iPad Air: No Apple keyboard needed

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

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 system 9 best iPad keyboards (hands on): March 2013  |  Definitive guide to keyboards for iPad and iPad min i

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.