

On a Surface Pro you can use your regular photo editor, regular browser, regular non-Microsoft Store applications, and so on. You can also read books, watch Netflix, listen to music, check out Facebook, and all the other casual things one might do with a tablet.

For the more demanding users, the 'Pro' category, the Surface Pro is almost certainly a better device. Even if it's less powerful (for now). Why on earth isn't it more popular? We can probably lay that blame squarely at Microsoft's door.

Who knows, though, perhaps when Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite chips get here and we (hopefully) get a seriously performant ARM Surface Pro, heads could be turned. I guess we'll soon find out with the big Microsoft event going down on May 20.