The killer iOS 7 feature the iPad needs: Touch-pad support

The one thing I love about the Microsoft Surface Pro more than the iPad? One little touch pad.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It took using the Microsoft Surface Pro to make me remember an article I wrote a year ago, about productivity on an iPad.

I love using the iPad. I also love some of its keyboard accessories. As a product, it's superior to a Surface Pro. But that doesn't mean it's the perfect laptop replacement. And that's still, in my opinion, largely because of one little touch pad. Or, a lack of it.

The Type Cover touch pad: A throwback, but so useful. Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPad never claimed it was a laptop replacement. It stands in its own, hard-to-define "post-PC" territory. Yet, accessories have sprung up to give it other identities. The keyboard case almost works as a perfect tool. The good ones have laptop-level responsiveness, and even some iOS-specific hot keys.

Microsoft's Type Cover and the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, side by side. Sarah Tew/CNET

However, I have to admit that I fell in love with the idea of the Surface's Type Cover. That little touch pad beneath opens doorways for productivity. Yes, it's small, and would feel clownish on a regular laptop. But, tucked into the Surface Pro's 10-inch tablet design, it enables laptoplike working patterns. I can drag and drop. I can highlight and edit. I don't need to reach up to the screen to do so.

iOS doesn't support touch pads. Android does, but not the full multitouch touch pads you're used to. Microsoft does. It's a little, er, touch, but a significant one. It also means that standard applications -- ones that weren't made for touch screens -- can be used. It adds versatility. It's a bit of a game-changer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As 2013 heads toward April and we still haven't seen a single new Apple product, my mind wanders to WWDC and iOS 7. It makes me think that the next round of iOS software needs to introduce something new, useful, and magical again, something that can transform the iPad. On the top of my dream list would be touch-pad support, and an Apple-made keyboard cover with a touch pad.

I don't need touch pads shoved down my throat across the entire OS, but I'd really like certain applications to support it. Yes, it's a throwback feature...but so is a physical keyboard, and that doesn't make me love having a keyboard any less. A touch pad might make me leave my laptop at home permanently. And it could be the biggest counterblow to Microsoft's Windows 8 tablets and Google's flexible Android tablets that Apple could possibly deliver.