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Apple @ Work: A $99 low-cost Magic Keyboard would turn the iPad into a sub-$400 laptop

It’s about that time of year when we start thinking about what Apple will release throughout the year hardware and software-wise, so being in education, I naturally start thinking about what I want to see Apple do with the iPad in 2021. The more I think about it, the more I think Apple’s next act with the iPad has nothing to do with the iPad itself. This week, I want to talk about the need for a low-cost Magic Keyboard.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers has been managing an enterprise IT network since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, hundreds of Macs, and hundreds of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, and train users, in addition to stories from the trenches of IT management and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.

One of the most significant changes Apple has made in recent memory to iPadOS is the addition of mouse support and the release of the Magic Keyboard. I was initially hesitant at how mouse support would translate to iPadOS, but after many months of seeing it in action, it’s clear that it opens up some new use cases for making iPad work for more people. The problem is that the Magic Keyboard is expensive enough when you’re buying one, but it’s cost-prohibitive when purchasing a fleet of devices.

iPad Air with Magic Keyboard vs. MacBook Air

The Mac has seen a rebirth of sorts with the Apple Silicon transition. The Macbook Air was the 9to5Mac Product of the Year in 2020. The battery life is outstanding. It churns through almost any task you could throw at it with ease. It’s moved into a comparable place that the iPad has been for years hardware-wise. Instead of finding the balance of loving macOS, hating the processor vs. struggling with iPadOS, but loving the processor, they are peers. Now, the MacBook Air can go toe to toe with the iPad Air on hardware speed, so it becomes a software vs. software matchup.

I am not here to debate if you can get real work done on iPadOS, because you can. I will argue that the iPad is a better device with the smart keyboard, though. Some tasks are just easier to do with a cursor, and for long periods, it’s much more ergonomic to use a device where you can use a cursor.

The problem with the Magic Keyboard is that it’s expensive. It’s a $200 accessory for a device that costs $599 (iPad Air). For schools and enterprises to buy in bulk, adding a $200 accessory to an iPad will cost a lot. Most schools and businesses will pick the lower cost iPad for their deployments. Apple should pair a low-cost Magic Keyboard with the low-cost iPad as a successor to the Smart Keyboard.

Will Apple release a Magic Keyboard for the low-cost iPad?

I’d love to see Apple release a lower-cost Magic Keyboard aimed at the lower-cost iPad. This price would put the complete package for a Magic Keyboard, iPad, and Apple Pencil under $500. If an organization wanted to skip the Apple Pencil, it would be under $400. An iPad with a Magic Keyboard is one powerful device at that price point.

Will Apple release a low-cost Magic Keyboard for the entry-level iPad? I’ve seen no rumors, but I think it should be a priority. A Magic Keyboard is the best iPad accessory for turning it into a full-time “computer.” What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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Avatar for Bradley Chambers Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN where he manages Apple devices for a private school. 

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