iPad Air: No Apple keyboard needed

iPad Air: No Apple keyboard needed

Summary: Apple unveiled the new iPad line this week, and some think the company missed the boat by not introducing a keyboard for them.

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TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
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Logitech FabricSkin (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Rumors preceded the Apple iPad event that the company was going to produce a keyboard cover not unlike that for the Microsoft Surface. The thin keyboard would use touch just like the Surface version, and folks got all excited about the new keyboard.

Apple didn't unveil a keyboard cover of any kind, and now pundits are feeling the company missed an opportunity through its inaction. They think Apple should build a keyboard cover, and that not doing so is in some way a failure.

This is about as far from the situation as you can get. Why should Apple build an expensive keyboard cover for the new iPad Air? Most people don't use them, most iPad buyers wouldn't buy them, and there's just no need for one.

I realize this is ironic coming from a professed heavy user of iPad keyboards. I've used (and reviewed) dozens of them, and I find them useful for my work. You'd think I'd agree that Apple should make such a keyboard, but I don't.

See also: How I use the iPad as a serious writing system9 best iPad keyboards (hands on): March 2013 | Definitive guide to keyboards for iPad and iPad mini

Why does Apple need to make a keyboard cover when there are dozens of third-party keyboards? There is a healthy eco-system of accessories for iPads, of which a goodly portion are keyboards. There are keyboard covers, keyboard cases, and stand-alone keyboards.

Existing keyboards will have to be retooled to fit the thin iPad Air, but that's going to happen quickly. There are lots of companies who make these keyboards, and my inbox is full of notices about new models coming soon for the skinny iPad Air.

A thin keyboard with touch keys like Microsoft's Touch Cover for the Surface would require Apple to add a hardware connector on the side of the iPad to be practical. A wireless Bluetooth version that requires charging, like all other iPad keyboards, would probably not work well in such a thin keyboard.

Logitech already makes a membrane keyboard case for the iPad and it's almost as thin as the one for the Surface. It's an OK keyboard but I'm not a fan of models without real keys so I may be biased. I don't find the lack of an Apple model to be a shortcoming in any way.

There is no business case to be made for Apple going up against these companies by making its own keyboard. Such a keyboard cover wouldn't be very profitable for Apple, and it should be happy to let partners fill the void as usual. Except there isn't a void at all. There has long been a big selection of keyboards for the iPad, and that will no doubt continue. No participation by Apple required.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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45 comments
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  • Apple didn't need to make a flashlight app for iOS either

    There were tons of those and they were free. Nonetheless, I think you're right. Apple is probably better off reselling other companies' keyboards through their own channel. Personally, I like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover best.
    larry@...
    • attachable keyboard

      Attachable keyboard is now the norms. Even if the concept was pushed forward by Microsoft on it's Surface, Apple fans must a knowledge that and deal with the fact that the iPad lags on that matter. The Surface keyboard is certainly not a gimmick. It's making the Surface a very productive portable computer.
      gbouchard99@...
      • And yet people are using keyboards on iPads

        People are already using keyboards on iPads when needed - were for years before the surface.

        A little secret: Apple made a connectable keyboard early on. Yes a fully released product - and people did buy them.

        It's just not the winning solution in the marketplace.

        So now what did MS do first then? Why would Apple copy MS copying Apple?
        richardw66
      • It's not a lag if you don't need it

        As the article says, there are third party keyboards out there for those who want one. But if you don't want or need a keyboard for your iPad, the lack of an Apple keyboard isn't a problem at all. I know plenty of people who touch-type very well on the iPad's virtual keyboard.
        schernoff
        • Keyboard is nice because...

          ... it doesn't cover half of your screen when you try to type.
          gomigomijunk
        • iOS onscreen keyboard is the WORST!

          Apple made it crap by trying to emulate a physical keyboard instead of using technology appropriately.
          Sooo far behind other onscreen keyboards, you would have to be ignorant of what's out there to persist with it.
          Everytime I use iOS keyboard, I just cringe.
          warboat
      • Sounds like you want a netbook...

        These small screened computers with attached keyboards were called netbooks a few years back. My own netbook has been sitting on a shelf for a few years since getting my iPad. I bought a small wireless keyboard for my first iPad and I never use it. Having a keyboard on your portable device is not the "must have" you make it out to be, or the Surface wouldn't have been a billion dollar write off last year due to lack of sales. Even if you really want to use MetrO(MG,) there are much better options out there than Surface.
        BillDem
        • Not an adequate comparison.

          Comparing a netbook from yesteryear to an iPad of now is silly. Likewise I bought the original iPad, but haven't used it much lately either since I now have a Surface Pro that is far cooler than that old, outdated tech.
          gomigomijunk
      • you make me laugh.......

        My iPad 1 worked beautifully with my apple keyboard - full sized and with real keys (perish the thought). But to be fair it wasn't a dedicated cover as well. My iPad 2 has been great now for over 2 years, it has a Logitech ultra thin keyboard, stand, case - slightly cramped but still very usable. All this before the Surface was a waft of baby wind to the nose.

        Now I write and submit my uni essays on my iPad, I run a small business on an iPad - And to be very honest there are times when the iPad is not up to the task, then i use a laptop. Horses for causes, you like surface tablets, great buy and enjoy, but try and keep your reality separate from mine, it seems out of date.
        iacl1
    • flashligh

      flashlight is available right in the control center, left-most icon (on iphone, since it has a flash)
      m0o0o0o0o
      • flashlight on my Android phone

        without unlocking, I hold down the home button and the flashlight comes on after 1 second and stays on until I release the home button.
        No unlocking, no swiping, JUST WORKS when you need it in the dark!
        warboat
  • iOS' lack of multi-window support obviates a keyboard

    No matter how you look at it iOS is light years away from a productivity OS. The number of shortcomings in the productivity department is staggering.

    From that perspective devising a keyboard (regardless of how ingenious it may be) is futile.

    Even Android suffers from that annoyance. Samsung mitigated that very problem at the expense of a lagging GUI.

    Actually WindowsRT is the only mobile OS that fully supports productivity related tasks. However consumers obviously haven't found that to be a real reason for a purchase.
    EnticingHavoc
    • Oh dear...

      ...people like you are going to be saying things like that all the way to the sea bed, aren't you.
      Englishmole
      • don't understand your reference.

        If you are saying he is going to continue to speak truth because he is right, I suppose so.
        gomigomijunk
    • Fully supports productivity related tasks

      Consumers haven't found that to be a real reason for a purchase because the company who introduced that concept onto tablet didn't have an apple on it's logo. Because if it had, that was already a standard.
      Nelsii
      • ipads are for fools.

        Don't even have a USB port and storage expansion slot.
        Owl`Net
        • Fruit

          But it has a special fruit as a logo, so, people will buy it, even if there are better and cheaper productivity alternatives in the market
          Nelsii
        • Actuall it has a USB Port

          What's more it works with a USB Keyboard. Not necessary though.

          Even better you can use external storage devices - and who needs USB to do it?

          So much nonsense spouted over and over again.

          Guess what Samsung doesn't have a lightning port so is it inferior cause I can name a connector it doesn't have!

          Samsung doesn't have DB-9 serial ports - do you remember how no computer could exist without those things?

          Samsung doesn't have floppy drives - and Jobs was insane according to popular opinion for dropping those from Macs. Should we bring them back too?

          Do you people actually know innovation when you see it? Or just spout buzzwords?

          Are you paid for this trolling?
          richardw66
          • Although not a floppy...

            I did attach a DVD burner to my Surface RT and pulled files from a DVD. In fact I have in the past hooked up a USB hub to my RT and connected keyboard, mouse, USB thumb, even charged my phone off of it. I even have a little flexible LED lamp I plug into it. I also have a USB headset I use for phone calling that I plug in.

            Then there is the microSD drive. Windows RT allows auto backup of your files to this. There are also tweaks that allow installing your apps directly onto it.

            There is also the HDMI out port that I can plug my RT directly into a monitor and turn it into a desktop PC with keyboard and mouse.

            I think the lighting port is nice (on my Mini) but I just don't have anything that uses it.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • Oh Yeah?

            Well, using my lightning cable I was able to plug my iPad (and that's the iPad 1, mind you!) into my Ford F-350 "power source" plug!! You cant' do that... you don't even have a Ford F-350... let alone an iPad...

            Sound ridiculous? Well, so does all that other cr@p that isn't related to keyboards and iPads! Stay on topic and quit trying to justify your purchase of a tech device by trying to pummel others! Sheesh!

            Sorry, but I get tired of all the petty and juvenile "mine is better than yours" that goes on in these forums. You like what you bought? Great! Now go play with it. Don't like that other companies products? Then don't buy it! Simple as that. But no matter what you buy let the other guy be happy with his purchase unless, and this is a huge "unless", he asks your opinion!! Otherwise, no wants to hear it!
            JoeDaddy