Magic Trackpad + iPad = MacBook killer?

Magic Trackpad + iPad = MacBook killer?

Summary: Apple's new Magic Trackpad could make the traditional notebook form factor obsolete. An iPad, wireless keyboard and wireless trackpad may turn out to be a lethal combination for the MacBook.


Flying under the radar in Tuesday's desktop Mac revisions is a neat little peripheral that has the potential to hasten the demise of the trusty notebook computer - the Magic Trackpad ($69). Sure, it's just a Bluetooth trackpad, and yes, they've been around for a while, but the Magic Trackpad is different.

(Curiously, even though Faber-Castell Corporation let its 1965 trademark of the term "MAGIC-PAD" expire in 2007, Apple took a pass on the name.)

For starters, it shares the minimalist good looks of Apple's wireless keyboard, matching its pitch and depth so that the two align perfectly when next to each other. Also, because it's from Apple, the drivers are (now) built-into Mac OS X, so there's no funky configuration or third-party weirdness or incompatibility to deal with.

The potentially killer feature though is that the Magic Trackpad could turn the iPad into an almost fully-functional notebook replacement for many users. The first barrier to fall was the physical keyboard. When Apple added Bluetooth keyboard support to iOS 4.0 the iPad became viable for long-form writing not previously possible with a virtual keyboard. The second barrier (yet to fall) is that switching from using the keyboard to tapping on the iPad screen is uncomfortable and not very ergonomic. Anyone who's tried this configuration knows what I mean.

Sure, you can jailbreak the iPad and use a mouse, but that's a kludge - not to mention, unsupported and potentially warranty voiding.

Unfortunately, the Magic TrackPad doesn't work with the iPhone or iPad -- yet -- according to Gearlog, so we'll all have to collectively grovel Apple to add such a feature. But with Bluetooth keyboard support now available iOS 4, there's hope yet.

If you'd like to see Magic Trackpad support on the iPad there are several things that you can do:

  1. Tell Apple via the iPad feedback page
  2. Sign this online petition
  3. Reply to this topic on Apple's iPad discussion forum
  4. Post a review on the Magic Trackpad product page

While the iPad won't run Photoshop or Final Cut Pro any time soon, my MacBook Pro is starting to feel heavier by the day.

What's your take, could an iPad (with keyboard and trackpad) suffice for most of your computing needs?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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  • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

    I am also realizing that my MBP is starting to get very heavy, and am considering getting an iMac at home and then the iPad for mobility... and then have the small keyboard and the trackpad...

    I have personally waited for a long time for the trackpad and have been using my iPhone as a track pad, but this hasn't always been smoothly to operate so I look forward to getting my trackpad in the mail!
    Kristian Ronne
    • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

      @Kristian Ronne I went down to my local Apple store and got one fresh off the truck. They didn't even have samples out yet. What Jason (nice commentary, by the way, Jason) and others here seem to miss is not that the trackpad suddenly makes an iPad into some Frankennetbook, but rather that it is an elegant mouse replacement for any desktop Mac. I tend to avoid using the trackpad on my MacBook simply because it's in the middle under the keyboard and feels awkward, different than the beside the keyboard traditional mouse position. But after a day's work with the Magic Trackpad I'm about ready to toss my Magic Mouse (wondering if a Spell is needed to cast out a Magic Mouse or is a Spell checker built in?). It's taking some getting used to, but it's working for me. That's a good thing as my right hand is afflicted with arthritis, trigger finger, claw hand, and Dupuytren's contracture. After a day of using the mouse my hand feels ready to fall off. The trackpad allows me to open my hand up to use it rather than the eagle's claw position over the mouse. People with simple carpal tunnel syndrome might benefit from using the Magic Trackpad over the mouse as well.
      Just an errant thought here is that Mr. Jobs is trying to change the paradigm of how we use computers yet again. First was the Mighty Mouse with a trackball so tiny it seemed to disappear (actually it seemed to clog far too easily). Then the Magic Mouse using the top as a 'trackpad' like device. That got us used to using a trackpad on the desktop as well as the iDevices. Now a trackpad that aligns nicely with the slick wireless keyboard. That's a trend. And frankly, a trend I'm not disliking one bit. Thanks Steve.
  • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

    All very nice, but you still need to have another computer to sync the iPad to.<br>I might actually be interested in buying an iPad if it came as a notebook with the iPad as a removeable screen.<br>Then all bases would be covered right out of the box!

    Kristian's post sums it up nicely:
    "considering getting an iMac at home and then the iPad for mobility... and then have the small keyboard and the trackpad... " (to carry around with me aswell)

    Or you could just have a notebook and be normal...
    • yeah, but most people are typing WAR and PEACE while they're on the go..

      @RussBroom.. so for most people and on screen keyboard (especially one as large as the iPad that you can actually touch type on) is more than adequate.. add in the lightness, 3-5 times longer battery life.. netbooks are looking pretty old in the tooth with a lot of bloat that no one needs on the go..
      • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

        @doctorSpoc No no, you misunderstand me.
        My point wasn't that notebooks are better, but how much better the iPad would be if it came with a base unit that would make it into a notebook should you require the use of a keyboard, trackpad, sync device, extra battery, expansion slots...

        If you sit in front of an Apple notebook and imagine the screen is actaully an iPad that you can remove and use independently, you'll see where I'm coming from (hopefully)
      • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

        @doctorSpoc hm. what do you mean by bloat? a fan to wisk away the hotties so your ipad doesn't burn up in the sun, or the keyboard that you're having to buy separately if you want to really type stuff, or the touchpad that also comes standard on a netbook.. is that the bloat that you speak of? what is the real-world battery life on an iPad anyhow, if you take into effect wifi, media use (oh yeah, no flash) or gaming (hmm. not a key in sight) .. i guess maybe the reason the iPad has such great battery life is because you really can't DO the stuff that the iPad is allowed to do for all that long.
    • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

      @RussBroom :Russ, when you use an remote desktop program like logmein the iPad gives you at least 90% if not more of the functionality of a macbook. Sure, you need a home base computer to log into and you need one for the iPad. But most of us already have that. I take my iPad to work every day and use it a good deal of the time. I never bring my work issued notebook home any more. If I need to do something I remote log on with the iPad (conversely, when I want to do something on my iMac at home, I log on using the iPad from work or wherever. If I'm traveling, I also dont bother bringing my notebook. I bring the iPad and the wireless keyboard. Its not perfect, but it beats lugging a 6 + pound computer and case around (including the charger).
  • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

    I'm almost sure one cannot use the trackpad with iPad.

    I love my iPad, I can do most of my work on it, and can remote desktop to do other things. It's not for everybody. But I find it funny how contentious the iPad can be. Some people don't find it useful. That's fine. But some of those people seemed amazed, or even get angry, when somebody goes on about how great the iPad is. The iPad is great, for those who find it very useful, like me. Sites like have a lot of useful information that shows just how widespread the iPad is becoming and what can be done with it.
    • Nice post, thanks for the info


      I still say the iPad is too expensive for what you get, but thanks for the good information.
    • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

      @Phantastic You're right you can't use the "Magic Trackpad" with the iPad - the iPad doesn't have a concept of a "pointer" (or mouse cursor).

      I dunno why the haters are so rabid. I have an iPad, it's both useful and not (that is I play games on it, which is hardly good for productivity). When I'm not wasting time with it I tend to bounce between email and the calendar app (though oddly I did use Pages to prepare a document and email it to a client yesterday - marketing copy, but that's the first time) and that's really useful.
  • The iPad has no cursor, it will not even work.....

    How precisely can you use a Magic Trackpad with the iPad without a cursor in the iPad interface??<br><br>The whole point about the iOS is that it is a touch based OS instead of a point and click based OS.....

    Ok, Jason I know you have now added that the iPad does not work with the Magic trackpad. But this is completely different issue compare to the BT keyboard. The BT keyboard makes sense, the Magic trackpad REQUIRES a cursor...which is completely not the point of the iOS.

    In other words, this article makes zero sense I am afraid..
    • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

      @paperbottle: Humor me for a moment. The Trackpad is roughly 5 by 5 inches. The iPad's touch screen is about 7.5 by 5 inches. Its really no strech of the imagination to map the surface coordiates of the Trackpad to the iPad screen with a bit of scaling. I see no reason at all why cant work. You can lift your finger from the Trackpad, drag and gesture just like on the iPad screen.
      Frankly I'd like to see an app that allows you to use your iPhone as a remote Trackpad for the iPad linked by Bluetooth. I'll bet if iOS4 allows use of the Trackpad on the iPad we'll see apps like that springing up.
      • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?


        There is no cursor. The touchscreen interface works because you access what you touch. That is why the iOS is so intuitive to use. You can gesture and touch a trackpad, but you cannot reference your movments on the ipad.. You have to be able to see what you are touching.

        Unless you are suggesting we put a cursor back in the iOS environment, which completely kills the point of the iPad in the first place.
  • OMG.. LMAO.. last time i checked iPads had touch screens..

    why on earth would anyone use a trackpad with an iPad when it already includes a 10 inch diagonal track pad (i.e. the screen)..

    OMG.. this makes no sense.. you should have had your morning coffee before you wrote this one Jason.. lol..
    • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

      @doctorSpoc That was my reaction: why would the iPad need an external trackpad to make it a MacBook killer? It's already got a touch interface built into its screen. I can see how it would be useful to desktop Mac users, because I've been playing for a couple of weeks with my brand new MBP and like the multitouch features of the integrated trackpad- so I might end up getting one for my desktop at home. But for an iPad or iPhone- what functionality does it add?
  • This has got to be the worst.....

    Why are you attempting to make a story where none exists.
    If you have a need to use a external keyboard and and track pad for your digital task... then you purchased the wrong device for the job. Don't use a hammer to put in a screw! The ipad is a content consuming device with a limited content creation facility to just get you by until you get back to your main system. Using a ipad as your primary system "at this point in time" is just going to be a frustrating experience.. end of story.
    • Everybody Chillax!


      I know that this is probably "the worst" post that you've ever read and all that, but it's my opinion.

      I know that the iPad is a giant touchscreen people! Duh!

      As I said in my post "switching from using the keyboard to tapping on the iPad screen is uncomfortable and not very ergonomic."

      People that write a lot will agree that picking up your hand to touch the iPad screen (when using a wireless keyboard) just doesn't work. Plus, if you don't have a good stand *it knocks the iPad down*

      The bigger problem, as deftly pointed out by others, is that iOS lacks a cursor, so it would in effect be invisible. But what's to stop Apple from adding a cursor?

      Personally, I can't wait to see what the jailbreakers dream up on this one.

      Ok, now off to get a cup of coffee :) :)

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • the whole point of a iPad is that it DOESN'T WORK like a laptop..

        @Jason D. O'Grady.. that's why people buy it.. iPad sales are a reflection of the public's rejection of traditional computers.. they don't like the BS and the way the work... people like the simplified OS and direct manipulation.. why is it that tech pundits can't get there minds around that? <br><br>it's like someone buying a car and then saying.. ok, now how do i hook a team of horses to this thing.. the whole point of the car it that you don't need the horses.. <br><br>Jason, a person with the needs you are describing really should just buy a laptop.. that's what they need...
      • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

        @Jason D. O'Grady Err, that would fundamentally alter the UI... I guess this is obvious.

        I don't know what you're getting at. What I want (on both the iPad and the Mac) is a wireless keyboard that's the edit cluster and numeric pad - that would be great. Even better than a wireless version of the "full keyboard".

        Apple - please do that, I promise I'll buy one (and a wireless keyboard as I currently use the one with the cord) ;-)
      • RE: Magic Trackpad iPad = MacBook killer?

        @Jason D. O'Grady <br><br>I understand where you are coming from with this and kind of agree.<br><br>Something like the iPad could be a dual purpose device and work with touch, or with remote controlled touch. It would take considerable effort to not turn it into a kludged UI, as the UI is so geared to being cursor free.<br><br>And to some extent the postings of the iPad knockers were indicative of something, the iPad is deliberately not a full on computer, it is intended to avoid a lot of the mess and difficulties of laptops by not incorporating features that are the source of problems for the user, such as printing at this stage.<br><br>I can see it replacing a laptop for many, many people already. The biggest issue I see to it replacing a laptop for most people would be the lack of export to Excel from numbers, with this it would fulfil the needs of most people I know.<br><br>The second biggest issue is that the iPad is still intended to be synced to a computer at some stage, so it would not be 100% ideal as a user's only computing device.<br><br><i>The bigger problem, as deftly pointed out by others, is that iOS lacks a cursor, so it would in effect be invisible. But what's to stop Apple from adding a cursor?</i><br><br>I shall reserve my thoughts on that with the new trackpad until I try one.<br><br>My initial thoughts are that the UI is designed to not work that way - it's not just the lack of the graphic moving about, every element is meant for touch, but then the simulator does work doesn't it, but I was finding it quite wrong using some of the UI elements last night on the iPhone simulator.

        And since first writing this post I have realised that most of that wrongness is due to the lack of drag scrolling, which the Magic mouse and Magic Trackpad both support. The iPhone simulator does not use these features as it is designed to replicate the real devices for testing, not to provide the best features of the Mac interface on the iPhone.<br><br>In theory adding the cursor should be fairly simple - iOS is OS X really, porting the cursor over shouldn't take long.<br><br>I would just not like to see the iPad go from a limited but practical alternative device, to just another laptop but without a keyboard and mouse.

        I would like to see a solution to all of this that took us beyond the idea of the cursor and a simulated mouse, I don't know what that is, but if it can be found the world will be a better place for it.

        Apple's GUI design guidelines were based on having many ways to do the same task, this change should be an extension of that thinking. Touch, keyboard and trackpad should work together as alternatives.

        OK Apple - you have done well to take Cocoa to Cocoa Touch, now can you Take Cocoa Touch to Cocoa including touch, without becoming Windows Touch?

        @ doctorSpoc<br><br><i>Jason, a person with the needs you are describing really should just buy a laptop.. that's what they need...</i><br><br>Maybe not: if you look at the devices that Wacom now make for drawing, then what you need may in fact just be an iPad. It is certainly a cheaper drawing surface than the Wacom equivalent.<br><br>Besides the limited app availability (ie some software for desktops/laptops is not yet ported to iPad) what is the real reason for getting a laptop? It is not the lack of a cursor!

        If you need a lot of processing power, then the iPad is not the right device, as it is geared to portability and battery life.

        If you need a webcam then the current model iPad is not the right device.

        If you need to interface to external devices, then this could be fixed by the device manufacturer. The USB port is on the dock, software support is needed.

        If you need some specific App and it is not available for the iPad, then clearly this is just a case of the App being released for the iPad, and not a device limitation.

        Jason is right, I think he knows that there is a slight technical issue in what he is saying, but the intent is correct, and I suspect the technical issues can and will be solved.