This new feature brings more parity between the iPad and Chromebooks

Ask someone why they chose a Chromebook over an iPad and I’m betting the most common answer has to do with the browser. Why? Because iPads run a mobile version of Safari while Chromebooks run the full desktop version of the Chrome browser.

There are plenty of other rational answers to the question, but this one is among the most, if not the most, prevalent.

That key difference between an iPad and a Chromebook is about to disappear, however.

On Monday, Apple introduced iPadOS: A version of its mobile software platform specific to the larger display of iPads. And one of the key features is what Apple calls “desktop-class browsing”:

Safari is more powerful than ever on iPad. iPadOS automatically presents the desktop version of the website, scaled appropriately for the iPad display, and optimizes it for touch, so web apps like Google Docs (shown above), Squarespace and WordPress work great in Safari on iPad. Safari also supports significant new features such as a download manager, 30 new keyboard shortcuts and enhancements to tab management.

Now I obviously haven’t used iPadOS yet. It’s only just now available for members of the Apple Developer Program and will arrive in a public beta later this month. So I can’t yet say if the new iPad browser delivers on the “desktop-class” promise.

I can say that I’ve owned many iPads and I couldn’t do my work as effectively as possible on them because they didn’t provide the desktop browsing experience found on a Chromebook. That’s the main reason I moved from the original iPad Pro 12.9 to a Chromebook about two years ago.

But now, it’s possible — likely, even — that someone like me actually could be just as productive on an iPad as on a Chromebook when it comes to using a browser. Both iPadOS and Chrome OS offer a mobile app experience too: iOS apps for the former and Android apps on the latter.

Assuming that Safari on iPadOS is equivalent to Safari on a Mac or Windows device then, some potential Chromebook buyers could decide an iPad is better for them.

I could see this in the mainstream audience as well as enterprise users, for example. I don’t think this will move the needle for Chromebook sales in education though. Schools aren’t passing up iPads in the classroom because of the browser; it’s more about not having a hardware keyboard on the tablets without incurring additional costs.

Google classroom students

So why might a Chromebook still be a better option than an iPad? You might think security, but to be fair, Apple’s iPad hardware and software are actually designed similar to Chrome OS from that perspective. Here’s an Apple PDF for the curious on that front.

I’d start with this list to answer my own question:

  • Native integration with Google software and services, although you can happily use an iOS device with Google apps.
  • Multi-user account profiles; you still can’t “share” an iPad the way you can with a Chromebook.
  • Linux app support for true desktop apps. This likely only matters to a small percentage of Chromebook buyers, although it’s now a new requirement for me so that I can code for my CompSci classes.
  • A wider range of form-factor and hardware choices.
  • Far faster and seamless software updates.

Obviously, we all have different use cases and device needs, so if an iPad is best suited to meet them, you should buy an iPad. For now, a Chromebook ticks off all the right boxes on my list. It will be interesting to see, however, how many people deciding between the two opt for Apple’s tablet over a Chrome OS device.

Chime in and let me know what other advantages or reasons you’d go with a Chromebook over an iPad. Or better yet: Does this change what your next device might be?

33 thoughts on “This new feature brings more parity between the iPad and Chromebooks

  • June 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm
    Permalink

    How about mouse support. It’s the one thing stopping me from using an ipad.

    Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 4:26 pm
      Permalink

      Great addition, Arthur! I never use a mouse so I hadn’t thought of it. Cheers!

      Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 6:46 pm
      Permalink

      They added it in an update last month.

      Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 4:22 pm
    Permalink

    OK, so you omitted the main reason why someone might prefer a Chromebook: price.
    Another is available sizes and form factor.
    Then, possibly, built-in Google Assistant.

    Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 4:28 pm
      Permalink

      I omitted price by choice: You can pick up an iPad for $249 on sale, which is about the viable starting price for a Chromebook. I mentioned sizes / form-factors in the range of hardware options. Native Google Assistant is a differentatior but I use it all the time on my iPhone – I just have to tap the screen. 😉

      Reply
      • June 5, 2019 at 4:12 am
        Permalink

        An interesting post, I was recently considering getting an iPad over a Chromebook but decided on the latter-cost difference being the main decider. In addition, me being a long time android user a lot of my data is stored on my google account so transferring it to another ecosystem is something I’d have to consider. I was surprised that you could get a brand new iPad relatively cheaply but having to switch between the two systems (Android phone and whatever it is the iPad runs on) is a burden I’d rather avoid. Maybe in the future if I decide to get an iPhone I may go all Apple.

        Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 4:38 pm
    Permalink

    Great, if it’s there I will soon buy an Ipad. Thanks.

    Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 5:14 pm
    Permalink

    iPad OS is only available on the larger, more expensive, iPads. A desktop browser comes with all Chromebooks including the smaller budget models. And Chromebooks include a keyboard and trackpad as well. So price is a very real factor still.

    Will iPad OS allow external monitor support in extended mode? How about a proper file manager? Currently I haven’t found a way to download an audio file to an iPad and then play it. And there are a number of other reasons that I prefer Chromebooks.

    I guess we’ll find out in the weeks ahead.

    Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 5:17 pm
      Permalink

      Nope. iPad OS is available from the iPad mini (4th-gen or better) all the way on up to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, per Apple’s site. Apple also added a File Manager in this upcoming software platform.

      Reply
      • June 4, 2019 at 5:44 am
        Permalink

        Oh. I misread “specific to the larger display of iPads”.

        Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 6:01 pm
    Permalink

    Even if iPad supported mouse, had proper window management, external display and storage support and allowed to run Linux applications, unless it allows other browser engines (or at least Safari supports modern PWA APIs but that won’t happen since it undermines the App Store monopoly within the Apple ecosystem) it’s a stupid decision to willingly lock yourself in.

    Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 6:13 pm
    Permalink

    Chromebooks still get identified as a mobile browser by many websites

    Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 8:08 pm
      Permalink

      Can you point me to one? I’ve never seen that happen and I’ve been using Chromebooks since 2011.

      Reply
      • June 6, 2019 at 8:37 pm
        Permalink

        I’ve seen it happen a couple of times on odd sites. However, hitting the refresh button a couple of times usually gives me the desktop version. Too bad I clear my history every couple weeks. It’s not common though.

        Reply
  • June 3, 2019 at 7:36 pm
    Permalink

    Eh? It’s super easy to install and use Google Chrome browser on any iOS device, what’s the problem.

    One problem for me is that using a Bluetooth or generic mouse is not allowed natively by Apple. Fix that and I might swap my Chromebook for an iPad right away.

    Or, maybe not. That ability to share a Chromebook securely is also an important criteria…..

    Reply
    • June 3, 2019 at 8:09 pm
      Permalink

      The Chrome browser on iOS is a mobile browser; it’s not the “desktop” version of Chrome.

      Reply
      • June 4, 2019 at 1:34 am
        Permalink

        It’s even worse than that. Apple forces all browsers on iOS to use the Safari engine underneath. For me, that makes iOS virtually unusable because of Safari’s inferior handling of Web Audio (which I rely on for my projects). Chromebooks work great for me.

        I’ll also be curious to see how the mouse thing is handled. Desktop-style web browsing requires a mouse because elements are often too small for fingertips. With a Chromebook, everyone has a touchpad built into the device. But I assume that with an iPad a mouse will be an optional accessory. Does that mean that Apple will provide both mobile and desktop options for browsing?

        Reply
        • June 4, 2019 at 1:39 pm
          Permalink

          I predict Apple will add mouse/touchpad support to iPadOS and sell a laptop that runs iPadOS.

          There is little to no weight savings for carrying a tablet + keyboard instead of a laptop, yet a tablet+keyboard doesn’t always work as well in a lap.

          If iPadOS is meant to be a true “desktop-class” OS, running it natively on a laptop would be a clear to showcase that’s good more than just tablet tasks.

          Reply
    • June 5, 2019 at 9:04 am
      Permalink

      Chrome on iOS isn’t Chrome. It’s Chrome neutered by Safari mobile. In the walled garden of Apple installing chrome is almost pointless.

      Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 12:55 am
    Permalink

    With Google eliminating proper ad-/malware-block support in Chrome in future releases ChromeOS is dead. Imagine a cheap Pentium N4200 machine running the epidemic bloat of ads?

    Reply
    • June 5, 2019 at 4:54 am
      Permalink

      Depends really, my CB runs on a Celeron processor and is considered entry level yet it runs completely fine, I use Adblock Plus which uses a rules system (I think) which will remain unaffected. Though I should add that I have minimal extensions-to be fair the Chrome extension store is dismal at best anyway.

      Reply
    • June 5, 2019 at 9:07 am
      Permalink

      The biggest difference is that iPad is a toy. You need to spend money on making it a computer. Your $249 iPad is going to be extremely limited with storage. The cloud storage on chromeos is seamless and amazing. Google has now managed to replicate that on Windows with drive steam but I cannot see that working right in iOS.

      Don’t get me wrong. I have an iPad. It’s great for reading, browsing and playing games. It’s not great for productivity.

      Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 1:29 am
    Permalink

    Looking forward to the new full desktop browser coming to iPad OS, but hoping that the Chrome browser for iPad OS will be able to do the same on a iPad? Only reason I returned my Pixel Slate was because I needed a bit more of a video editor, to produce a bit more basic videos. I used PowerDirector on the Pixel Slate. It worked great but was limited to some editing. I found Luma Fusion for the iPad and works great. I also use Lightroom and I can say that in my experience, on the iPad Pro 12.9 2018 Lightroom works a bit faster, but not having a true file manager makes it a bit more work. Though I do manage and works great! On the Pixel Slate for some reason my pictures I took on my Sony A9 RAW would not show a preview picture. This made it totally hard to work with Lightroom. I am still waiting to see Chrome OS more advancements come and hope to see if a video editor like Luma Fusion would come to Chrome OS and will be back to using my Chrome OS. There is much more that I can do on a Chrome OS device than I can on a iPad Pro, even with upcoming iPad OS features. I will have to give the new iPad OS a try maybe it will be enough to keep me on a iPad Pro.

    Reply
    • June 4, 2019 at 2:15 am
      Permalink

      Wait till they get the gpu working on Linux and then you can use davinci resolve for videos on your Chromebook

      Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 8:53 am
    Permalink

    So the announcement you quoted stated “… iPadOS automatically presents the desktop version of the website…”

    That to me says that the “mobile browser” defaults to “show desktop site” view instead of defaulting to “show mobile site.” That’s a “feature” of mobile safari, and in no way spells “desktop class browser” to me. The closest thing is probably still installing Firefox app so at least it can run extensions or installing one of the many mobile browsers that support “mouse cursor” with touch controls. Ultimately still working with mobile browsers, not desktop browsers.

    Every new release of Apple software and hardware is seemingly “presented” as ‘amazing’ but that’s one of Apple’s strengths (advertising).

    Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm
    Permalink

    Managing devices:
    Google Admin console is included with your G Suite subscription.
    Device management license is $30/device.
    Easy to manage large numbers of devices with Google Admin console.

    As far as I know, Apple devices are not as easy/cheap to manage.

    Reply
    • June 4, 2019 at 2:04 pm
      Permalink

      I can’t speak from experience to how easy or cheap it is, but reading through here it looks pretty complete in terms of iOS device management. https://support.apple.com/business

      Reply
  • June 5, 2019 at 2:09 am
    Permalink

    I’ve got a 2018 iPad that basically only gets used for reading the news. It’s not that it doesn’t have a mouse, or that sites want to give me a mobile version. It’s that I HATE typing on a touch screen. If I have to write more than a few sentences, I will wait until I get to a real keyboard to do it. I know that I can get a keyboard cover for my iPad, or I can hook up any bluetooth keyboard and prop the thing up, but there’s just no replacing a solid keyboard at the end of a rigid, reliable clamshell hinge. That’s why my iPad stays at home, while my Pixelbook comes with me when I leave the house.

    Reply
    • June 5, 2019 at 5:14 am
      Permalink

      You can buy that as an accessory (e.g. from Logitech). With solid hinges.

      Reply
  • June 5, 2019 at 9:05 am
    Permalink

    We’ll have to see what it is. There could be a big difference between an actual desktop class browser and a browser that auto loads the desktop version and sizes it ‘appropriately’.
    If that means I still can’t control the zoom on a per site basis then probably still a no for me.

    Reply
  • June 11, 2019 at 11:32 am
    Permalink

    The next question for me is… will Apple allow Google to put a desktop version of Chrome on iPad OS. #pipedreams

    Reply

Leave a Reply to skris88 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: